Goldsmiths Design Blog

MA Design graduates 2016: Julie L. Parisi explores caring as an act of engagement

In her graduation project from the MA in Interaction Design (class of 2016), Julie L. Parisi investigates our connection with the issues we care about, and how these connections are formed:

What is your project about, in a nutshell, and what made you choose this particular topic?

The DIY Think Tank game explores the space between care as a concept and the act of caring. What is it that sparks engagement with, and understanding of issues? How do we decide what to care about? Is there a distinction to make between the act of ‘showing that you care’ and the act of caring about something? These are the core research questions for this project.

The reason for choosing this topic grew from a personal frustration and curiosity about how people (including myself) care (meaning, what they say they care about and what they do about it). In the initial stages of the research, I realised that contemporary socio-political issues are framed in the media and in public discussions in a problematic way, creating hopelessness, a feeling of doom and a “there is no point to act or get involved” attitude. I wanted to question and challenge that.

I wanted to encourage participants to create a personal and emotional connection to contemporary issues of their choice, instead of dictating to them what they should care about, and also to have conversations about what actions they are really taking, with Charities and monetary donation as a framework to start the conversation. I created a “The DIY Think Tank game”, which can help participants to consider what actions we take in relation to the issues we care about. By sharing and articulating stories of how we interact with issues that are meaningful to us, we might be able to inspire each other in ways that promote a more caring and engaged society.

My approach to the act of care is not as health care or patient care, but involvement, engagement, and emotional connection to contemporary issues. Many STS (Science and technology studies) feminist theorists, such as Puig de la Bellacasa and Donna Harraway, speak about care in the same way. The various DIY Think Tanks are the outcome of this artistic/design-led research which was formed both in London and Oslo through participation in the project. The aim is to encourage critical thinking, articulation of complexity in a collaborative group exercise, which was very fun to develop.

Tell us a bit about your research for this project, how you approached it and the methods you used.

Research and public engagement have been the at core of this project. The different approaches used in the design-led research are based on methods and practices from anthropological studies with a twist, to create public engagement and build new communities around chosen socio-political issues. I wanted to explore what it means to work with field research in an open public space from the beginning of the project. And because I developed a broad perspective by experimenting with the various methods, I got to explore and fail in a range of methods, which was a wonderful way of learning.

What is design to you? Do you have a philosophy or aesthetic specific to your work as a designer?

I get inspired by everything and nothing, especially colours and humour. I Love colours!! My inspiration and motivation lie in scenarios from everyday life, social and political complexities, and clever design solutions. I’m enthusiastic about design that can have a positive impact on the future of society.

My approach to interaction design explores the relationship between humans, technology, and society – where “design” strives to create valuable and meaningful experiences, outside the consumer-product sphere. My time at Goldsmiths has made me develop other ways of thinking about design, for example the politics of design and the responsibility a designer has when it comes to sustainability and the future.

What was your background before this MA, and how did you decide to study on the MA in Interaction Design at Goldsmiths?

My background is fashion and textiles, which I studied in Milan (Italy) and San Francisco (USA). Before and during this MA, I worked as a product developer and print designer for a Norwegian women’s fashion brand. I also co-founded a physical platform for up and coming fashion designers in Oslo, Norway. I was drawn to Goldsmiths and the Interaction design course by its open perspective of what interaction design is. It seemed like a mix of the things I was curious to explore and learn, and I wanted to challenge myself by entering a field of design which was new to me, but spoke to the idea of using design as a social tool that challenges how we interact with each other and the world.

How was your experience studying at Goldsmiths, and how did it compare to your initial expectations?

It was wonderful, the classmates, the tutors and the studio space were amazing. I’ve learned a lot from lectures and from the tutors, new theories, it has really changed the way I think and develop projects. I used the time to explore methods (which I wish I had done more, but that’s life), and I have challenged myself by doing things I didn’t know how to do. Expectations and reality didn’t always match. I thought I would build more, and that I would become super amazing at coding, which I didn’t. I do wish I had produced more stuff in the great workshops, and got to hang out more with the cool gang down there. I guess that is what learning is.

What are your career plans, now that you’ve graduated?

Me and two other fellow Goldsmiths students have formed a design/art collective: “Module of Wonder”, where we will continue to explore the methods and theories we have been exposed to during our MAs. I am also working on many collaborations with other practitioners on projects which grew out of the work I did during my MA, and I will be on the Graduate Scheme at Goldsmiths starting now in January.

I’m involved in a project with an artistic researcher from Goldsmiths, looking at factories and automation. Some of this work has been exhibited in Slovenia, and we are planning on bringing it to other participatory galleries and spaces. We are also currently working on a activity book based on the research, which we are bringing back into the factory at the end of February. I also work with a global community of women artists and crafts people from New York , Mexico and Norway on an amazing project which is a reaction to the femicides in Mexico and women’s rights all over the world. I’m going to host a workshop with them, which I’m super excited about. I am so happy I took the Design Futures module at Goldsmiths, where I learned some ace workshop skills!

In August I will move back to Oslo, where I have been asked to develop a social entrepreneur service for women that have been in life challenging situations and fallen on the “outside” of society for the Norwegian fashion brand I’ve been working with whilst studying at Goldsmiths. Which will be a challenging project to develop, but very well linked to the things I’ve learned in the MA and in the process of becoming an Interaction Designer.