Label a Designer

If you would ask me what I call myself, I would say “a human being – just like you”.

I don’t like labels and I remember that, on my first business card, I titled myself as an Illustrator. My second contained Illustrator, Designer and Artist. I was trying to identify tags that could explain the kind of work I do – or at that moment did. I was struggling to find my place in the Design – Art World. I was considering to have all round designer on the next one, but I realised that it actually didn’t say anything. Nobody would understand what I actually did by calling myself all round. On my current business card, there is no title. I do have 3-4 web links on them, which I hope explain or cover my field of work.

During my post graduate study, I designed another card, to use for my project. Here I had a different approach. On the front it simply says “YOU ARE GREAT”  and on the back of the card there is a web link to my project. The approach, in this case, was to focus on my receiver and use positive affirmations. Instead of explaining what I did, I attempted to provide him/her an experience.

Recently, I was asked to teach the 1st year students of my former academy. Showing my graduation project, tell about Relational Design and what that means in a SRVD ( Socially Responsive Design) context. There were two things that struck me. 1) even though quite some of the students knew about my work from before, it was still very odd and new to them. 2) they didn’t understand what I did or how I could make a living out of ‘my way of design’. Questions as “So what do you call yourself?” “How do you earn money?” ” How do you approach organisation and institutions, when you want to work for them?” were asked. I felt my answers didn’t satisfy them in the sense that, it didn’t fit their reality of what a designer does, what a designer is and how a designer works.

At that moment, I found it quite surprising. Apparently my work was so accepted during my studies, that I saw it as something so natural and obvious, that I stopped questioning the label it should have. I just didn’t see the necessity of it. Now, I see that for certain groups it needs an explanation and every group needs a different language, a different tone of voice wrapped around the same arguments. Arguments yes. Sometimes it feels like I need to defend everything I stand for, even though I use design for the social good. These students were new to this field of Design and I know that, in their BA education the notion of  more traditional design departments prevails. When you are not exposed to other ways of thinking and working, you can’t know. When you are not encouraged, stimulated and incited to explore every kind of boundary there is – and dare to cross it – you don’t look further. Another experience related to this, was working – voluntary – for I was asked to help and organise actions and events for this cause. I found out, that I was perhaps thinking too much in my own language and forgot that I wasn’t working with people who have a creative background. All well hearted people, coming from fields as biology, economy, environmentalism, activism, ecology, etc.

We all had the same aim.

We all had ideas about how this should be done.

Our ideas didn’t align.

I felt and feel that I have some expertise in this. Studying and experimenting on how to reach, engage and empower people, for over 2 years in theory and practice. Though, in the end of this collaboration between various fields – something I like to see as THE solution for many issues – I felt left alone. Likely, because I wasn’t explaining my arguments and reasons in the right way.

Back to my starting point: I still don’t like labels. But I understand the need to be able to explain what I do, to various kind of people. Preferably short and concise. So what am I then? Let’s try some terms and see how that feels and what it says:

Social Designer

Conceptual Designer

Meta Designer

Process Designer

Queen of Creativity



workshop service design

I participated in another workshop last friday, at AHO, the school of Architecture and Design in Oslo. Alice Andreoli, a Masterstudent service design, has contacted me before to talk about her project. in which she is exploring how SiO student accommodation in Oslo, could be improved through better services. In our talk we spoke about the tools of communication I used in my project and she was laying out her strategies. One of the things I really liked, was that, for a month, she moved into Bjerke Studenthus  – one of the SIO accommodations – and by doing so, becoming an user herself. In that time, she was also actively testing and experimenting with forms of connecting with the residents. She did this in ways I have done as well: providing some kind of tools/installations in which a dialogue could formed by the participants/respondents and generating solutions in the process. I have been following her blog and it was wonderful to see all the interactions and results.

For the workshop on Friday she had invited several (service) designers, architects from her school as well as residents of SIO and some of staff of SIO – who were very pleased with this project. I found the workshop to be a great learning experience and so many good ideas were generated. The strategies used to generate ideas, were very playful and simple with great success as an outcome. Personal and professional values were brought together on this platform. By starting with the simple question to close our eyes for 1 minute and think about home everyone was able to sympathise and relate personally to the subject of the workshop. We wrote down some associations and then we started with the next round. Another good tactic was that for one assignment – write down thoughts on how SIO can be better and improve the information and services – we wrote down all ideas and we passed them on to our neighbour, then, you could see if you got inspired by those ideas. I thought it was very effective.


Workshop Lloyd

Last Monday I helped out with a workshop organised by Slowlab for the Lloyd hotel in Amsterdam.

Slowlab recently acquired space in the Lloyd for a studio as well as integrating slow concepts of attitude and sustainability in the hotel. I am looking forward to projects happening there.

