Wonder Lab

“Who are you as a designer?” “As a designer, what do you really care about?” “What role will you hope to play in the future?”

1 / Archaeology of Self

My Wunderkammer: A encyclopedic collection of objects whose categorical boundaries are loosely defined; an eclectic collection that serves as a representation of self.

8/29/16: Wunderkammer

Thoughts From Others

“I guess if you have a whole box of smokes labeled 2016 then you aren’t smoking that much? But those tough times are still tough. I remember sitting outside with you when you smoked that one cig freshman year. I remember you didn’t like your dance teacher at first, but the slippers are here. And your poodle is still #1 in life, then your dad I guess. Actually, none of these things are about the things. They are about your memories and experiences. That’s probably the best mix tape ever.”

“Are those your baby ballet shoes? So cute! Many items seem either from childhood or recent (2016) memory. Do you feel like you’re a sentimental person? All objects seem to have memories attached to them that are valuable rather than the object itself being valuable. The winking Ken head! I’m dying! I’m gonna make up your childhood story through these objects (it will be pretty literal). You were a young sweet little girl who danced, loved puppies and made movies with her siblings. Now you’re edgy and weird and smoke cigarettes, think about life after death, and like funky things (like winking Kens).”

“These objects show a person over time. Some are clearly childhood artifacts while others are notably recent. Many of them , if not all, suggest sentimental value related to others, friends, family, etc. While diverse, there’s a sort of unifying aesthetic, a soft and everyday beauty of an almost antique-store-kitch. As a whole, they feel nostalgic and loved. There’s a cuteness to the group (especially the dogs). But a touch of irony that makes the objects feel more cherished, not less.”

The Objects:

A stuffed poodle modeled after my real toy poodle, Bitsee. My sister designed, patterned, and sewed the plush for me and made matching outfits for both dogs, so I would have as close to a real Bitsee at school with me as I could. 2014
The Five People You Meet in Heaven, my favorite book. It has influenced much of the way I think, not really about a heaven, but about how lives are intertwined and how our actions influence others. 2007
Pointe shoes as I was nearing the end of my ballet career. My teacher was very harsh, so I had written inspirational messages to myself on the insides of the shoes. I hoped that when I saw them as we changed from our flat shoes to pointe in the middle of class, I could make it through the rest without crying. 2007
Collection of short films I made with my two older siblings. We conceptualized, filmed, and edited the movies ourselves. We even got to “screen” them on a projector screen at our neighborhood pool during a Swim Under the Stars event. 2003
Set of dog figurines a family friend bought for me, knowing how much I wanted a pet dog. She then helped me write a detailed letter to my mom asking for a real one. I named each figurine, and kept them precisely ordered on my desk. 2001
Postcard from Dad when I was interning in Menlo Park. I had not talked to him extensively about the struggles I was having at the time, but this unexpected note showed me that he understood. 2016
Mementos from a summer. The healing conversations had over the shared pack of Marlboros, and being cared for when I was physically and emotionally incapacitated (tea), helped me move forward during one of my hardest times.
Winking Ken head keychain I made in high school from a doll I bought on eBay. This keychain has carried house, car, dorm, apartment, studio, pool, and shop keys. Most people who see it have some reaction, usually laughing, saying “that’s creepy”, then taking a picture. 2012
Patch from Hackathon 52 at Facebook. This is one of the few things in my life that I feel went absolutely perfectly. I had the opportunity to work on a project that I had been passionate about for years, got an amazing team together working on it, and ended up presenting the project to Mark Zuckerberg in a stream viewed by 3.8 million people. 2016

My Thoughts

In assessing my own Wunderkammer, I can fairly easily divide it into two distinct groups: thoughtful gifts and turning points.

I consider myself fairly easy to let down. I often feel misunderstood, and constantly set unrealistic expectations for others. It is not often that I feel that a gift touches me in a profound way, which is how many of these items made it into the collection. The stuffed poodle, the dog figurines, the postcard, and even the Feel-Better tea and cigarettes (one for the body, one for the mind), are all thoughtful gifts, all made step back and realize how much I could be cared for, advocated for, by another person. They all came at a time when I needed someone to help me, and these people, even those I hadn’t known that long, came through.

The other half of the objects represent turning points in my life, or times of realization. Reading The Five People You Meet in Heaven sparked imagination of a guiding force/reason to life without a god, and led to much of how I think about the world and my own *spirituality* today. The notes written in my pointe shoes helped me decide that loving to perform was not worth training dozens of hours a week with a woman who crushed my self-esteem and kept me perpetually on the edge of a breakdown, and led to my decision to quit the Alexandra Ballet Company. The Hackathon, represented by the patch, was a breakthrough in the sense that sometimes things I try can go right, and that self-doubt shouldn’t block my ideas from moving forward.

The Ken head doesn’t fit nicely into either one of these categories, I just love it. I love that people think it’s unique.

My Five Objects for the Afterlife: My curated exhibit about myself as a person, a designer, a living being.

