When you’re feeling unhappy, you might also begin to feel helpless to change your situation. Read on to learn how one woman tries to tackle those problems. Can you think of moments when you could use a good strategy to combat unhappiness?

[Thoughts★★] Can You Design Happiness?

[H020a] Design Happiness_1_pic

(P1) Could there be a design solution to unhappiness? Silvia Neretti, an Italian designer who just graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven, explores the relationship between psychology and design in her master’s thesis, the Unhappiness Repairer. This pop-up therapy stand, not unlike Lucy’s psychiatrist’s booth in Peanuts, injects “happiness into everyday life,” according to Neretti.

(P2) This, she writes of the project on her website, is accomplished “through the analysis and the modification of the interactions between people, situations, and communication in a specific unhappy context, by sabotaging the symbolic objects in it…”

(P3) Unhappiness, she argues, is the result of a specific context (though as far as empirical psychology goes, she doesn’t provide any studies to back up that assertion). She becomes unhappy when her father bogarts the couch, splaying across it and not engaging her in conversation. As a design intervention, she creates cardboard subdivisions for the sofa–much like these park benches designed to prevent homeless people from sleeping on them–and suddenly, the video shows her and her father chatting happily.

(P4) In another case, she helps a woman, lonely and recently separated from her husband, think about her unhappiness spatially. Neretti maps the woman’s home, and using basic cardboard boxes, she covers the house in whimsical new creations–cardboard shelves, a cardboard desk to work at, cardboard decorations to replace tired paintings–all designed to get the f to think about her home in a new way, and eventually, move on.

(P5) Designers can never replace therapists and mental health professionals, and it’s likely that getting your distant father to talk to you isn’t quite as easy as making his favorite relaxation spot really uncomfortable. But having a third party help us rethink the roots of our unhappiness? Never a bad thing.

WORDS: 292


VOCAB (testing-kr only): [H020A] DESIGN HAPPINESS_2_VOCAB

TO PRINT (testing-kr only): [H020A] DESIGN HAPPINESS

Discussion Questions

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Describe Silvia’s thesis project. What artifact did she make and what message is she trying to get across with the project (P1)?
  3. “Through the analysis and the modification of the interactions between people, situations, and communication in a specific unhappy context, by sabotaging the symbolic objects in it…” Can you think of symbolic objects that creates unhappy context in your life? (Silvia gives an example of the couch in P3)
  4. Do you think design can help making a happier life? If so what would you design for yourself? If not, why you don’t believe so?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s