343 days ago, I knew exactly what I wanted my thesis to be. I wanted to focus on the unextraordinary objects that surround us and use design to make these objects silent actors in our lives helping us achieve a stress-free everyday life.
343 days later, I am not where I thought I would be. I learned how design decisions can influence our emotions and ultimately our general mood. I learned the way our brains are wired to read all the cues, silent or loud, that the world puts out. I learned what are some causes of stress defined by both, everyday people and behavioral scientists. I learned how objects can be silent actors in our emotions and behaviors. What I realized through my research though, is that I did not want to make objects that camouflage the bigger problem that is our relationship with productivity and self-care. We focus around the concept of “productive use of our time” too much and forget about a meaningful use of our time. We diminish the value of our efforts based on an outsider’s metric of which effort is valuable and which isn’t. Our abilities and skill-sets are individual to each of us, therefore our struggles are different. The way valuable efforts look for each of us are, therefore, different.
“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish
by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole
life believing that it is stupid.”
Thesis was not at all what I expected, I started knowing what I wanted to research. I was open to where it was going to lead me but I knew that it had to be a physical object. That was my one self-imposed restriction. A digital world can affect our emotions and behaviors as well, but there’s an anchor in the tactility of objects that provides a relationship between us and them. The promise of a physical component in my thesis project was what I looked forward to the most as I concluded what was to be my seven years of design education. That was until the historic quarantine of 2020. I am not where I thought I would be. I had to resort to “creative solutions” outside my comfort zone. From experimenting with coding, to tracing drawings on the computer screen, designing and making was significantly delayed. I had to make compromises and postpone certain components of my design such as user testing. User testing the Labyrinth would require a physical object and an extended period of use, both of which didn’t seem realistic after the news of the virus.
As I was making my peace with these limitations, I found out that my computer wasn’t powerful enough to render proper images. Not only was I not going to be able to have a tried and tested physical model but now the renders to communicate the idea seemed impossible. My creative solution? Zoom. With a near worldwide lockdown, the video conferencing platform made its way into everybody’s everyday vocabulary in a short period of time. Earlier this month, I learned that through a Zoom conference, members in the meeting could request remote access to the person sharing their screen, this feature was going to be my lifeline for rendering. I managed to set up a remote access rendering station through my partner’s work computers in Germany.
With all these obstacles along the maze that is thesis, I realize this project is far from over. As designers, we are hypercritical of our work. We can always see ways to improve it, but in my case, I knew that there is still more to discover when it comes to integrating behavioral sciences into design in order to improve our wellbeing. This will be a lifelong project. I want to land on the moon but for now I have managed to get the rocket to hover and that’s ok.