8/31/16: Objects for the Afterlife

For my Five Objects, I chose to stay within my Wunderkammer. I felt that these object portrayed a fairly accurate portrait of myself, a thought solidified by the reflections shared by my peers above. When picking five objects from the nine listed above, I tried to balance objects that showed who I am uniquely (Leading question: Who is the person/what is the life that materializes from these objects?), with showing why I have these artifacts in particular (Leading question: Why might these objects be important?) From my Wunderkammer, I chose the five objects that I felt showed distinct facets of myself, my past, my character, and what brings me comfort. I have tried to tie these objects to what an archaeologist or anthropologyst may view them as.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven: This book has influenced the way that I think about fate, human interaction, and the “meaning of life” immensely. It has catalyzed many of my own spiritual breakthroughs, and has led me to think existentially about myself, my choices, and the independent lives of those around me. This is the closest item I own that is a true “religious text” for me, so I suppose that’s what one could describe it as.

Dog Figurines: These figurines symbolize my childhood to me. Although they are not really “toys”, I played with them daily, gave them each a name and a personality, and lined them up in a specific way. They also symbolized my only desire for many years, which was to get a dog (when I finally got the dog, these figurines were played with significantly less). An archaeologist may view these figurines as childhood toys or even idols, depending on how deeply they read into them.

Three Kids and a Camera: My siblings and I spent an entire summer making this DVD. We filmed whatever we thought was interesting, whether it was staging a spaghetti-western style balloon fight, making a documentary of our dog, or filming items up close to make them look more interesting. I remember that my older siblings did not let me participate in the movie making for a long time, and it was a big deal when they finally let me help. I guess a scientist would call this art, although I haven’t watched the movies in 13 years, so that may be a very loose definition.

Postcard from Dad: This postcard revealed a nostalgic, comforting, almost prophetic side of my father that I had never seen so explicitly before. I received this postcard at precisely the right time: when I was struggling with the end of a relationship, feeling overwhelmed with my job, and was incredibly homesick. It was such a comfort to me then, and I know it always will be. I think he did too, by the way it was written and dated. An anthropologist may view this written document as an establishment of my family dynamic, or family role.

Winking Ken Head: People always have something to say about this keychain. I have had it on my person daily for at least 4 years, and almost weekly it sparks a conversation with someone new. There is not much that’s dramatic about me or what I do that people talk about , and I usually am not the one to start a conversation anyway, so this Ken head has been my “in” to a lot of chats that would not have happened otherwise. I remember using a Dremel to saw the head off the plastic body, and it feeling very therapeutic. Although I have made updates to it over the years (see: 3d printed attachment), I haven’t managed to replace its worn-off eyebrows. This is just an everyday carry that I love, but I’m not sure what an anthropologist would make of it. Maybe that I love kitsch, creepy things, novelty items.

I have attempted to draw the threads that connect the items together, based on their objective description, and what they mean to me.
Presenting Remembrance, my Hackathon project centered around designing for grief and mourning, to the Facebook Board.

9/5/16: You, Designer

Design is progressive problem-solving.

If I were to design something right now, it would be a better memorial practice, consisting of end-of-life preparation, celebration, and inhumation (or alternative).

5 keywords I use to describe my design ethos

Authentic, Analytical, Mindful, Methodical, Considered

What do I value in the designed world?

Intent: Is this product, service, system, is aiming to solve a critical problem, of any scale?

Originality: Is this something I have seen before? If so, has it been improved or modified in some way that brings new meaning, value, or perspective?

Impetus: Am I interested in this design? Am I compelled to care about it, its user, and the problem it is solving?

Care: Is the designer passionate about this design? Have they taken the time time to properly craft and present their work?

What are my concerns as a designer? Where am I headed?

How can we holistically plan for a richer, more sustainable future?

How can I expand my niche interests to balance personal passion with community and societal service?

Is it possible to not design for, or circumvent, an impending, seemingly inevitable future that I don’t necessarily agree with?

2 / A Phenomenological View of the World

9/12/16: Wandering and Wondering

Interventions: Opportunities for design to improve a product, experience, or interaction.

Inspirations: Evidence of effective design.

Thoughts from class discussion:

Form is the link between intent and action/effectiveness.

How do I communicate this to someone without thinking, for them to intuitively behave in a certain way. What is the call to action?

Voice is executed through care and craft to articulate tone, structure, and intent.

3 / Speculation and Persuasion

9/18/16: A Hypothesis

Thought Dump:

Many think that the aim of design is to make things cleaner, more streamlined, more efficient. We extract from existing products and experiences their most basic functions, digitize those functions, and filter out the excess. Along with it goes our attention span and our times of repose.

We need the excess. The excess is interesting, beautiful, and weird. It’s calming routines, moments of pause and silence, and tricks that require skill. It’s things that help us advance in ways that we don’t realize: in meditation, consideration, and care. It’s what protects us from over-stimulation by a world that always wants more.

In stripping everything down to how it can serve us, we also strip ourselves of empathy and appreciation. This affects the way we view the world, how we view people, and how we view ourselves. Design is about crafting products and experience that grow us as authentic beings — not about how much we can check off our to-do list.


As designers, we should not so be quick to distill every product to its essential function and replicate it in a more efficient medium. It is the experiences that surround these functions that allow and inspire us to grow as unique and authentic beings.

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