Understanding the project
Inquiry towards an intriguing state of mind – boredom, as a pilot for deeper themes – mindlessness, anxiety, social disconnection, etc. This project takes research back to its roots and so does the medium of its outcome.
A zine that channels the boredom out of you, embarking on a bite-sized journey into your mindscape and of other creatives around through collective memories and perspectives of what ‘being bored’ means to them.
This project puts all the takeaways from dialogues on design and research methods into practice and gives birth to a recreational yet resolving piece of paper.
What if…we could reframe the verb itself and call it something else to take our first step at navigating boredom?
Diving into our mindscapes – Understanding the creative psyche
What does it mean?
It’s where you transport yourself to, when you’re in a torturous lecture, or when you’re facing a creative block. But it was time to identify, when, what, why, and how.
Who is this for?
Creative minds who are more likely to experience this state of mind –
- Creatives in general
For this pilot, the target audience was confined to students and professors of ECUAD.
Approaching the topic – research & inquiry
With Sara Hendren and Craig Martin still inspiring my process with their “newly visible” and “deviant” design outlooks, I powered my research through a combination of ethnographic and phenomenological methods to inquire about the scenario.
Given the mental model of the target audience, a clinical/analytical research procedure indicated counterproductive outcomes since the process of participatory inquiry would have turned out to be boring for them to go through. Hence, the methods of inquiry were given a casual/comfortable twist that didn’t necessarily feel/sound like research.
- Unstructured discussions – Planting the seed seamlessly during casual coffee table conversations that lead to digressing over boredom in their lives and how they’ve experienced it.
- Structured pulse surveys – Building on the discussions, streamlining the data toward specific areas of the topic.
1. Age group identification
2. Understanding their productive phases/moments (to identify contrasts to mindlessness)
3. Relation to boredom (what do they feel or do while being bored)
4. Relation of boredom to anxiety (whether it makes them anxious)
5. Emoji collection (their perception of boredom as a visual metaphor)
6. Identification of potential triggers for the state of mind
7. Current modes/ways of dealing with boredom
8. What does “being bored” mean in their culture (as a diverse cohort, several multilingual)
- Prompt posters – As a passive data collection mode using post-its and prompts on the poster initiated the thought process before the survey was sent out to the target audience.
While patterns were more prominent in the pulse survey responses to form a kind of categorization for boredom, informal discussions really fueled the realization of the state by sharing stories about what the users actually went through, when feeling bored. This also informed the research on the current remedies in place.
The patterns that emerged in the activities performed by the creatives often had a disruptive tendency while experiencing a state of boredom. This is reflected in simple tasks like cooking something different, getting out of the house for a walk as a break between work, and basically doing anything that doesn’t take up a lot of cognitive space and is unexpected in one’s routine to throw the users out of whatever they’re onto.
Apart from various activities and patterns, what stood out in every mode of inquiry/research was the fact that “acceptance and awareness” of the state were vital to being able to process it. This led to a change in course from trying to pursue a solutionist approach to more of an exposure, normalization, and awareness one.
Baking the disruption
Designing something analogous in the digital era poses its own risk, but in this case, fits perfectly as a disruptive element in our daily lives as creatives. The medium was decided as I took a phenomenological approach to rethink the possibilities. Going back to the roots where magazines were not just a source of information but also entertainment. They came with their own personality, evoking a sense of curiosity among the readers, deviant in their own manner. However, reframing boredom was not a problem but just a flip of perspective that was required. Several factors listed below shed light on an effective medium fit to bring about micro-hiccup in our busy lives, a ‘zine’ –
- Feel normal
- Engaging yet not requiring much attention
Translating the themes into content
As a result of the research and concept exploration, it made sense to include the community in the mix. Thus, the structure of the zine contains the following to make it feel like a roller-coaster ride aka a smooth curve in the user’s journey through the content –
- Catchy cover and title
- Acknowledgement for inspiration
- A visual metaphor for boredom via a jumbled portrait of a human
- Boredom through individual and diverse cultural lenses (various ways to mean “being bored”)
- Community-curated photographs of mundane and boring frames of life submitted by the users (attached with story/context)
- A confusing blank page with a cryptic message to hook users into revealing a more engaging part of the zine
- Maze game upon the unfolding of the zine that unfolds their boredom, channeling their attention and curiosity into the mini-game before throwing them out to a conclusion – derived by themselves
- The outro to the book/back cover reveals messaging to convey that the zine was designed with care and absolute curation to the needs
Exam time! Zine in action – Critique
A vital part of the process is also to put your designs to the test. Hence, I did. Here are a few unedited notable reactions, what worked-
- This is so personal and reflective!
- I love the brush strokes across the whole zine, it gives the content a very organic vibe
- I can’t relate to these photo captions enough!
- The maze was such an unexpected but worthy surprise, easy yet compelling to make you try it out
- How can one be bored after this? Need more games, more mood-bored
- Appreciate the effort to explore a completely different medium that feels completely thought-through for the situation
Constructive criticism included, what could’ve been better –
- Touching briefly upon the clinical side of it for the sake of education could be a factor to be considered. There is knowledge in diving deeper into this side of the study when expanding the horizons of the target audience or simply changing the context.
- Maze is fun! but could this also be other kinds of games? Sudoku maybe? There are a lot of ways to engage a mind, it all depends on what works for who. Finding a common activity that does not take a lot of commitment is not always easy yet an important aspect to experiment with.
Things could be different! Here’s to future prospects
- Hands-on focus group to test more experiments – observing users through various types of boring situations, perhaps taking them through a boring activity would bring forth a lot more visceral data through expressions and reactions in real-time.
- Print tests with Risograph – richer colors on a unique print format can make a difference in the physical experience of the zine
- More variety of games and forms of engagement
- Volume 2.0 – make a publication already!
- The zine was one of the approaches that proved to be effective in reframing. However, it may not be the only one. When expanding the context and target audience, there is a plethora of opportunities to delve into. And I can certainly say, zines would not necessarily fit those needs. There’s more!