4-week multi-disciplinary group project (team of five) while at the RCA, with students from Fashion and IDE.

This project is set in a (semi-)speculative future where urban density levels have increased to the point where public spaces are busier and noisier; governments and private corporations are using much more surveillance – CCTV, facial recognition, lip reading – either to suppress opposition or to extract data for sale. Its become increasingly difficult to have a private, intimate conversation with another human that can’t be monitored or tracked…

The intracoat is a hooded jacket that provides noise isolation and private communication links between wearers. It does this discreetly, preserving the anonymity of the wearer, and without electronics, meaning it is completely unhackable.

We integrated these features into the jacket in the most natural way possible, by looking at common, intuitive gestures. Pulling the drawstrings of the hood activates the sound isolation, while zipping up the jacket brings the mouthpiece into place.

To establish the communication link, the wearers shake hands, and a magnetic interface connects them. Small PVC tubes sewn into the lining of the jacket connect the mouthpiece of one wearer to the earpiece of another, providing a direct route for the soundwaves. This allows a subtle whisper to be heard even in a busy, loud environment.

We were heavily inspired by an old exhibition of protest design at the V&A where all of the designs have these great DIY instructional leaflet, so since the end of the 4-week project, I’ve been trying to making a mock up for a DIY Intracoat leaflet. I feel this is really important for the disobedient , activist nature of the concept. It would involve redesigning aspects of the product so it could be a conversion from a normal hoody, made from local, hardware store resources (bog standard ear defenders, PVC tubing). The end result could end up looking a lot more anonymous, than these strange black coats.

The image on the left is an incomplete sample, based on the V&A Disobedient Objects style.

Good or Evil?

The project has been an interesting exploration into the ethics of design. We designed the Intracoat with 1984-style situations in mind, where wearers would use this device to help them revolt against tyrannical, overbearing governments. Of course, the device could also feasibly be used by criminals plotting against good governments/the general public.

Any design ever can be used in good or bad ways; as intended, or not. A hammer is a tool, or a weapon; the internet essential to both ISIS and the UN. Ultimately, it’s about the balance between the two. Would the Intracoat create more good than evil in the world? It’s hard to say. Thankfully, it’s just a concept.


Ewan Alston, Design Products (concept / mechanisms / gestures / video)
Heleen Sintobin, Design Products (concept / mechanisms / gestures / video)
Chelsea Franklin, Fashion (fashion / garment design)
Yuqi Wang, Fashion (fashion / garment design)
Yvonne Hung, Innovation Design Engineering (material science / noise cancellation)