I was working hard on the third module of my Master’s towards the end of last year, and I thought I’d share some of my work with you all!
We worked on 2 different projects, one open self-initiated project, and one open brief. I have discovered that I struggle when my brief is ‘anything you like!’
The first project was self-initiated. My first approach to this module was to look into why we do self-initiated work. Many of the designers I have met, studied or read about, myself included, work on a mix of both client-based and commercial work, and something on the side, a side hustle or a personal project. For me personally, I tend to do it for a few reasons. I want to learn new skills, branch out into new work and find this is a good way of learning, and then marketing myself for that kind of work, or I have an idea that I need to get out of my system, that sometimes creates a small income, or can get me new work, but mostly is just a creative itch I have to scratch.
This was a chance to work on a project based around auto-ethnography – a term I had not heard of before. Most of my projects both self-initiated and client based have been rooted in research on what others think, feel, need or want, and the idea of doing a more personal and reflective project was quite appealing.
This was my project question:
How does religion stand up against popular culture? Inspired by Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’, where we see the ‘old gods’ against the ‘new gods’ – technology, money, the internet, social media etc. – I am interested in looking at old Gods and seeing how they would fare in the modern world. Do their morals fit in with our lifestyles? Are their characteristics, personalities and flaws, stories and ideologies something to inspire us? Are they as old and out of date as we think?
I was not happy with the outcome of this project. I went into it with an idea already formed in my head, which I have discovered doesn’t work. I only had 4 weeks, and I struggled to produce what I wanted… however, I learnt a great deal from this project, and I am pleased with that.
My final piece was a representation of Greta Thunberg as Joan of Arc in a stained glass window. As you can see, my brief evolved and changed a lot throughout the project, and as I had never worked with glass, and only had 4 weeks in total, I tried my hand at window/glass painting…
The second project was a specific brief. We had a choice of a few, and I opted for the Creative Conscience brief. It was an open brief to design something to change the world, specifically within the area of mental health, in a positive way. I then had a chance to write my brief within that:
Around 6% – 8% of people in the UK are diagnosed with depression or anxiety in any given week. Since the pandemic, this has only worsened. We are encouraged to eat well, drink in moderation, exercise regularly, and be shown how to maintain good physical well-being from an early age. Can we do this with our mental health – concentrating on maintaining good mental health practices, and teaching how to recognise issues and changes? Can we provide young people with a set of guidelines and help to keep themselves mentally healthy, and help lose the stigma of mental health issues, so they are more likely to seek help and advice when needed?
I loved this project! I immediately engrossed myself in nature and trends around mental health and got to work on ideas to help young children with mental health issues and to help them prevent them. My final idea was a nature journal, designed for young children of primary school age. I designed it to be held, used, and taken outside, with a thermo-chromic cover which changes colour when you touch it. Each page has prompts to help with activities, and has different stock to aid these, tracing paper, plain paper, coloured paper, seed paper etc. There are also a set of activity cards of things to do in nature. Where possible, these activities are as inclusive as possible so it doesn’t matter where you live, or how much time you have, you can do these. I also tried to make sure there were enough activities for all abilities. Each activity explains how it can help with mental health, encouraging journaling, being outside, talking and being with family and friends, and expressing feelings and thoughts. I asked a few professionals, teachers, childminders, psychologists and headteachers for their advice and feedback along the way, to ensure it was appropriate for age, and accessible.
I’ve entered this into the Creative Conscience awards (click here) so I will post if I’m shortlisted for a prize!