Imagine kids going to a school designed like a bunker: drab walls, bare concrete, metal bars everywhere. How can we expect children to learn and enjoy being in school in an environment that isn’t conducive to learning at all? Similarly,how can Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) rehabilitate and improve their behavior if they live in a hostile environment?
According to the Section 2 of the Revised IRR of RA 10575 aka The Bureau of Corrections Act of 2013, “It is the policy of the State to promote the general welfare and safeguard the basic rights of every prisoner incarcerated in our national penitentiary by promoting and ensuring their reformation and social reintegration creating an environment conducive to rehabilitation and compliant with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Prisoners (UNSMRTP).”
However, according to the account of Marco Toral, a former inmate and former consultant for the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC), the prison he spent in is anything but conducive to rehabilitation. “I find it very frustrating na wala kang ginagawa. Day in and day out, nasa loob ka lang, nakaupo ka lang.” Marco Toral shared his thoughts during the 7 years that he spent inside a prison.
My article is published yey! Anyways, I had an idea for this article around July and I started working for this article mid-August and finished it last month. I almost reject this idea because I have no confidence in writing this article at all. (James Clear: Lack of confidence kills more dreams than lack of ability. Talent matters—especially at elite levels—but people talk themselves out of giving their best effort long before talent becomes the limiting factor. You’re capable of more than you know. Don’t be your own bottleneck.) Good thing I did not. I followed my inner soul even if its scary. It feels good to overcome something— to have done something I thought I cannot do.
This speaks so much to my future endeavors and ideas. This year, I followed my gut more and I had never felt more alive and joyful.
Also, I had read about human-centered prisons around April. And I have come to realize that the prisons we have in the Philippines barely even meet the basic human rights of prisoners. As an individual, I wonder how can I help? And this is something that I tried to answer on the article.
Just a reminder that prisons are built not to punish but to rehabilitate people deprive of liberty. How we treat an individual is how we treat all.
In an era wherein users are encouraged to constantly buy products that are new and innovative today but next year, those same brands release another set of products with better technical specifications than the previous ones, so what we do is to buy again and throw away what we had previously bought and so on.
Many designers today had realized that the throwaway culture and designing products with an intent to only last for a certain time frame or had cause users a lot of money every year and creating more waste in this world.
I came across four products that are intentionally designed to last for decades. I highly recommend these products for starting families.
bekind is a Norwegian furniture brand, where their brand name is also a conscious mindset. Their bekind mindset enables them to,
“…build furniture for generations – creating a sustainable world of furniture – free from a throw-away mentality. Earth conscious lifestyle starts at home – with small things. “
They have two products: bekind.EINS and bekind.ZWEI.
Both of these products have a lot of affordances, meaning they could be used in various ways. Bekind.EINS could be a chair for children or a stool for adults. On the other hand, bekind.ZWEI can be seating for both adults and children and it can also function as a table.
With their versatility, users will never have to worry about buying pieces of furniture once they or their children will grow out of it.
Fashion/School Supply: Bag
Randoseru is a result of an idea to end comparison and wealth advantage in classrooms. On an island with limited resources, it was important for Japanese people to consume things in moderation. Hence, they intentionally design products that last for years.
One example of that is Randoseru. It is a bag used by students throughout their six years in primary school and passing it down to a younger sibling. Randoseru bags are known throughout the country for its durability and great quality. The trend started in 1887 after the crown prince of that time wore it t school. Until now, Japanese students still use Randoseru bags to school. Even with all these new school bags from the West, Japanese people still choose to buy randoseru.
One problem for a growing family is the need to buy various kinds of hanger for various type of clothing (ex. hangers for kids’ clothes, hanger for working clothes and at-home clothes, etc)
Well, here is Mozu Hanger. This hanger suits most types of clothing and various occasions as well. Its slim profile makes it suitable for suitcases when you are constantly traveling abroad and allows more space in the closet. Its form eliminates the hassle of buying baby hangers as well as the act of stretching the collars just to take the clothes off the hanger.
These are words from designer Ruth Carter’s poem Seriously. She performed Seriously in her own episode on Abstract: The Art of Design Season 2.
