Future-Facing Designers: Empathy and Designing with Sustainability in Mind

Do I understand, intellectually and emotionally…
I hope so.  I’d like to consider myself empathetic and emotionally literate, and sensitive to the opinions and feelings of others.  I guess I’ve always found it useful to have a few layers of understanding of a situation in order to better understand it myself.
…my own feelings, thoughts and motivations – and whether or not I care?
I feel quite engaged with this project, particularly as we’re dealing with the environmental aspects of a Healthy University, and how this affects students as the target audience.  It’s something I’m passionate about away from university, so useful to explore this further.  I care because it’s important to me that we as students have somewhere positive and welcoming to socialise and study.  As Graphic Communicators within the University, I think it’s pertinent that we have this opportunity to be a voice for the student population and create a dialogue between the ‘business’ (University) and the ‘customers’ (Students).  My motivations lie in wanting to help create somewhere that is more student focused,
…the feelings, thoughts and motivations of other people – and whether or not I care about them?
It’s important within the University to be aware that you are an individual, but also one of very many as part of the student population.  Typically I think that the outside world believes us to be selfish and lazy individuals gathering en masse and wasting a lot of money.   I think if we were more engaged with our surroundings and wanted to have our say in how we sculpt the environment around us, would not only help us to function better in our environment, but ensure that we create the feeling of being a socially conscious and aware society within the University.
…how capable I am of embracing, entering into and valuing another person’s feelings, thoughts and motivations – and whether or not I want to?
(e.g. How might I come to see other people’s points-of-view? What might I want to do in response?)
How do we create design for people who don’t care?


Here are four questions for you to answer in your own blog and together as a team, to guide your empathic creativity:
We’re not looking for ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’ answers. No, instead we’re asking for your honest, real, genuine thoughts, your willingness to have a go, and get involved…
1 : How do people actually behave? 
1a : What do you think is influencing their behaviour – what’s going on in their thoughts?
2 : How would I want people to behave?
3 : Why do I want people to behave in a particular way?
4 : How might I learn to empathise with people, in order to create mutually-beneficial design?
Who are ‘stakeholders’?
The original meaning of this term related to how people contributed to an organisation’s existence.
Its meaning has since broadened to include any person who has an interest in a given activity.
Within these definitions, we recognise that there are three kinds of stakeholder:
1 : Primary Stakeholders 
– people who are directly engaged with, a part of, and have an interest in, an organisation’s objectives;
2 : Secondary Stakeholders 
– people outside an organisation who are actively interested in, can affect, and are affected by that organisation’s activities;
3 : Excluded Stakeholders 
– people outside the organisation who have no interest in an organisation’s objectives but whose lives are affected by its activities.
A sustainable definition of ‘stakeholder’
But from our point-of-view, nobody nor anything is excluded. So when we consider how we develop and nurture healthy, inclusive, life-giving sustainability, we now offer an expanded interpretation…
…to include, ‘any person, biodiverse life, ecosystem and environment which is affected directly and systemically by our activities’.
This definition highlights the fact that we are actually all connected with one another and with our wider world, whether or not we are aware of it. 
Our activities do indeed affect somebody and something else, either directly or consequentially.
For this reason we do well do nurture our abilities to empathise.
Future-facing creativity isn’t the same as the creativity of the past. We’re no longer ‘serving’ the demands of industrialisation. No, instead we’re reconnecting with our real (authentic) humanity. Empathy is a foundational need. It underpins our care, our love which lasts for one another and the wider world. 
So, in using this definition, here’s a research question for you as a team, to begin with:
who are the ‘stakeholders’ to be affected by your creativity, here on this Real World Healthy University project?
(…and, in thinking about your future creativity also, who and what will be affected by any project you have yet to design?)

FMP – Tutorial with Matt

After previously discussing my idea which centers around ideas of mass media and its influence on wider society, and particularly how we position ourselves in relation to it, I think the best way of demonstrating this or encouraging greater awareness would be some system of way-finding or navigation.  After all, the way we choose to govern ourselves throughout our lives is an issue of navigation – how we navigate the media, what we are susceptible to, what we do or don’t listen to, it’s all an issue of navigation.

We talked about the exhibition being a vehicle for this, and by using current contextual issues and concerns surrounding ‘fake news’, it would be the perfect way to show how much we’re influenced by what goes on around us.  Whether it’s more subliminal or a direct choice resulting from what we are exposed to in our lives.

