Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at www.thevertexfighter.blogspot.com.

Monday, July 24, 2017

"Second nature"/ "Furniture designs that embrace the f-word"

Jan. 12, 2017 "Second nature": Today I found this article by Tatum Dooley in the Globe and Mail:

Stress less, be happier and more mindful, live a better life. It’s the time for new year’s resolutions, but often we focus inwardly and forget that the objects we fill our homes with have the ability to lift our moods, bring us joy and improve our well-being.

Ingrid Fetell Lee knows joy. Apart from her role as a design director at international design firm IDEO, she is the creator of Aesthetics of Joy, a website committed to revealing the secrets of happiness via aesthetics. Her book on the subject comes out in spring next year through Little, Brown and Co.

“We have been trained to view that emotional well-being comes from looking within ourselves, and that the stuff around us shouldn’t matter very much,” Fetell Lee says. “The work that I’ve been doing for the last seven years is to synthesize the research that is emerging about the way our environment affects our emotions, and it’s pretty profound.”

One of Fetell Lee’s projects at IDEO, in partnership with the New York-based public-radio program Studio 360, was to unlock hidden moments of joy on Mondays. The project, dubbed “Monyay!,” created conceptual pieces that draw attention to otherwise overlooked opportunities for joy. One of the products created is Notifly, a sphere that sits on your desk and alerts you to appointments by replacing an alarm with a bubble that pops out of the top.

Fetell Lee explains, “The idea of having something as incongruous as a bubble going up to let you know when you have to move to your next meeting feels like such a delightful thing that it would break the frame of the space, a drudgerous Monday mindset, and give you little sparks of delight.” (She adds that there are no plans to market the product.)

Halfway through the interview with Fetell Lee, I asked her, “Do the products have any other benefits, other then just bringing joy?” We live in a world so focused on productivity and quantitative results that just joy seems to be lacklustre. Fetell Lee answered: “The way I look at joy is: It’s an unlocking, it unlocks other things. It has a huge bearing on the way you interact with the people around you: When we’re in a positive mindset, we tend to open our field of view and can take in more of what’s in our peripheral vision, we’re more exploratory.”

Products that bring users joy vary, but more often than not, they’re inspired by nature. The movement of incorporating natural elements in design is referred to as biophilic design.

Biophilic design features everything from natural light, plants and greenery to patterns that replicate nature. The positive results seen from using biophilic design stems from the innate connection humans have with nature; the same connection that attracts us to the sound of waves crashing or the feeling of comfort that comes from sitting by a fireplace.

As reported in a paper by the U.S. sustainability consulting firm Terrapin Bright Green, weaving aspects from nature into design has been shown to improve cognitive functions and creativity, at the same time as it reduces stress.

Design objects can promote a more active pursuit of wellness. Ariel Lynne’s Gingko chair, for instance, encourages users to sink into a posture that is advantageous to meditating, as well as providing a designated area to practise meditation. Mindfulness and meditation are proven to be chock full of benefits: A study published this month in the Journal of Health Psychology found that 35 minutes of guided relaxation was shown to have immediate positive benefits and, over time, decreased feelings of anger, anxiety, depression and guilt.

“We are lost in thought 47 per cent of the time and that has quite often proven to lead to unhappiness. And that makes me think, well, what if our objects could better things like creativity, reduce stress and ultimately make us lead happier, healthier lives?” Lynne says. “My passion lies in designing objects that enhance our experiences and add goodness to our lives, no matter how big or small.”

Whether the design actively encourages you to take a seat and meditate for a few moments, or brightens your day by simply being there, curating your surroundings with objects that will bring you joy, such as the ones below, might just make your resolution to live happier a little easier.

Gingko Chair

Inspired by the imprint of designer Ariel Lynne’s body sitting in sand, the Gingko chair encourages the user to sit in a relaxed cross-legged pose. Lynne explains, “The curved back isn’t just there to serve as a handle, but also as a way to encourage good posture. When you lean back into it, it is comfortable at first, but after leaning for a prolonged period you will feel yourself wanting to return to a position of good posture since it is not a wide back.” Price upon request; ariel-lynne.com.

Balance Light

The Balance light, designed by Spanish designer Victor Castanera, is making its debut at the end of January at Maison & Objet in Paris. The light, which never stays still, mimics the constant movement of life. “What makes Balance special is that it gets the attention of those who are around but also generates calm and serenity in the spaces where it is placed,” Castanera explains. From $1,650; available April, 2017, through oblure.com.

Immersion Wall

The Immersion Wall coats a room consistently in a soft and colourful light, providing an immersive environment perfect for practising yoga or relaxing. Each colour correlates to a different benefit; for example, orange energizes the room, while lilac connotes calm (it works best with white walls). From $120 monthly, through mycoocoon.com.