Seriously I’m gonna take ME seriously. Now. I’ve taken school, parents, friends, poets seriously. I’ve known the cracker to be seriously dangerous. I’ve taken daytime nighttime rhetoric seriously and been wounded by lovers of slick black rapping. I’m gonna look in a mirror each time I pass one and smile at my image sayin’. “Yeah, sister, it ain’t easy, but move on beautifully past it. Keep holdin’ your head higher ‘cause your best is yet to come.” I’m gonna take me seriously. Today. Now. And study myself. Get a PhD in Ruth Carter and dare anyone to be an authority on me. ‘Cause I’ll be wounded with Ruth’s beauty, learning, love and will be dangerous. I’m gonna be serious about me and live.
Ruth Carter is the costume designer for the film Black Panther and many more films. She shared that she does not want the clothes that she designs to be labeled as ‘costumes’. Ruth wanted the clothes to look like something that those people would wear if it was in real life. She also addresses the prejudice that she designs costumes because she loves fashion or sewing. No. She wants to tell stories.
I love the fact that she gives utmost attention to every detail in each costume she design. In totality, the clothes that she designs for a character must show their personality and history. In Black Panther, the clothes of every character in the film have been greatly influenced by the clothing of earlier African tribes. Ruth Carter definitely does not only tell stories of culture and personality through her designs but also making sure that they are historically correct.
Her sensitivity and empathy are what make her work amazing. At one part of the episode in Abstract: Art of Design, Ruth Carter shared her answer when people ask her about her process in designing costumes for Black Panther, she was like, “Oh, yeah! I go home and cry in my pillow every night because I’m scared.”
That statement was on point. While I was creating an artwork, I was so stressed because it did not turn in a way that I imagined it to look like. The whole process made me question the multitude of research studies that conclude, “Art is therapy.” In retrospect, I did relax the next day after completing that artwork because I don’t have it bugging my mind anymore.
In connection with the poem, I felt this warmth while watching Ruth Carter performs it. The line
“Yeah, sister, it ain’t easy, but move beautifully on past it. Keep holding your head higher, ’cause your best is yet to come.“
hit me differently.
Creating art is not easy. That is a given. However, I have to do it because how will I ever get better at it if I ain’t gonna, do it?
Various artists are commissioned to paint social distancing markers in public places. I find it fascinating that visual cues for social distancing i various places are different– not just in colors, but in symbols as well.
The common shape for social distancing visual cues is a circle. The photo above shows how the High Line park in New York looks like with all those green circles designed by Paula Scher. I loved how the circles are colored green– perfectly blends in with the landscape.
In Piazza Giotto, the shape that used was square. And it fits with the landscape as well. Piazza Giotto is located in Italy, the birthplace of the Renaissance. A word to describe Renaissance architecture is symmetrical. Hence, square fits the overall historical context of Piazza Giotto.
Social distancing visuals cues can be public artworks as well. Some visual cues can be anti-social. This public artwork in London promotes a sense of community, hope, and freedom while keeping people safe. Contrasting colors and geometric shapes are indications of where people should sit or stand. This artwork is a branding campaign for Stella Artois.
Marketing Director of Stella Artois, Ali Humphrey said, “Social distancing doesn’t need to be anti-social for it to be safe. We’re using art to bring people together, safely, rather than using barriers to keep them apart. Using street art we can make sure this moment we come together again is still one we can savour,”
Moreover, museums and galleries are not yet accessible to the public due to the still eminent COVID-19, hence, co-founder and creative director of Studio Number One, Shepard Fairey explained the artwork, “With galleries and exhibitions closing their doors during lockdown, people have been unable to experience and appreciate art in the usual ways. My team collaborated with Stella Artois to create socially-distanced art to be publicly accessible, but also to facilitate safety as people reunite.”
When Social Distancing Visual Cues Are Ineffective
In the Philippines, the LRT Line 1 and 2 trains have markers on the seats. However, it was ineffective in reaching its supposed purpose.
