Foundations of Youth: Maturation as Design is a Senior Honors Thesis investigation of the process of human development, viewing it through a broad, creative lens.
In my work, I provide a metaphorical container for participants to fill with experiences and insight. My role is to interpret and respond to the data and information I gather, giving space for a population’s voice, producing opportunities for engaging participation. I see my work as striving to be sincere, to discover what we can learn from sitting here together, listening to each other’s experiences. My work is inspired by continuously being asked, “Are you an artist or a designer?” and “Are you a child or an adult?” This assumed dichotomy is an old way of thinking about the capabilities of designers and age groups. My work, however, is not about the “either/or.” It is about recognizing transitions and in-between spaces in design and in life. These hybrid spaces of creativity and profundity are inspired by questioning dreams, reflecting on the mundane, and sharing stories.
Design advances towards complete development, much like the brain, but never achieves a static state. In the expanding branch of design known as social design, the design process can be modeled as a frequently revisited loop, where researching, testing, making, and sharing are loose interpretations of the formal design process. This allows for moments of unexpected imagination, growth, and non-linearity. By viewing stages of development through this lens, maturation becomes a design challenge, something that is refined through experience.
I study the way we interact with objects, places, and memories using experiences of age as metaphorical steps in the design process. Creative inquiry begins as a hypothesis, which undergoes tests and analyses—meaning will be extracted. I collect and discuss my findings by developing empathy through design. I work with three age groups that reflect my own experience of maturation: children, college students, and those beyond the normative Connecticut College student age. Each group contributes to a different creative work that corresponds to a specific design research method. These design research methods are ways of synthesizing parts of the design process to further develop the work. My work is always in the process of becoming something more than I originally intentioned. The message and form depends on who interacts with my work and the histories they carry with them.