Tutorial // FMP

Tutorial with Matt this morning.  I’ve reached and gone through my (possibly) final impasse and perhaps most important point.  I finally know what I’m doing/saying.

Image result for about time meme

So rather than have this great nebulous subject that people are forced to make a decision on, the whole premise would be awareness.  That is awareness of yourself, and of others, within the context of a wider subject.  The crux is about personal positioning, and how we find ourselves drawn to things or forced away from them, and what things we listen to or don’t listen to.  Why do we listen to some news and not others?  Why do we believe in certain politicians but believe the other ones to be liars?  Most importantly, this experience is different for different people and it all depends on so many different factors.  That’s why I’ve reached this point – I was trying to give people a topic or a subject and get them to choose.  Some graphic designed version of Sophie’s Choice.  But I’ve come to realise now that it’s not some binary choice made between black and white, yes or no.  There is a vast middle ground that’s not explored or questioned, which is where my project lies.

What if the goal was to create awareness?  Not of a given thing, but of themselves, and of others.  The whole idea at this point is to demonstrate our differences, how we are the same, and importantly demonstrate what things are important to different people.  This awareness of others comes back to how we position ourselves in a wider whole.  The ‘whole’ in this case is society, not a particular topic.

I can’t give people one thing to pick from, because it needs to come from themselves.  By making a choice, or way finding, they become aware of their needs/wants/desires/dislikes, in relation to different people.

I discussed with Matt the Degree Show itself.  People will be forced to make decisions on unfamiliar topics and unfamiliar things, and be encouraged to think laterally, liberally, and a bit left of centre than perhaps they would have previously.  Matt said “They should leave feeling as though their brains are a little bigger.”

So I saw this the other week which has spurred a lot of my decision.

Getting the attendee to make the graphics in your booth. "Great way to add some interactivity" -triadcreativegroup.com::

I’m not going to recreate this, of course, but something similar that explains the journeys of other people along with some visual aid, that also makes you aware of your position in relation to others.  It becomes this map of “What Made You” – but of course the finished product is the sum of what made a number of different individuals, and not just one person’s choices and feelings.

For my subject and topic area, this would be a little more divisive.  I think the ‘pins’ in my case would be a topic, and the string would be an emotion.  Perhaps if you followed someone’s journey through anger or fear, and what caused those feelings and what encouraged them to feel that way?

Basically, what would be the pins and what would be the string?

Of course by the time I come around to designing this myself I won’t be using this method, but I think the mechanism is there.  I want it to be some visual story of peoples’ journey, their way finding through the topics, and your position in relation to them.  Together, this provides a visual ‘map’ if you will of the way that people think, and the way that people found themselves thinking that way in particular.

I think one of the most important things I’ve always looked for in my practice is to encourage people to think about themselves.  Be excellent to each other is a perfect way of describing what I always want to achieve.  With the Pearson D&AD brief, or the Big Idea, or Real World back at the start of the year, I want people to think differently and for the betterment of themselves, and as a whole.  By creating an awareness of other peoples’ journeys and feelings gives the viewer the perfect opportunity to think of themselves as one of many, and to realise the importance of the journeys of others.  We are always told that we don’t exist in a bubble – nobody does.

If people leave my exhibition with perhaps a little bit more awareness of themselves, and that they are not the only person with a journey and a story, then I’ll have done what I set out to achieve.

Information Is Beautiful // FMP

I’ve been looking at how best to display information, and remember seeing the ‘Information Is Beautiful’ book a few years ago.  I think displaying factual information in an interesting way is something I’d like to do with this project as a way of communicating a wider meaning would be something to try.  Particularly with respect to media and newsworthy information, I think displaying peoples’ distrust of the media would be really impactful.

I need to put a survey together to ask some proper questions so that I can get some proper answers. Things like “Do you trust the media?”

It’s an incredibly loaded question with so, so many shades of grey, but we’re often expected by the media to make binary choices like this in every day life.  For example during the pre-Brexit pantomime, forcing people to arbitrarily pick to stay or to leave, when it was just never that simple.  The real meat of the things that go on around us are impacted by our personal bias, our socio-economic background, and various other factors.

By getting people to be more aware of their personal bias and its influence and impact on their decision making process would be something I’d be really interested in looking at.