In 2020, Arapoc, J., and Savage, D. studied the various visual markers of the trains in the Philippines. The markers in MRT Line 3 has been proven effective based on how well the passengers follow the said markers. The opposite thing happened in LRT Line 1 and 2 trains. The markers had an X sign on them, which the authorities mean that this is where they should sit, but the majority of the public interpreted this as this is where they should NOT sit because of the X symbol.
When designed ineffectively, social distancing visual cues may do more harm than good. The goal of social distancing is to keep people safe from the virus and not to disconnect them from their surroundings and other people.
Visual cues can provide novelty during this quarantine wherein we can only travel to places familiar to us. It can be an opportunity to bring people together without risking their health and be a breath of fresh air to the monotonous day of a passerby this quarantine.
Arapoc, Jefferson & Savage, David. (2020). When a Nudge is not a Nudge: Why GCQ Visual Cues in Metro Manila’s Main Train Systems Fail. 10.13140/RG.2.2.34201.65122.
Lucas (2020, June 2). The “wala kayong disiplina” crowd is blaming these people for not following instructions, BUT
the real problem is bad design. Sino ba kasing nag-isip na X ang sign for “pwedeng umupo/tumayo dito”?
[Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/bashgita/status/1267750120935718914
When I was a kid, I love to play under a table. I imagine that the table, where I am under in, is my house. Under the table, I could take on whatever roles I wanted: a mother, chef, teacher, bank teller, and a businesswoman. Together with my peers, we would imagine that the table is either a castle or a mansion. For most kids, they felt the same way but not necessarily under a table. Kids, today, create makeshift tents out of blankets or use a playhouse to execute their role play ideas.
Apparently, architects today had integrated playhouses or little nooks into their school designs.
The new Sandy Hook School has playhouses, or what they call tree houses, in various areas of the school. Jay Brotman, managing partner of Svigals + Partners explained that this is one of their efforts to, “…encourage compassion, prosperity, collaboration, and joy.” These small spaces allow young children to collaborate with each other.
In Japan, AN Kindergarten has little reading nooks shaped like playhouses are at the center of the space. Little nooks are located on the glass balustrades, independently standing on the ground floor, and even under the stairs. They added these features into the design as the architects explained, “In recent years, when children’s physical ability and creativity have been decreased, we expect that they can start improving by setting a variety of playgrounds indoors at different places.”
Flower Kindergarten in Seoul, South Korea has a similar play den under the stairs. Architect Jungmin Nam, head of OA Lab (the studio that designed that school), said that “The stair itself becomes a playground. The space created below and above the stair is utilized as a children’s play den at children’s scale.”
Aside from being a place where collaborative play and learning can thrive, playhouses or little nooks are where children can do free play. Free play is an act where anyone who plays will not be intervened by an authoritative figure.
Why are playhouses and even as simple as makeshift tents out of blankets are loved by kids
From the book, Raising Curious, Creative, Confident Kids: The Pestalozzi Experiment in Child-Based Education, principal and author Rebeca Wild wrote,
“Playhouse provides a place for secret games and undisturbed conversations in an atmosphere of privacy.”
She explained further why playhouses are important,
“In such a prepared environment that offers many stimulating attractions but excludes the possibility of any pressure exercised by adults, it becomes surprisingly clear that each and every child, provided that it has no severe disturbances owing to disrespectful or inattentive treatment, possesses a clear inner direction or guiding force, as it were. This is what leads the child in its choice of activities [free play], makes it possible for the child to find its own rhythm and allows the child to achieve a new balance with each new activity, if permitted to– follow this inner directive force, the child is able to act and react as a self-confident, happy, and helpful human being, despite its tender age and to enjoy each day to the fullest.”
Lastly, “Even at only three or four years of age, many have lost confidence in their own inner direction as a result of the constant intervention and know-it-all behavior of the adults who love them. Some may not even had the complete love and attention of their parents when they came into the world. The purpose of which is to enable them to have basic truth and confidence in life itself.“
Playhouses provide children an opportunity to do their own choice of activities without being intervened by an adult. In little reading nooks, children can read and even talk about the book that they are reading to their peers without being conscious of an authoritative figure (if they were in a library). They could even role-play the books that they read, using the little nooks as their backdrop.
What if young students aren’t given an environment where they can play freely?
