As part of Design Week recently, AB’s design studio took a trip to the London Design Biennale at Somerset House.
The exhibition was called Emotional States and can only be described as a bit of a rollercoaster. Countries from across the globe took over a room and focused on the concept of emotion. Each encouraged empathy and understanding from various viewpoints – an appropriate topic for us at AB as we strive to aid strong, positive connections for our clients’ workforces.
As we ventured through the different rooms, signs asked us to think about how design can evoke, communicate and manipulate emotions. Some of the pieces asked specific questions, such as, ‘how can design promote and support wellbeing or provoke and address anger and stress?’, and ‘how might emotionally durable designs reduce the impact of consumption and waste, as well as possible consequences of robots as emotional machines?’
The room I enjoyed most was the Norway room, which contained a cute little white robot called AV1, designed specifically to replace an unwell child who is too sick to be at school. While it initially seemed terrifying and dystopian, the ethos and motive behind the product was positive – children with long-term health conditions miss out not only on learning but on forming relationships with classmates and teachers. Using AV1, designed by Oslo-based Onny Eikhaug, children can log-in from home using an iPad or computer and communicate directly through the robot.
Containing a camera, microphone and speaker, the robot shows the child the full classroom, and flashes blue when the child wants to ask a question. The child’s voice can then be transmitted via the robot to their classmates and teacher. The aim is to enable those who cannot attend school to experience learning in as similar a way as possible to their classmates.
Onny Eikhaug says: “The robot is like the child’s avatar. We think traditional ways of teaching are outdated. This is a way to include isolated and excluded children, and represent them in the classroom.” The robot has been “positively received” by students at Norwegian schools and they have even been encouraged to take the robots out at playtime to improve interaction.
The powerful theme of the Biennale forced the team to think about some of the campaigns we create for our clients and their workforces. A recent project I worked on for one of our corporate clients involved encouraging their colleagues to upload self-made videos to a portal and share personal stories about their life outside work. I needed to impact their emotions for them to think creatively and understand that their personal stories could aid learning, understanding and empathy across their very disparate workforce.
I left the exhibition feeling proud and lucky to be a designer whose job is to help provoke, evoke and ultimately connect.