Archives for posts with tag: depression

CONSTANTLY TALKING ABOUT DEPRESSION, researching depression and being depressed can be quite the downer. When I took on this subject, I knew I wanted to incorporate whimsy and humour. Even when I departed from that mindset, my co-designers reminded me that a satirical perspective invites discourse. I feel that humour makes a subject, as dark as depression, more accessible. In itself, design can often be portrayed as elitist and snooty; there is a common misunderstanding at ECU that design students are all analytical and precise. I want to create transparent communication about what design can be and what depression can involve. Yes, I can make fun of myself.

On my endeavour to find like-minded, funny and sad folk, there was a sudden rise of depression being represented in online comics. Of course my depressed hero will always be Charlie Brown, but it was amazing to not only see these comics but the bounty of positive comments from other depressed individuals. Two comics in particular have instilled a that’s totally how I feel moment.  Not only do they resonate, but they also work as effective tools to communicate depression to those who may not understand it.


I remember when one of my good friends introduced me to Hyperbole and Half. Allie Brosh understood the endearing doofiness of our canine companions and she communicated that sentiment beautifully in her simple mspaint-style drawings. When I saw that she had updated with Adventures in Depression, I was pleased to see her humour was still carried through. Although I don’t agree with the “conclusion” of the comic (that depression can numb you to the point where you are invincible because nothing matters anymore), I am grateful that she could share her experiences that are mirror images of my days. Seriously, I look and feel like that pink sad sac on low days.

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh


It’s difficult to accept that other people may or may not understand depression, especially when they say things like, “you’ll get over it”.  This entry of Akimbo Comics went into high circulation when it replaced depression with a physical injury. It seems rather silly to tell someone to suck it up when it comes to a mutilated hand, no?

I PICKED AND PLUCKED out preliminary ideas from the 101 sketches that stood out to me, while also taking into account which ones resonated with my co-designers. I redrew them into illustrator for a Pecha Kucha styled presentation.

The general theme was adapting everyday objects to depict something which reflected depressive behaviours.

The cups for instance, appear to be normal until the user picks it up to find the handle is purposely broken (i wanted a possibly for the handle to be attached with magnets or something).

The dishware and utensils are equip with malfunctions to make the use intentionally difficult, as if they would take twice the time to use.

The bed is a reflection of the difficulty of getting out of bed. This branched to furniture which has a disability, like the table that has one leg an inch higher than the rest.

The night lights were suppose to be peculiar creatures that had little purpose, but took up space.

The clocks each represented hours, minutes and seconds passing, respectively. For those who are depressed, there is an obsession with time- either coming and going to quickly or passing too slowly.

The scales were an idea refined from fall 2010 which ask the question, what if you could measure sadness? Would a beaker of tears outweigh a stack of emo poetry?

Recounting this process, it’s strange to think that none of these ideas came into frution. Oh well. That’s the design process for you!

THE CURIOUS CHALLENGE OF THIS PROJECT is to see the unseen by capturing a mental disorder as a manifestation. I constantly ask myself, what does depression physically feel like? What can it look like? I asked my co-designers what their initial thoughts were about their own depression, these quotes helped inform my 100 sketches.

Some of my favourite quotes:

“i’m so small inside this body”
“i’m protecting them by hiding it from them”
“makes me feel like a ghost”

Scroll of 101 Sketches

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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