“By increasing the amount of time spent in school, expanding homework, harping constantly on the importance of scoring high on school tests, banning children from public spaces unless accompanied by an adult, and replacing free play with adult-led sports and lessons, we have created a world in which children are almost always in the presence of a supervisor, who is ready to intervene, protect, and prevent them from practicing courage, independence, and all the rest that children practice best with peers, away from adults. I have argued elsewhere (Gray, 2011, and here) that this is why we see record levels of anxiety, depression, suicide, and feelings of powerlessness among adolescents and young adults today.“
In conclusion, rather than writing little nooks or playhouses must be integrated into school designs, designing spaces where children can play without an intervening adult, and a space that has a lot of affordances (ways for it to be used) are a must. Designing spaces where kids can grow holistically is an investment for a better world tomorrow.
Last June, I was looking for products and spaces that empathizes with its users. I want to study a lot of them myself because designing is what I want to do. Surprisingly, there isn’t a site dedicated to that certain topic. There is a lot of architecture, industrial design, and interior design blogs and websites but in this era of information overload, I think specializing content is great to easily share the content that you want to see and read online. I discover more and more every day how a lot of things are designed just for the sake of it and not out of observing its users. Fortunately, there are people who observe their users before designing which led to positive changes to the behavior of its users. I had launched the Empathy In Design Blog (see here: https://empathyindesign.wordpress.com/) last July 1, 2020. I post every other day. Currently, I am practicing how to write it in a story-telling way rather than an article full of facts. I believe that architecture, spaces, and products that empathizes with people should be celebrated. I observed in the design world that, sometimes, designers had reduced its users (humans) to merely numbers. One time, the thought of ‘What if I cannot research any content anymore? What will I write?’ came to my mind. However, I tell myself that ‘that’ problem is for my tomorrow’s self to worry about. Right now, there is still a lot of good designs to share and write about. In my posts in Empathy in Design, I wrote it in an angle of how did these designs improved the lives of their users, how did they matter, and how did the made a difference. As Mark Meily stated in his talk Experience Design, “The role of the designers is to improve how one sees the world.” I noticed how my memory improved in remembering all the good designs that I had written. Plus, I am able to understand better how the designer gets to the outcome through constantly recalling it, writing, and researching about it. Author of Atomic Habits, James Clear wrote “The act of making something will force you to learn more deeply than reading ever will.” As my knowledge of design goes deeper through digesting and crafting case studies, I am able to create connections– there are some questions that I had in certain design work but I got the answer for it from a different work. My whys for this project is to spread good designs, to put all of them in one blog, and share it in a way that readers can empathize with as well and apply it to their life. Plus, if someone searches ‘Empathy in Design’ in the google search bar, they would not be disappointed or be discouraged because they had found nothing, but they will get excited once they see that a blog is dedicated solely for designs that empathize with humans. Storing all of this information in my design notebook is a waste because only I can benefit from it.
The impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only harmful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes. – Annie Dillard
It’s more than a month since I committed to researching content and I find joy in reading and crafting stories of how these designers design for humans. I am really looking forward to every day and what more stories of good designs will I read and share. Umberto Eco said, “To survive, you must tell stories.”
These words are written on a giant Post-It note on the wall of the last room of designer Paul Smith‘s exhibition “Hello My Name is Paul Smith”.
When asked whether he felt he had “made it”, Paul Smith said, “No. Never.”
Just a week ago, I finished writing an article for my internship (check it out here) and I breathed out a big sigh of relief.
And I just paused.
I remember the nervous feeling that I felt before submitting my article is similar to what I felt before taking an exam or finals week. During those times in the past, I remind myself, “When I’m done with this exam or project, I’ll be okay and I will never feel this way anymore.”
But, obviously, I was wrong. When we overcome a challenge, another comes up. The feeling of ‘I made it’ will stop as soon as another challenge rises up. I should get used to these nervous feelings from now on and still continue to do regardless.
Thinking that I will never ‘made it’ comforts me because there is no finish line waiting for me, no one can tell me whether I am done or not. My life would be one long hell of a journey that will probably end when I die.
