Creating conversation can be awkward for most of us however for those who suffer from social anxiety it’s a different ball game altogether. Social anxiety disorder is common in both men and woman but there is a more growing number of woman that experience social anxiety. The disorder can greatly affect a personal lifestyle and create an inability to function, disrupt normal life and create problems with social relationships.
I was compelled towards this social issue as I both sympathise and also see a growing number of people affected by this issue, therefore, I wanted to create a piece of jewellery that can be of aid to someone with social anxiety and at the same time create this conversational starter.
First steps how did I do this?
Research has always been the key! However, I’m not the sort of person who lazily goes on google to search “symptoms of social anxiety” or “how to cure social anxiety” (if your the person who does this I apologise for offending you) By doing primary research and actually going out and talking to who whoever you are targeting. In this case I went along to the mental health society and conducted a survey which consisted of What they experieced when having axiety such as if they felt uncomfortable in crowds, if they found it difficult to make conversation and how would they deal with it.
Referring back to this research helped me to narrow down who I was designing for and also the sort of product I should be designing.
Who? What? Why?
So I knew I was designing for people who suffered from social anxiety, I knew they needed something that calmed them down and using blues and pastels would create a non-threatening innocent vibe and I knew I had to design something that was comforting and also create a conversation between people. I find it important to make physical conversation between people to deepen bonds and to learn from one another. In this day and age, physical communication is lost due to social media and people constantly on their screen, as humans, we have lost the act of talking face to face and confronting people and saying whats really on our minds.
Initial Stage 1
My initial prototypes from the information gathered were to create these cuffs that mimicked sleeves which I noticed people fidgeting with and I wanted it to also be a similar texture of the skin so it seemed like the cuff s part of them. Moreover, I used thermochromic paint so if their hands felt hot the cuff would get lighter and their friends would notice this change and calm them down. However, this concept was short lived due to it being not very subtle and a bit too statementy!
Initial Stage 2
Creating something a bit more subtle was key especially for someone who has social anxiety they wouldn’t want attention from everyone else s this would perhaps trigger a panic attack. Therefore I looked into the root of the anxiety to create something that would let someone else know if they were having a panic attack. This would measure the heart and therefore react by subtly lighting up as a warning to others that the person is having this panic attack. I took this inspiration from “Bella beat) as this was a wearable product that linked up with an app which seems more subtle than a light. Again this was also short-lived due to the aesthetics and it being not suttle with the light.
Each person would wear a piece and would be synced up with one another which would tell if the other person is panicking. However, it is not a wise idea as the last thing anyone wants is someone saying “are you ok”
I then went back to the drawing board and did more research into colour and shape. The research led me to this idea of nature and round objects as humans seem to be fixated on round objects as it seems less threatening and nice on the eye which links back t organic shapes Whereas geometric shapes appear sharp to the eye and create this threatening vibe to some. So I went out to take pictures of a park I lived nearby and sing this photography I laser etched and cut on wood to create different shapes and collaged them together using pastel colours of pink, green and different blues
I wanted to get feedback from different centres of mental health to see different opinions so I went along to epilepsy Scotland for them to check out my brooches. To my dismay I found they liked the idea of it being a game were the separate pieces could fit together which I found interesting and they seemed like they were in the zone trying to fit the pieces together or try to place them and it struck up a lot of conversation and also it gave me a through back to my 3rd year project were similarly I got people to place purposeful objects of the brooch in the centre of the piece.
So I made 4 blank brooches and attached magnets to them so that people would make their own brooches and create personal narratives this making conversation an also some component have a bit of movement so they can take off the piece from the brooch and fidget with it when they feel nervous. The components also use the senses such as smell as they each have their own personal scent holding a memory and therefore a conversation starter. Therefore I like the idea of a brooch having something personal to it as I believe brooches are capable of creating conversation amongst people as it sits on a piece a clothing. Furthermore, the concept of it being interactive provides this aspect of play and therefore being able to break down this barrier and create conversation and better friendships with the trading aspect as well.
(Just going to use this bit for self promotion)
If you like the slide show above and the imagery and explanation Im selling these books for £2.50 I have a limited supply at the moment but if you want a copy of this leaflet for you to read give me a shout @ -firstname.lastname@example.org-