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It’s quite nice to think back at these moments. Reminiscing, one can’t help but smile. When we notice the birds playing and singing. When laughter gets so infectious, words can barely make their way out. When fireworks in the distance still surprise and amuse us even when we expect them. When we play around outside, running while laughing. In the moment, we enjoy the feeling without acknowledging it. After it’s passed, we reminisce. We want it back. For those few minutes. We experienced the best part of being alive. Pure joy.

Screengrabs from Lee’s TedTalk presentation


In order to design joy, I need to understand how it looks, what are the elements and what’s the pattern. The designer, Ingrid Fetell Lee, luckily composed a guide of just that. This was to become my source of reference for whenever I needed to design elements of joy. She has made it her life’s mission to point out the characteristics of joy, how it looks, how it feels and the benefits of it. The attempt is to override the association that joy is something extra, not something essential to our survival. 


“A cultural bias deep in Western society that runs towards sophistication, away from joy. This bias was forcefully expressed by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe when he wrote in 1810 that ‘savage nations, uneducated people, and children have a great predilection for vivid colors,’ but that ‘people of refinement avoid vivid colors in their dress and the objects that are about them, and seem inclined to banish them altogether from their presence.’ We may not realize it, but in most Europe and America, Goethe’s philosophy permeates our lives. We dismiss color and joy as childish and frivolous, prizing neutral hues as a mark of coolness and mature taste.” 

        The pattern she identifies is divided into ten categories based on dominant characteristics such as “round shapes, saturated colors, radiating symmetries and things that floated gently in the air” as well as connections to nature, exuberance and surprise. Personally I want to understand each and every one of these categories and surround myself with them but based on the feelings of monotony and entrapment, I wanted to deeply understand her descriptions of Play and Freedom. 

Screengrabs from Lee’s TedTalk presentation

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