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.

Choose Your Own Adventure // FMP

After another tutorial with Matt, I’ve surmised that life is one great ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book.  In essence, our lives are made up of the choices we make and the allegiances we take, but also the things we didn’t do or the choices we didn’t want to take.  Each one altering the outcome and the journey together – each choice altering the next choice, or the next hurdle, and so on and so forth.

The stories themselves are formatted so that, after a couple of pages of reading, the protagonist faces a number of options, each of which leads to more options, and then to one of many endings.  The number of endings is not set, and varies from as many as 44 in the early titles, to as few as 8 in later adventures. There is no clear pattern among the various titles regarding the number of pages per ending, the ratio of good to bad endings, or the reader’s progression backwards and forwards through the pages of the book. This allows for a realistic sense of unpredictability, and leads to the possibility of repeat readings, which is one of the distinguishing features of the books.

The idea that our choices effect outcomes is something I really want to convey in this project, as with a lot of what goes on around us it can be more subliminal than people are aware of.  It’s that old analogy of “blink and you’ll miss it” with regards to a life well lived for example, but that’s no good to me if I want to create an awareness in people that they needn’t shuffle around with their eyes closed.  It’s also whether this is done purposefully or not.  That’s not to say that nobody has any idea of anything, but I would feel confident in suggesting that a lot of things tend to go unnoticed or ignored until it’s rather too late.  Communicating the aspect of choice in this whole scenario is really important to the project, but I need to pick something that encourages the viewers to make that choice.

With the current political climate (i.e. Brexit, Trump, & Terrorism), it’s easy to pick a polarising subject and get people to fight about which one is the best.  That’s easy.  Getting people to understand their viewpoints, that their opinions are more nuanced than a binary yes or no.  Stay or Leave in Brexit’s case.  That’s harder.  The way in which the mass media works is that it often capitalises on fear, or populist subjects that usually cause passionate responses.  Post a factual article with no buzzwords and people might take notice.  Post some sensationalistic and scandalous tale about terrorism, or plotting some MP against her UKIP rival because they were arguing about the EU and all of a sudden people are baying for blood and it’s far, far more interesting.  Then they can report on that instead, call out someone for being too Right or too Left, and the cycle goes around and around and around.

How do you get people to pause?  How do you get people to notice?  Perhaps most importantly, how do you get people to understand the affect that this has on them?  It’s cause and effect, but at the moment I can’t figure out in which direction it goes in.

Does the mass media reflect society, or are we a reflection of it?  Is it a commentary on us and our lives, or is it a command?

Propaganda is to democracy what violence is to a dictatorship.” – Noam Chomsky.

Image result for journey under the sea ra montgomery

42 possible endings – limitless fun!

Way-Finding & Interactivity // FMP

After talking about way-finding and stories etc., I thought it might be really interesting to use this sort of thing.  The level of engagement with the audience or viewer is something I’d really like to have, as rather than my final major project be something one dimensional I think it can only really work at its best by having tangible interaction from the viewer.  The nature of my project itself is not passive, it’s not about standing by and waiting for the weather to change – it’s about understanding your position, yourself, in a wider context – for me the best way of achieving this is through interaction.  This is along the lines I was thinking of about playing with scale, and not just using my one solitary corner in the degree show but rather having elements around the entire building if I’m allowed!
In terms of how this could work with my subject choice, I’ve been playing around with having some sort of dispensing system alongside a map that either gives people a choice or a command – and it’s up to them what they do with the information.  The whole thing will come back to my ‘space’ in the degree show, which I think I’m leaning towards having a wall similar to the infographic style attached and some printed materials that cause unbalance in the viewer, or give them the opportunity to question their personal position in a way that they’d not done before.
For example in the big stairwells in B Block, having big signs that say “Nothing to see up here…” (even though they lead to other floors, of course) or little notices around the entire exhibition that aren’t necessarily confusing but aren’t exactly helpful i.e. sifting your way through an inordinate amount of information daily in order to find what’s truthful and/or relevant, which of course is different for each viewer anyway.
I’ve been working too with the idea of those ‘choose your own adventure’ books, and how this could work into my idea – what you get is based on your choices, that is if you’re able to choose for yourself!
It’s all *quite* loose at the moment, but I’m getting there slowly.  It’s been changing ever so slightly each time I have a tutorial or a cornerstone-thought, something will slightly change my course but it’s all very close knit.
Current mood: Eager.

Post-Truth // FMP

I have since found myself at this TV advertisement from 1964, part of Lyndon Johnson’s campaign for President of the United States.

It’s been widely described as one of the most controversial and effective political adverts in US history, and it’s easy to see why.  There is zero fact, it runs on emotional triggers and fear.

2017 Trump campaign anyone?

Bookers Seven Plots // FMP

The media gets to spin their stories and you could probably try and put them into the seven story plots in some way or another.  This does depend on who your villain is, and whether he or she succeeds or fails, but I think ultimately there’s something here that I think would work really well alongside the way-finding/navigation aspect that I want to get across.  There needs to be a ‘hook’, or something tangible to follow or align yourself with.  I mean, the journey you’re on in life is not some blind adventure, there is choice but there’s also rule and command, and doing things you don’t like or didn’t want to.  It all comes down to the journey, and how you reach your destination of a life well lived.  Of course, ‘well lived’ is different to each of us, but it’s how you pick those things up along the way that’s important.  To me, it feels very much like storytelling.

Overcoming the Monster

The protagonist sets out to defeat an antagonistic force (often evil) which threatens the protagonist and/or protagonist’s homeland.

Rags to Riches

The poor protagonist acquires things such as power, wealth, and a mate, before losing it all and gaining it back upon growing as a person.

The Quest

The protagonist and some companions set out to acquire an important object or to get to a location, facing many obstacles and temptations along the way.

Voyage and Return

The protagonist goes to a strange land and, after overcoming the threats it poses to him or her, returns with experience.


Light and humorous character with a happy or cheerful ending; a dramatic work in which the central motif is the triumph over adverse circumstance, resulting in a successful or happy conclusion. Booker makes sure to stress that comedy is more than humour. It refers to a pattern where the conflict becomes more and more confusing, but is at last made plain in a single clarifying event. Most romances fall into this category.


The protagonist is a hero with one major character flaw or great mistake which is ultimately their undoing. Their unfortunate end evokes pity at their folly and the fall of a fundamentally ‘good’ character.


During the course of the story, an important event forces the main character to change their ways, often making them a better person.