Every day, various stimuli affect our well-being, but our sensory needs are so unique that it is difficult to describe them, and even more so, to create products that will be friendly and universal at the same time. Therefore, how to use creative practices to discuss matters of comfort?
Neurodiversity describes the idea that people experience the world around them in many different ways; there is no one right way of feeling or behaving. Moreover, research shows that 20% of the population is highly sensitive to materials, textures, colours, light, sound, and smell. Comfort means something else to everyone; it can be a memory, a feeling, or a taste. Therefore, how can we better communicate and understand our unique sensory needs in daily-use products? Are co-design and democratic design effective tools for creating solidary products that have the potential to improve users' well-being?
The Sensory Storytelling exhibition presents the outcomes of the master's diploma launched in November 2022 in collaboration with a group of 12 adult autistic students from the Share Community in London. The project focused on studying users’ sensory preferences within the educational environment and aimed to collectively design school decoration elements that would improve students' well-being and help them manage stress through multisensory therapy and stimulation. The main part of the project was a series of workshops and testing sessions that included discussion, art activities, working on pictograms and worksheets. During the meetings, mostly non-verbal, students learned about various methods to effectively communicate and visualise their needs. At the exhibition, you will be able to see students’ artworks, the documentation of the design process and the result of the workshops- collaboratively designed sensory textile objects, which after the exhibition, will be returned to the school and further tested in terms of their functionality.
Modular set for a group sensory-integration therapy
How art and creative group work affect our well-being?
Workshops and research carried out during the project have proven that artmaking has the most soothing and therapeutic effect on participants. Therefore, the result of this project is a modular textile set for group sensory integration therapy. The product can be used by students in the classroom or sensory rooms as a toy, a mobile classroom decoration, or a customizable tool for creating collages. The kit can also be used by teachers to teach students about senses or conduct creative group work. Through the variety of textures, the elements provide the user with various visual, tactile, olfactory, auditory, and interactive experiences. Prints and decorations are made by methods of screen printing, laser cutting, puff binder, and quilting; some of the patches and snakes are filled with weighted or soft material and sound-producing shapes. Moreover, some elements attract the user's attention with their scent (lavender) and an interactive thermochromic print that changes colour. The patches have hooks and Velcro buttons for attaching them to the mat or tangling together in 3D objects.
Artworks of project participants, prints
How to best communicate your sensory needs?
During workshops and testing sessions, students from Share explored their sensory preferences by engaging in inclusive worksheets, pictograms and art activities. They were prompted to compose their own sensory kits, draw associations with favourite colours, create multi-sensory collages from selected materials, design a dream school and collectively decorate the classroom with paintings and paper objects. This resulted in unique works of art visualizing the group’s sensory identity. The exhibition presents students’ artworks, and textile prints inspired by them, composed into one sensory image, which ultimately becomes a new and holistic object of the exhibition space. The composition includes textile collages, paper posters, a painting, prints and woven textiles.
Is art healing?
Why do agency and control of space improve our well-being?
The initial aim of this project was to design a single therapeutic element of classroom decoration, however, the documentary film explains why art, collective design and personalization of space turned out to have the most therapeutic and soothing effect on participants.
Files to download
Explore your own sensorium!
Please engage in a variety of worksheets that will help you to translate your unique sensory needs into a visual and tactile map.