10 – Reflect + Propose


As mentioned in my previous posts [08 and 09] I came into this week’s tutorial session with a fairly sound proposal in mind, one that I already felt quite strongly about pursuing. In essence, this design responds to the association of ‘choice’ with mental health and seeks to defy the limitations placed on the identity of those who are ill.

When proposing the functionality of the generative website it was suggested that a level of curation will still need to be involved. The purpose of which wouldn’t be to limit responses to those that I personally agree or identify with, but rather to determine whether they are indeed related to the issue and respectful to the actors involved.

Whilst explaining the intended digital and physical output of my generative design proposal it became evident that as a curated design, the postcard series does also fall within the sphere of poetic data visualisation.

The most interesting aspect of the postcards is the idea of combining statements to illustrate an intriguing, humorous or critical point. Furthermore, the continued engagement beyond the parameters of the original design would be interesting to explore. A hashtag could be attributed to the project to encourage sharing of stories and further increasing the reach of the work, which ultimately seeks to provoke open discussion and prompt genuine understanding. By including a hashtag on the postcards further statements can be sourced to feed back into the original generative website format.

draft proposal sketches
Draft proposal sketches

Design Proposition Details

Project title

We choose

Practice type

Generative System // Poetic Data Visualisation

The issue

Use of the word ‘choice’ in relation to mental health and the harmful implications resulting from such associations

The possible change

Open discussion around mental health with reduced stigma

Increased public consciousness in regards to the responsibility of language

The design action to support change

Collecting honest, frank statements remarking on the everyday realities of living with mental health issues by any individual who has personal experience.


Revised Design Proposition

‘We choose’ is a design proposal for a generative system, which seeks to question the association of the concept of ‘choice’ with mental health. The project is drawn from research that focused specifically on the role of language in perpetuating stigma and preventing open acknowledgement of the significance of mental health in our society. A collection of notes, responding to the everyday realities and personal truths of individuals’ experiences with mental health will be presented in both a digital and print format. The purpose of these curated visualisations is to defy the limitations placed on the identity of those who are ill.

Individuals with a personal understanding of the everyday realities of mental health, whether through their own or a loved ones experiences, will be invited to anonymously submit a response to any of the following statements; I choose, I do not choose, They choose and They do not choose.

These notes are framed within the same opening so as to create a cohesive language within the broader context of individual experience. ‘I’ and ‘They’ are used instead of ‘We’ because it is not the purpose of this project to dictate or claim the truths of others. The truth of these statements is entirely subjective as it is drawn directly from the realities of each person’s life and circumstances.

The only visual parameter enforced is for each statement to be handwritten by the individual. A person’s handwriting, aesthetic and taste are uniquely their own. Thus, through collecting handwritten statements, a human identity is attached to each note without revealing the personal identity of the individual. By deliberately removing a specific identity from these contributions, they can be seen to speak on the experience of anyone; rather than them exclusively, and certainly not everyone generally.

There will be two distinct, yet invariably interwoven, design outcomes from this proposition. Foremost, a generative system would be established in the form of a basic website wherein users may view the collated statements and submit their own contribution. The content for this site could be sourced through a public Facebook request, where friends and friends of friends can view and share a call to contribute and be lead through to the site. As well as presenting the notes chronologically (based on submission time) the website would also offer further insight into the origins and purpose of the project.

generative system colour experimentation
Draft generative system mock up + colour experimentation

The secondary form is a poetic data visualisation in the form of a series of curated postcards, which through their placement in public spaces will be a silent invitation to strangers to unwittingly engage with the project. The level of this engagement is in the hands of the user – quite literally. They may choose to interact with the card purely on an aesthetic, ephemeral level, just as they may use it in the traditional sense to pass on news of their travels to loved ones at home. The highest and most significant potential engagement would be for users to be prompted to investigate the origins of the postcard and eventually contribute their own response to the generative digital system. The trigger point may be in the form of a brief explanation on the reverse of the card with a URL, or could involve the inclusion of a unique hashtag. Both would allow further engagement with, and distribution of, the project across various social media platforms and geographic contexts.

data visualisationcolour experimentation
Draft poetic data visualisation mock up + colour experimentation


– Alexandra Macoustra