Archives for category: Actualization

THERE ARE A LOT OF UPLIFTING, BELIEVE-IN-YOURSELF TYPE ANTHEMS out there. I actually find the popular ones quite cheesy (with the exception of REM’s classic Everybody Hurts), but I listen to them anyway and usually cry. All the heaps of Pink and Christiana Aguilera powerhouse beltings of beauty and perfection, they all muddle and start to feel insincere; not to say the message isn’t important, they present a similar immediacy that can a lot of people can relate to. The cynic is me thinks that pop artists have a quota of song genres to fill and this is one of them. I think it’s very easy to hone into a person’s vulnerability to sell records. Yes, I know that sounds terrible.

That being said, in an attempt to be less than 10 years behind in music, I caught up with the world and listened to some Jessie J. (initially though because that’s my sister’s name and last initial). Her contribution to this conversation is, Who You Are and I was prepared to have a listen and forget it. For whatever reason, I’ve replayed it several times, album and acoustic version. Maybe it’s the music video, the isolation and eventual onslaught of storminess in a single room. Or it could be the raw quality of her voice sans the overblown auto-tune trend. Maybe I am biased because I was watching The Voice UK  and Jessie J. is one of the judges who I have come to respect.


I was pleased to see she wrote the song for herself during a time when she was struggling to maintain her sense of identity in the music industry. Her lyrics feel genuine and made quite an impact on my own situation; specifically, mid-chorus she reassures the listener,

It’s okay not to be okay

This is something I want to tell myself, as well as try to represent in my work. Instead feeling like you need to be fixed, learning to accept the darkness as a way to redefine normal. How can we be given permission to be ill?

THE FIRST DAY OF CLASS, all 4th year students were asked to put together 10 slides at 10 seconds each to introduce their proposed problem space for their graduation projects and speak about what kind of designer they are and want to be. Even out of school I spent many months pondering this, but putting it on paper is another task entirely. In time, I was able to deconstruct a long list to the most fundamental properties of my design philosophy (which may change and probably will be adjusted):

SIMPLICITY- Accomplished design is not convoluted. It’s honest and bare-bones. As Dieter Rams says, “less, but better”.

COMPASSION- Every designer wants to change the world, whether on a macro or micro level. We believe in humanity and want to make life better for each other. Compassion is a driving force to make that change.

The following themes I take under consideration during the development phase of any project. All three are reoccurring subjects during the process of this graduation project:

NARRATIVE- Stories and memories bond us to things, establishing a depth of connection which on can feel we can feel familiarity and comfort towards. Something as simple as a cracked bowl can have specific meaning to someone and not another, and that’s kind of magical.

CURIOSITY- Curiosity, in the sense of playfulness and whimsy, is a very inviting quality. It can enrich an object by making the subject more accessible and the experience more surprising or memorable.

HUMAN CONDITION- There is an interesting relationship between the user and an object to be explored. Does one define the other? Can an object make you more human? Or less?

THE FRAGMENTED TIME SPENT WITH MY MAJOR DEPRESSION are my “Lost Days”. A wisp. An exhale. It’s as if the darkness inside me escapes only to mask a fog over my eyes and suddenly a day becomes a week. I have lost a lot of things during this whole ordeal. This entire project fell into hiatus once again and coming back to it was challenge; not because I didn’t believe in the cause, but because I couldn’t believe in myself. I was so downtrodden by my past attempts, slips and falls (in every aspect, not just school) that I had finally lost myself.

In Stanford University’s Robert Sapolsky’s lecture about depression, he states that “depression is the worst disease you can get”.  When I had listened to this a year ago, I had my doubts. Having watched it again more recently, I wholeheartedly agree. Depression is destruction; but, In destruction is creation.

Ugly and muddled in memory as these days have been, I strongly believe that it was never time wasted. Each crippling blow becomes a lesson and I am perpetually learning. For those good days, the fleeting moments that could be considered simple accomplishments reminded me that I am more than my “Lost Days”, more than my illness. Though my depression constantly lies to me, I know its face and I know it will get better.

My drive to see this project to completion could not meet a greater immediacy. To feel equally empowered and vulnerable I have embraced to be a beautiful thing. Third time’s a charm. This is my comeback.

THE HEAD VS HEART IS A GRADUATION PROJECT which initially began Fall of 2010 focusing on ways to promote emotional transparencies for those with depression, and how objects can embrace cathartic thought processes as means of healing. I took a risk by investing in a subject very close to my own heart and my own experiences.

As I looked inwards, I knew that it was too vague; this alluded to my floundering level of interest as my personal struggle with depression (having been diagnosed in the spring of 2010 with major depressive disorder) dissolved my abilities to focus and function. I took a leave of absence that fall, leaving the project on hiatus.

Illustration from Red Tree by Shaun Tan

When I returned with a new energy, I came to some clear decisions about what I wanted to do by asking myself why I want to do it. I feared that this was a selfish exploration but quickly learned that my struggles with this disorder only compelled further investigation. It is a difficult task to explain something as abstract emotion. If it were a broken leg, I wouldn’t feel as if I had to justify why I felt discomfort. Not only do I still have a difficult time communicating my internal battles with myself, but with my loved ones. I knew that I could not be the only one who harboured this darkness, this detachment from understanding one’s disability. To expose one’s vulnerability is a feat. I want to help with that process and provide a range of designed objects to speak of those struggles.

In the beginning of the semester, after all the students presented their intentions for their graduation project, the question that drifted over all our heads was, “why do you want to do this?” and I felt a confidence knowing that I knew exactly why.

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