We just gotta do our work. Once a work is done, there is another work, hopefully, a bit tougher than before for us to grow and learn.
James Corner, a landscape architect, told designer Ingrid Fetell Lee that landscape is more about how we feel, “It’s a whole host of things that will never show up in a photograph. Plants. Scents. Colors. The effects of light and shadow. Water. The sounds of water. Ambient humidity. Texture. Temperature. The effects of mist. The concentration of weather effects and atmospheres… These things are not obvious but they are very powerful and they bring joy.” Ingrid Fetell Lee added, “Being in nature liberates our senses.”
In a TED talk entitled Designing for the Five Senses, designer Jinsop Lee used to ask himself “why is sex is so damn good?“. He found the answer when he used the 5-senses graph.
The perfect experience would be a 10•10•10•10•10. Doing sex uses all of the senses hence, it is considered a pleasurable experience.
I started to look for other examples and concluded why eating, swimming, and traveling are enjoyable experiences for almost everyone– because we actively use our five senses when doing these activities. The same goes when being in nature. These activities lead to sensorial richness which is vital to healthy neural development.
Reversible Destiny Lofts, an amazing architectural work designed with the belief that we can prevent death if we constantly engage in a stimulating environment. In these lofts, corners are curved, floors have lumps everywhere and they are never flat, and bright, vivid colors everywhere. Architect Arakawa and poet Madeline Gins, designers of Reversible Destiny Lofts, believed that the comfort given by modem buildings lead us to an early death. Without enough activity for all of our senses, they push us to a stupor and causing us to say goodbye to the world at an early age.
Reversible Destiny Lofts is an extreme example of sensorial richness but there are still tons of ways wherein we can feed our deprived-senses. Like I mentioned eating, just look at mukbang blogs on YouTube. They eat really well plus, they sound well. When I’m eating noodles, I make slurping sounds to add up to my eating experience.
Designer Ingrid Lee writes, “A sparse environment acts as an anesthetic, numbing our senses and emotions. The abundance of aesthetic does the opposite. It wakes the senses up. It brings us to life.”
Lee, I. F. (2018). Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness. Little, Brown Spark.
“The opposite of play is not work. It’s depression.” – Stuart Brown
I watched one of an episode of Abstract of Design S2. The episode is all about play. I remembered in the book Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness written by Ingrid Fetell Lee, one chapter is dedicated to play.
Stuart Brown, the founder of the National Institute for Play, had been tasked to study convicted murderers of the Texas prison system– searching if there were factors that they had in common to understand what makes a person susceptible to violent behavior. Surprisingly, after a comprehensive review of the inmates’ lives and interviewed their families and friends, they found out that they have something in common. “Nearly all of these violent offenders had deficient or deviant play histories,” said Brown to author Ingrid Fetell Lee during their conversation.
There were inmates who experience abuse from their parents during their childhood. Some lack social experiences. To sum it up, their childhood lacks play.
Lee wrote, “Play let us practice give-and-take, through which we learn empathy and fairness it also promotes flexible thinking and problem-solving, which increase our resilience and help us adapt to change. When we play, our awareness of time diminishes, and our self-state, which allows us to let go of everyday worries and be absorbed in the joy of the moment.”
It makes sense that the lack of play in children these past few years had lead to a rise in narcissism, anxiety, and depression among children these days. Peter Gray, a psychologist who studies play, shared in his TED talk, “We have become a worse world for kids.” Instead of letting them play freely, most parents keep their kids occupied by letting them use their gadgets most of the time.
Going back to the episode of Abstract of Design entitled Cas Holman: Design for Play, designer Cas Holman concluded that most toys today are designed to keep children occupied. I looked back at the toys that I used to play when I was younger but are now sitting idly on display on our shelves. The toys that I own are close-ended; they only had one way (or four ’cause we never really know what is the limit of a kid’s imagination) to play it. These type of toys is something to keep us occupied and not stimulate our imagination. Many of these get thrown every year.
Cas Holman’s works are different. She does not label her works as toys because the word ‘toy’ is associated to the word ‘frivolous’ in which her works are far from that. Her works are for both kids and adults. It engages, unexpectedly has the power to get users into the flow. There is no one way to play it. Users can make anything that they want as much as where their imaginations take them. Above all, by giving users an opportunity to create something, it provides confidence to users– something that toys today fail to give.
