New horizons

It took some time to reflect on and discover what I truly want to do. And see how this can take shape in my design practice. After graduating from my MA, almost 6 years(!) ago, I got so absorbed into teaching and research projects, that it didn’t leave a lot of space or time for making. It was something I enjoyed and learned from a lot. Though, it also led to a burn out. Not only because of the kind of work I was doing, but how I was doing it. Bad working habits combined with thinking, that if you do what you love and follow your passions, working all the time is okay. Which entailed being okay with doing a lot of work unpaid.

So, I took some time. To contemplate on my life, but also to recover from this burn out and rebuild my work/life habits. Moreover, to (re)discover my true passions and what motives me. This meant figuring out where my passions resonate with how I want to live and work. It made me realise that I missed creating and making with my hands, but at the same time continuing with research and teaching. In addition, that what I do, has to serve a larger purpose in order for it to fulfil me. Something that goes far back, into my childhood and when it came to choosing my educations, a creative study was a natural choice. However, other options were field of studies as anthropology, psychology, sociology. Fields in relation to the human being.

Back to the now and what and how and why. In my teaching and research projects, social issues are embraced. Or rather used as a starting point for investigation. This I knew, even before my burn out, was something I wanted to work with. But I have for long time denied to specialise and in that sense, denied myself to develop my niche. Though I have been doing that by working a lot with communication in various ways. Developing tools for conversation or dialogue in different contexts and scales. Then, a year ago some puzzle pieces came together when watching an interview with Brené Brown, in which she spoke about the necessity of creativity to take in new information or habits into our behaviour. “The way things travel from the head to the heart to the hands” and creativity being the tool or perhaps the navigator to make that happen?

While watching this interview, I suddenly saw in an abstract but clear way what I wanted to occupy myself with. That part where creativity is needed to change behaviour or viewpoints, to create new patterns for habits to evolve, for insights to come about. For example, take self-help books, I have read good and bad ones, but however valuable the lessons captured in a book are, how does this transmission work? So that it becomes an integral part of our being and acting? Another example. Last summer, together with another designer, I’ve started a Human Centered Design (HCD) research project into Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD). From the interviews we conducted and our creative process, exciting ideas came up for playful activities, assignments and services that could help to address the obstacles that people encounter. Whereas more important was the insight, that the focus of the design research and experiments evidently lies on behaviour and how that can be triggered. Playful assignments, great! But how do we get people that suffer from SAD to actually do them? Creative concepts and information are not enough, how do we convey them?

Thus, this is what I am focusing my design practice on: how creativity can assist in transforming behaviour and viewpoints, how it can improve our health and well being. While doing so combining my creative tools as illustration with design led research.


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