Archives for posts with tag: inspiration

Inspiration: Comical Depression Pt. 3


There’s something quite poetic about a biology-based comic addressing the human body and it’s varied means of healing. Our body’s acquire marks of history that can be considered evidence of living and experience. When I was a kid, I fell down a hill where the pavement below grated a crater into my left knee. Besides the pain, I remember well how long it took before I could take the bandages off (which is forever for a 9-year old). Three years later I tripped in the gravel field and the would opened up again. Although I felt like my body betrayed me, I knew I would heal.

The rate of healing is easier to gauge with a broken arm so maybe that is why we become more willing to allow our physical bodies to recover. Maybe the reason why mental health is so difficult to discuss is because we are used to seeing an end after the recovery. For many, this end is nonexistent. How can we openly talk or accept our conditions when the truth is so disturbingly unpredictable and uncertain.

Thank you Beatrice the Biologist (aka Katie McKissick) for reminding me that our expectations need to change about what healing truly means.



By tracing the existing lines on her face, Israeli artist, Noa Zilberman, creates a collection of jewelry highlighting the beauty of the aging process instead of hiding it. This is very refreshing perspective on society’s unfortunate obsession with youth and beauty. What are commonly seen as imperfections are embraced and celebrated.

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?


You don’t know what to expect. Are you making the right choice? If you destroy the vase to find out what’s in it, there is no turning back. Don’t you dare to take this risk, then you will always stay curious …

While smashing some prototypes earlier today, it made me recall this project. Mianne De Vries’ graduation project for the Art Academy of Utrecht consists of a vase with several layers of vases beneath. The user is given the opportunity to smash the exterior shell to discover something new, and entices further investigation.

The following video is for your destructive pleasure.

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?

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

FROM MY PREVIOUS POST, I described my personal/emotional involvement with the subject of this project. Before I even knew I would be slapped in the face with Depression, I had always been curious about more conceptual themes of design. In third year at Emily Carr University, as I watched my peers wrestle with their graduation projects, I spent time filtering through existing designs which exemplified what I wanted to achieve with my own project.

These are three designs which had the most impact on the direction I would follow:

Non-therapeutic Tools of Grieving • Matt Coombes

When I initially started thinking about themes to consider for my grad project, I looked into grieving rituals. I looked at my family’s traditions as to how we honour those who have passed and began some research when I found this. Single Tear Catcher honours a moment by capturing a tear in a vial; the vial is sealed with a cork and housed in a box with black ribbon with a scroll to write important details of significance. This object was inspired by a solitary tear shed when the designer attended a funeral.

Matt Coombes looks to provoke discourse about grief with a collection based on experiences with grieving. He uses personal narratives as means of informing the objects for the collection. His integration of playfulness for what seen as a hushed subject matter, exudes the power of design.

Carbon Copies • Nadine Jarvis

I stumbled upon this seemingly simple pencil case on NotCot only to discover a cathartic functionality. The graphite in this set of pencils is substituted with cremated remains (the human body can produce 240 of carbon ash) which can be sharpened in the pencil case. As the pencils are sharpened, the remains return to the case, acting as an urn. Only one pencil can be taken at a time, but there are enough to last a lifetime.

Nadine Jarvis‘s work poetically speaks about post mortem rituals and challenges social conventions surrounding death and grieving. Her ability to speak about taboo subjects in a provoking manner has captured my imagination, and enticed the element of engaging discourse within my practice.

Carbon Copies by Nadine Jarvis

Design Fancy • Matt Brown

If you ever graze through Core77’s blog, you may have crossed the hilarity that is Design Fancy, a collection of biographies dedicated to fictional designers and their fictional designs. Perhaps you have read about Thomas Ruby, the controversial designer behind “TuneDrink”, a device which uses particle spectrology to create alcoholic drinks via sound waves. My personal favourite is the entry about Quebecois Cyprien Côté, who expressed his love for all natural things with his designs. His first creation was “Chant de Baleines”, a whalesong radio that can tune in to majestic whales from around the world.

Matt Brown‘s sense of humour and fun compelled me to evaluate the power of narrative. His stories and designs are so convincing and entertaining that it is difficult to believe these are not real. This whimsy and curiosity reminds me why I love design in the first place.

Chant de Baleines by Cyprien Côté (Matt Brown)

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