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Becoming a Mindful Designer

For all the meditators and/or yogis out there, here’s a little scoop on the intersection of design and mindfulness. Thanks to design researcher Kristina Niedderer for her writings on the topic.

First things first, what is mindfulness? Mindfulness refers to a state of being wherein one can be fully present in a moment – fully aware of thoughts, sensations, feelings, and your external environment. Becoming truly mindful requires time and patience, as it means we are acknowledging our emotions and thoughts without subsequently judging them (and we know how very judge-y our brains can be).

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Image by Christine Fleming

Think of mindfulness as a magical elixir for your brain. It’s used in a widely popular form of psychotherapy called MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction), which helps treat anxiety and depression. It also helps us focus and increase senses of empathy.

Now that we know what’s what about mindfulness, how does it fit into the world of design? When you think about it, users of any product or experience tend to act mindlessly. In general we’re flying through life, fixated on what’s next, which renders us inattentive to what we’re interacting with and how we’re interacting now.

Choosing to implement mindfully driven design means promoting the user’s attentiveness towards social and environmental consequences of their actions. If we’re ultimately hoping for behavioral change from our users, nudging them in the direction of mindfulness can be game changing because it calls for consideration of why we are thinking, feeling, acting, and interacting in certain ways.

Niedderer gives the great example of bench designed by Droog, which implements a ball bearing surface that causes users to slide closer together (or farther apart). This design (titled Come A Little Closer bench) is calling into question the mindless behavior of placing personal items next to oneself on public seating as well as the distance we often try to maintain.

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Designing to promote mindfulness is a great way to pursue social impact. Being our most mindful selves is a lifelong journey, but completely leads to a happier you.

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