Quiet Chair

Designed by Studio Tilt in collaboration with Whittington Hospital in London, the pentagonal chair mimics the shape of a cocoon and provides the user a personal space to feel safe and comfortable. From $2,800; e-mail products@studiotilt.com.

Nomadic Life

Made for the traveller, this Nomadic Life kit contains objects that promote a sense of place and home. Designer Gerardo Osio was inspired by Japanese culture to create Nomadic Life, as well as by the religious philosophies of Buddhism and Shinto. Each kit contains a mat; a Hako wooden carrier influenced by the Hakozen box carried by monks; a set of copper tableware; a Zafu (a cushion similar to those used in Zen Buddhism); and a Kami candle/incense holder and vase, to provide warmth and add nature to your space. For more information see gerardoosio.com.

Making Weather

Making Weather is the newest product from Richard Clarkson Studio in partnership with Crealev. A cloud-shaped speaker, which is still in the prototype stage, levitates through the use of magnets and brings the outdoors in by mirroring an impending storm. The cloud emits rain sounds and changes colour. Coming soon; contact hello@richardclarkson.com for more information.

Nomadic Life

The Garden Wallpaper

No matter what the view is out your window, The Garden wallpaper by Lorenzo De Grandis brings nature directly to you. The repetitious, bright flowers on a dark background ensure that the space has a contemporary feel, while providing the benefits of being in the presence of nature. Available through RADform, 317 Adelaide St. East, Suite 102, Toronto (radform.com).


"Furniture designs that embrace the f-word": Today I found this article by Matthew Hague in the Globe and Mail:


Slovenian designer Nika Zupanc, a guest of honour at this month’s Interior Design Show, has only recently embraced the F-word. “I was afraid to use the term until about two months ago,” she says. Then she let it slip out at a lecture in Russia, and “it felt really good.” No, she didn’t embrace her inner Eminem and start cursing out of control. She simply described her work as being feminist.

Over the past decade, Zupanc has drawn inspiration from many places – including sports (she’s a keen windsurfer and gym addict) and nature (she takes walks in the woods to find solace in the world) – but has consistently referenced traditionally feminine motifs. Her 2013 Miss Dior Chair, designed for the French fashion house, has a back shaped like a bow. Her 2007 Maid Chair has a lace-like edge.

But rather than being twee, Zupanc has subverted these elements from simple and sweet to solid and strong. Her materials – shiny plastic, hard steel, laser-cut aluminum – are durable and tough. Part of the reason is pragmatic: She wants to build things that last. However, she also wants to shift perceptions. “Some of these very feminine forms are considered 
extremely naive,” she notes. “Bows. Lace. I deliberately use these elements, but try to do so in a way that pulls them out of a narrow, confining place.”

However, Zupanc was hesitant to categorize her work as feminist out of uncertainty. Design, like all too many professions, can feel like a boys’ clubs. And there is still simply, sadly a “fear of being a woman in a world that is run by men.” Yet the ability to imbue her work with important messages is one of the reasons she became a designer in the first place. “Design has the ability to open doors to new ideas,” she says. “It’s a very powerful tool to spread messages, ask questions and make people wonder.”

That’s why Zupanc doesn’t just concern herself with the physical ergonomics of her pieces, but the “emotional ergonomics” as well. She tries to create objects that evoke intense, visceral reactions – items that people form deep connections to, and that make them think about things from different perspectives. “I’ve always liked books that are best read between the lines,” she says. Likewise, she likes “objects that create open questions, that don’t have just one meaning, and that can be understood from four or five different points of view.”

Crucially, though, Zupanc aims for subtext that empowers and uplifts. To do so, she’s careful to only design when she’s in the right frame of mind. “If I’m sad or in a bad mood,” she says, “I don’t do any objects … It’s important to have good, strong feelings. I believe that the feeling is communicated in the finished work. The energy translates.”

Accordingly, Zupanc believes that designers should not only be good students of their craft, ever-refining their technical skills and use of materials, but also work hard to maintain an optimal, emotional state. Her commitment to sport has been instrumental for Zupanc. “I’m quite a big fitness goer,” she says. “It really affects your state of mind, on a biological level. A hard workout shifts your mind.”

Beyond being a mood booster, sports have also helped Zupanc endure life’s challenges and become a heartier, more independent spirit. With her windsurfing, for example, you “need to go out of your comfort zone to achieve anything,” she says. “You are just out there in nature. You have to count on yourself. You have the sea and the wind, and you can’t change these conditions, just work with them. And enjoy it all, if possible.”


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