Image result for information is beautiful

Notes // FMP

Peoples’ ability to be self-governing in a world of socially distorted mirrors – perception of self, perception of sexes/genders, stereotyping, bias.

Fear appeal, emotional appeal, deception in advertising, deception in media, values, societal morals.

What is newsworthy?

News media as creating a perceived reality.

Personal viewpoint in relation to wider context, links to personal journey – impacted by cognitive bias.

In order to get people to understand their viewpoint on a given situation based on their personal standing.  Give the audience the opportunity to confront their own bias within the context of the degree show which asks them to perhaps view things out of the ordinary, or things that make them react on some emotional level.  It will act as a mapping exercise and ultimately conclude in the viewing of information design which encourages them to address and be aware of their own bias in relation to different contexts – articles in the degree show (or wider mass media information).

The media are not only the magic windows through which we view the world, but also the doors through which ideas enter our minds.
Is the media a banal echo of things that we already know, or a more corruptive influence on our decision making process?  By encouraging the viewer to be confronted throughout the degree show by misleading information designed to unbalance them, when they eventually return to my show space they will hopefully have confronted their own bias and be encouraged to view the show in a different light.

Influence of Mass Media // FMP

  • Agenda-setting theory: Describes how topics selection and the frequencies of reporting by the mass media affected the perceived salience of those topics within the public audience.
  • Framing: Identifies the media’s ability to manipulate audience interpretation of a media message through careful control of angles, facts, opinions, amount of coverage.
  • Knowledge-gap theory: States the long-term influence of mass media on people’s socio-economic status with the hypothesis that “as the infusion of mass media information into a social system increases, higher socio-economic status segments tend to acquire this information faster than lower socio-economic status population segments causing the gap in knowledge between the two to increase rather than decrease”.
  • Cultivation theory: As an audience engages in media messages, particularly on television, they infer the portrayed world upon the real world.


McQuail’s Typology of Media Effects

I think through my research my personal belief is that the effect that the Mass Media has upon us is not some all-encompassing thing that controls us and guides us, but far more indirect and subliminal.  One of the biggest things is that the audience has, until really quire recently, looked to the media for whom to trust or distrust, what to learn and how to conduct themselves afterwards, and ultimately providing suggestion on what to do next.

The interactive role of the ‘New Media’ in the Web 2.0 age means that there is far more dialogue between the audience and the media.  It has become much more of a conversation, arguably for better or for worse.  People can comment and gather in their thousands online, whether in the comments section of a polarising article, or in online petitions that can gain hundreds of thousands of signatures in a way never seen before.

Does the dialogue help the conversation or hinder it?

With relation to how we choose to govern ourselves and consider our position in a much larger whole, the role of the media and modern communication as it stands are answerable to more.  Peoples’ personal bias shapes the outcome, but what if the incoming information was false or lacking in real evidence?  The outcomes will only become more and more warped.  A person’s agency to govern themselves is being altered, along with our collective consciousness.

Social Cognitive Theory of Mass Communications // FMP

“Communication technologies and global interconnectedness provide people with ready direct access to information worldwide independent of time and place and unfettered by institutional and moneyed gatekeepers.  The public is less dependent on a mediated filter-down system of persuasion and enlightenment.  These vastly expanded opportunities for self-directedness underscore the growing primacy of agentic initiative in human adaptation and change in the electronic era.  Ready access to communication technologies will not necessarily enlist active participation unless people believe they can achieve desired results by this means.  Perceived personal and collective efficacy partly determines the extent to which people use this resource and the purposes to which they put it.” – Albert Bandura, Stanford University.

“The media play an indispensable role in the proper functioning of a democracy. Without mass media, openness and accountability are very tough to reach in contemporary democracies. The media can inform the public of how effectively the current government or candidates have performed in the past and help to them to account. Nevertheless, mass media can also hinder political transparency as well as help it. Politicians and political operatives can simulate the political virtues of transparency through rhetorical and media manipulation. There are three major societal functions that mass media perform to the political decisions raised by the political scientist Harold Lasswell: surveillance of the world to report ongoing events, interpretation of the meaning of events, and socialization of individuals into their cultural settings. The mass media regularly present politically crucial information on huge audience and it also represents the reaction from the audience rapidly through the mass media. The government or the political decision makers have the chance to have a better understanding of the real reaction from the public of those decisions they have made.”