On Monday there was a annual fest for the staff of the Lloyd and Slowlab was asked to playfully introduce them to concepts of slowness, as well as inviting them to contribute ideas. This was done by staging a treasure hunt in the Frankendael park! It was a great experience and as with all workshops the end result is unpredictable.

Several tags with adjectives regarding slowness where attached to trees, benches, flowers, etc. in the park. Artifacts were made from plaster, with an imprint of leaves and other natural elements and these treasures were hidden in the park. Furthermore, 3 musicians and several performers were placed in the park, ready to provide experiences of discovery! For instance, one of the performers was sitting in a tree with bottles of Cava and in this tree we had hung champagne glasses. So the finders would try to catch the cava with the glasses.


I am working on an event/action to do for and organisation which will have a day of actions happening all over the world! This day is the 24th of October. Our plan is to even have pre-events and definitely more engaging, playful actions happening after that day as well with the group of people we are gathering through this. Time for change! We just created a facebook group for Norway and hopefully this week we will have a blog up and running too! Below are some words on the global organisation as well as what we are planning to do. is an international campaign dedicated to building a movement to unite the world around solutions to the climate crisis–the solutions that science and justice demand.
Our mission is to inspire the world to rise to the challenge of the climate crisis—to create a new sense of urgency and of possibility for our planet.

Our focus is on the number 350–as in parts per million, the level scientists have identified as the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere.

On the 24th of October people and organizations all over the world will be organizing actions and events to highlight this message.
People in more than 1000 communities, and more than 100 countries have already announced plans.

This is meant to be a page where we can start organizing the actions taking place in Norway, connect with people planning actions, or people interested in participate in existing action.
I also hope we can use it as a place to discuss the most efficient ways of communicating the 350-message, whether we should try to coordinate all the different actions, and how we can start putting pressure on the government to adopt the latest scientific understanding when creating climate policies, and to set 350 ppm as a target in the international treaty to be created in Copenhagen in December.


Fast – Slow – Society

Would we know what joy is, without having experienced sadness?
What does a solution mean without a problem?
Can happiness exist without desire?

You need one to appreciate the other. Opposites are odd pairs: they help us to acknowledge what we have, and they require the right interface to find balance. If we are just focusing on one and ignoring the other, we become meaningless.
The industrial revolution has put mankind on a high speed train and we had to adapt ourselves to the demands and possibilities that came along with the system. Now, global problems surround us, but we don’t seem to respond. The rules and patterns we live by seem so natural and logical, that we don’t question why they are there, how they came into existence and if they are necessary.
Are we captured in a bubble, oblivious to the truth of our history and our own being?
If we are disconnected from ourselves, then how to reconnect?
It seems that individualism rules in our society, where we drift around on solitary islands avoiding contact with any other. I believe that the confrontation from which we are escaping is exactly what we need in order to reclaim people’s sense of place and retrieve the patterns of memories and experiences.

We think and behave according to the cultural system with which we have grown up and we tend to assume that everyone has the same behaviour and logic as our own. In fact, logic happens to be an invention of Western society and isn’t used in the same way in other parts of the world.

We are all different and the first thing we need to do is accept each other’s differences, instead of judging them. Possibly we could overcome this, by placing ourselves more often in intercultural situations to learn to see ourselves as others see us, in order to get more understanding about our own being and the other (Hall 1989).

Our own culture -as any culture- has flaws, but we accept them, because that is what we have grown up with. The educational system of Western society is linear and therefore limits us in how we think. We are taught that the rules and schedules we have matter. The system requires us to specify our talents and emphasises status and competition before freedom of expression and diversity. This limitation in creativity and talents, also restricts our capacity to find solutions.
Our fast society might need a different pace to engage oneself and another. People get more inventive when they are challenged and placed in unknown situations (Fuller 1981). Designed interventions in our daily life, could bring a pause & reflect.

What is happening now in the Design World, is that business is being exposed to art expressions and art is being commercialised; this creates new situations, interpretations and interfaces. I have chosen to use this occasion to design forms of social engagement. I can’t change people and I can’t change behaviour. However, I can create places in space, and I can create exercises that convey learning moments, stimulate reflection and activate awareness. All of these, I hope will bring about positive behaviour and empowerment to the individual.

In times like these, when a worldwide economical crisis has suddenly emerged, it is an opportunity for us to open our eyes and genuinely see what is there; it is a chance to reform, rather than hastily attempting to take control by way of old patterns. There is a reason why things accumulate – it is time for change.

Hall, ET 1989, Beyond Culture, Anchor Books Editions, New York.

Fuller, RB 1981, Critical Path, St Martin’s Press, New York.



Written by goodindeed in: my work,reflection | Tags: , , , , , ,

Beyond Culture

I have read Beyond Culture ( Edward T. Hall) and it gave me some insights. A short summary of research.