Rigamajig is a group of materials used in constructing something in real life. These objects are enlarged with all edges curved such as large bolts and nuts, large pulley, and long plywood. Thus, preventing any child from eating it or scaring away from sharp edges. Entrusting kids to play and create something with “real” materials helps them in building their confidence. This design is something that stimulates the user’s mind and not deadens it.
There is this hotel/apartment in Japan called Reversible Destiny Lofts designed by architect Arakawa and poet Madeline Gins that aims to challenge and stimulate the senses. They believe that people can reverse their destiny (aging and death) by being in an environment that constantly engages their full senses. Hellen Keller was their source of inspiration in developing Reversible Destiny Lofts as she had reversed her destiny during her lifetime.
Arakawa and Gins believed that white walls, muted colors, and flat floors lead our bodies to atrophy. Hence, the exterior and interior of the lofts are painted with bright and vivid colors; floors are covered with lumps– actively engaging anyone walking to be in the present moment, no time for worrying; rooms are circular– helps the mind to not be in fight-or-flight mode while staying in this challenging environment.
Fun fact: Reversible Destiny Lofts is one of Cas Holman’s inspiration to create her works. She realized that toys are “crap” and do not engage with users at all.
Oftentimes, we tend to go into autopilot mode. We tend to spend our everyday lives not registering what is happening around us. We get our mind and senses numb to these amazing world around us. We left out play during our childhoods and downgrade it as frivolous and childish.
All this information led me to think that comfort isn’t such a good thing after all. Designing for comfort when done to the fullest, instead of ‘resting’ the mind, it will actually deaden it to the point of numbness and total disengagement from the present. Play helps us both kids and adults to be actively engaged and keep all our senses in use. Designers can help their users to ‘reverse their destinies’– designing products or spaces in such a way that will affect the users in a significant way psychologically; influencing users to be more creative more imaginative, more community-oriented, more joyful and more empathetic towards other people.
Lee, I. F. (2018). Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness. Little, Brown Spark.
One thing that is significant when designing and a part of the process that should never be left out is: Empathizing With End Users.
The tweet above shows what happens when you take the users out of the design process.
Designing is not all about being tech-y or thinking of a lot of cool features that your competitors do not have. Its about your end users. The end users are the ones who will use the product so if it would not help them at all then, its useless. Hence, we need to understand the users’ circumstances, socioeconomic status, and behavior.
I’m writing this as this might be helpful to designers or people who will be designing products in the future. In our country, we do have a lot of problems. Oftentimes, those problems are born out of the lack of empathy from higher officials.
I’m not ending this post on a sad note. Here are examples of good design. By good design, I mean design that empathizes with people.
Source: Vico Sotto Official Twitter Account
[There are a lot of cities who had done this, not just in Pasig.]
This is a really good example since people would follow the one-meter social distancing if we had set up cues for them to follow.
I had read once from a book that having visual cues is very helpful in regulating user behaviour. For example, it is easier for us to stop our vehicles when we see the red light, than without traffic lights.
Its not really that people do not have discipline but they just need cues to follow. Oftentimes, all it takes is a good design.
The Rolling Palengke (literally Market On Wheels in English) is a great initiative.
I had seen vendors who sell fish, vegetables, and meat while riding on a bicycle with a side car (where the products are placed) ever since I was a kid but the fact the it became really popular after one local government initiated this means that a lot of people had not seen that.
Rolling Palengke / Market On Wheels is where food ingredients are placed on a vehicle and it goes to areas where people had to take transportation to go to the market. Basically, the ‘market’ goes near your place. This initiative took place after public transportation is banned and people are forced to walk to get to the market.
The above examples of good design were initiatives by several local government units and were answers to the problems faced by the users. I am happy writing all of the examples because the actions of these LGUs gave me so much more hope that we can improve our country with good design.
Lastly, we, Filipinos are currently facing various issues right now. This carrd contains information, actionables, and organizations where you can donate to help.