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Introducing Brain Waves: Empathic Invention

Birth Box, Anne Vaandrager
Birth Box, Anne Vaandrager
Birth Box, Anne Vaandrager
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Published date
02 September 2016

While we’re putting the final touches to Brain Waves – our forthcoming exhibition that takes a tour around some of the best projects from this year’s graduates – let us share a few of our favourite things from the show

Birth Box, Anne Vaandrager

Birth Box, Anne Vaandrager

Brain Waves maps out four different kinds of design intelligence; first up, let us introduce you to Empathic Invention. While all design involves empathy to some extent these designers use emotional intelligence to empower and transform lives. They focus not on the needs of anonymous individuals within the marketplace but instead the agency of communities, amplifying the voice and visibility of those who are often hidden, opening up conversations and emphasising the essential nature of social connection.

The Stonebridge People Library by Julie Howell (MA Narrative Environments)

As Greater London has 23,000 people per square mile, it is difficult to imagine how anyone could become lonely or disconnected in such a crowded city. yet social isolation is increasing, as are its social and financial costs.

The Stonebridge People Library aims to reconnect the invisible and isolated residents of London’s Stonebridge Estate back with their community. Through a series of interventions, the whole estate became aware and moved to engage with its lonely residents, especially its elders. One such intervention, features in the film above, connected the lighting of residents’ homes to their breathing, giving a visible and visceral reminder of those living within the estate.


Library by Sarah Christie (BA Ceramic Design)
‘Design intelligence is using the tools of design wisely: just enough, and not for their own sake… Our jobs as artists and designers are to make sense of the world and ways of improving it. Design is an essential part of the process of realising new concepts and ideas, and making them physical, tangible, legible and comprehensible.’
Library, Sarah Christie

Library, Sarah Christie

Library holds a collection of words that break boundaries. Libraries are endangered holders of knowledge, agents of curiosity. They enable anyone to acquire the knowledge and wherewithal to overcome boundaries, whether real, imagined or those that we are persuaded of. At a time of relentless preoccupation with borders, cuts, closures and austerity, access to knowledge, culture and public spaces feels increasingly curtailed. How do we overcome what keeps us out?

Visitors are invited to ‘cross’ a boundary made from ostraca (potsherds), invoking ancient Greece’s method of voting by writing on an ostracon, and adding their own words to the Library’s collection. The boundary will gradually be eroded as visitors are asked to actively consider their real and perceived boundaries – anything from international borders to our own quiet fears.


Independent Labour by Anne Vaandrager (MA Material Futures)

SharkMan by Yang Zhao (BA Product Design)
‘The responsibility of designers is to create more possibility for the world. They have to break the rules and cross borders, transforming the impossible into the possible.’
SharkMan, Yang Zhao

SharkMan, Yang Zhao (Photo: James Barnett)

SharkMan is hybrid wearable furniture, an innovative and experimental design which explores the possibilities of deformable “soft furniture” to suit different situations. Responding to the need for flexible private space in the contemporary world, SharkMan creates an environment around the user whether they’re sitting, lying down or standing. The design can be altered to create total privacy or be open to the world depending on whether the user is on a laptop, reading a book, or even having a nap.

Like the sound of Emphatic Invention? Make sure you visit Brain Waves, running from 17 September, to learn more about these, and many more projects from the design graduates of Central Saint Martins.

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