We think and behave according to the cultural system we have grown up with, but we tend to assume that everyone has the same cultural behavior and the same logic. Logic happens to be an invention of Western society and isn’t used-in the same way- in other parts of the world.
It made me think about the so called lesser developed countries. They have a different culture and a different working -and thinking- method, which probably worked fine until we came along and imposed, with good intentions? our methods on them. Because they didn’t have the same technological development as we had, it doesn’t imply that our system and working methods are better. They are simply different.
Several times while reading this book, memories of certain situations came up and I caught myself on my behavior and on how many times I have tried to impose my logic upon others. There is no right or wrong in cultural patterns, likely there is a right and wrong in situations. We need to start accepting that we are different and open up our eyes to learn form each other. We should be happy to live in multi-cultural societies, for it gives us many opportunities to learn about ourselves as well as to learn about others. Our own culture (as any culture) has flaws, but we take them for right, because that is the logic that has been taught to us.
Obama said in a speech as well that he considered Hip-Hop -and other art forms- to be a useful way to convey messages to the people not only as a mirror of what is, but also as a medium to bring reflection what can be. New ways of thinking are coming up all over the world, a positive thing, to realize that we are opening up to be challenged. People get more inventive when they are challenged and placed in (unknown) different situations. We need to learn to see ourselves as others see us, in order to get more understanding about our own being and the other.


Good Week

It has been a busy and fruitful week!

On Monday I did a workshop with the students from the Black Nordic Theater. We worked with the problems from and came up with several different approaches to use them to bring reflection upon our behavior. It is interesting to see how Design can meet Theater and Theater can meet Design. I think both fields have a way of storytelling and we will merge them together to come with a new way of expressing! We will go out and experiment with social dialogue in the public space on the 4th of February, so be aware!!

Then on Thursday I had an interim meeting with the external examiner, who gave some good criticism telling me to think about my end result and how I am going to communicate my ideas and process in a clear and exciting way. Also clarifying what the design in my project is, since it is very theoretical and about the process and method. In my view the design in my project is design thinking and experimenting with this in all kind of different settings: open-closed, direct-indirect, professional-guerrilla, in order to find creative solutions in the process. Another thing he mentioned is that I should be thinking about how I am going to present this at the End of the Year Show.  In other words: what am I going to end up with? I have several ideas about this 1) a Design Method for Change ( a manual), where I am the neutral agent bringing reflection to cause change 2) Event. If all my plans work out I would like to bring it all together in a happening, which is social, playful and reflective. For instance the SOCIAL EVENT, but also when thing don’t work out, I think I should do it anyway and call it the NONE EVENT or the Unsuccessful Event to draw out the conclusions!

Yesterday I had a meeting as well with Louder, a marketing agency. There I will do a workshop as well. This will be all about provoking creativity. Especially since they would like to include the whole office more into the creative process and now it are mainly 3 persons doing that. My challenge is to challenge the team in a playful way to put their fears aside and dare to come up with ideas without judgement.


theater workshop

I am preparing for the 1-afternoon workshop for theater students. To engage them in my project and experiment with theater as a social intervention. It will be challenging since I have no experience with teaching nor theater. But isn’t that the thing? We all don’t have the experience of a social conscience. And that is what I want to explore.
With these students I need to be specific, a director, strict and playful at the same time. Let them be the theater in the public space acting out their role. The one I am writing for them. I will need costumes of accessories of some sort. They have to make these simple attributes come to live.

The criticism the theater teachers gave me was- next to me having no experience and what the pedagogical value could be- that it is too much I want to do with these actors. It needs more background and introduction, they say. Time is ticking (away) in my project, but also in the world. If the whole world needs to be educated elaborately with loads of information, change will take forever. I think there is an easier way. It just needs to be found. Now I am wondering, cause I am of the opinion that it should be easier for creative people to relate to these global problems, but sometimes it seems to me that in this setting the ego gets even more ahead of us than in the non-creative scene. Maybe I am wrong. I hope I am.

Important for me when working with theater is to be aware of who is reading and what has been read (which is part of the evaluation afterwards) . Step outside what is known. Define for myself what the design is in this social theater situation.


Christmas Market

I participated in the Christmas Market at my school last weekend. At the moment I am doing a big range of activities which in one way or another all relate to my project. I am zooming in in quite some things, and it’s about time to zoom out again and get an overview. I need to analyze which things worked and are most important for my MA to continue on.

On the market I was selling Anger Management Toolkit, which I think is a possible solution for some of the problems I have received. With this kit you can write down your problem and feel the relief when you set it on fire. Some creative humor.

Further I sold Books of judgement; in this diary you can park your negative thoughts and leave them there so you can stop thinking them. I also made Leftover Books, which were made from 1 side printed paper  and had the paper-mushroom-bags as a cover.

At the end of the day I was almost sold out!! Especially the Anger managements went very quickly and brought a lot of smiles and laughter.

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