Shapes, sculpture and notes help people open up, empathise and make decisions

A box of twelve differently shaped objects called Tools for Therapy received a lot of attention in the press back in November, during Dutch Design Week. Nicolette Bodewess, a student in the Man and Wellbeing programme at Design Academy Eindhoven, created the set of ‘conversation pieces’ to encourage people to open up in therapy sessions. I like to do a bit of digging when I come upon someone doing interesting things and I soon found myself immersed in Nicolette’s website. She features eight projects that “give people a new or different view on daily situations”, using design to tell a visual story that focuses on image and perception. A very endearing thread runs through her work that reveals an empathetic quality, both in Nicolette’s capacity for understanding and her efforts to spark it in others. One such example is “This message is for you”, a messenger service that initiates communication between patients confined to their hospital rooms. Each patient writes a message on a card, then the cards are collected and one is tucked inside the napkin on each person’s food tray. By reading and writing a wish or some words, people can project themselves outside of their rooms and connect with others.

And then there’s Ianus, a series of three frames that assist in making decisions. Named after the Latin god of choices, transitions and new beginnings, the structures provide the visual framework for decision making, offering a physical experience that helps to clarify our paths. Imagine having these frames to step into when you find yourself muddling through an important decision?

Below are images of Nicolette Bodewess’ projects, and a video demonstrating her Tools of Therapy. Simple, yet very effective. And that is what makes good design.

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