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Spirituality and Design

May 31, 2020

My students asked me to write about ‘Spirituality and Design’. At first, I thought why have they chosen me? I am not Indian. I don’t have any of their spiritual practices or beliefs. But I took on this challenge of writing about this subject of spirituality and objects because it is a culturally diverse idea from my own upbringing.

Cultural diversity is the gap between a formal house pooja and an American house warming party. Another example is American decorating or putting a protective cover on their phone versus an Indian performing pooja for gadgets. The Indian truck is an exuberant example of blessing and decorating an object with spirituality. The detailed elements painted on trucks are a mashup based on the trucker’s beliefs, language, customs, India’s history, what’s trendy in his circle, and a lot more. It gives him a sense of safety, protection, belonging when he is away from home, it provides a common culture and community for the Indian truckers.

Indians are not the only culture that embeds their objects with spiritual meanings. Take the skyscrapers along the Hong Kong skyline, they have holes in them to let dragons through, based on Chinese Feng Shui. In the west, the symbolic meanings of lighting incense sticks, the reverence of objects like crucifixes and flags, stones and the ritual of sharing bread are evident.

What is some advice from the western world about becoming more spiritual? I consulted the web. One article I recently read told me to pick out someone I really admired and let them be my guide. Choose wisely! “Pay attention to things you normally think are coincidences.” “Have the phases of the moon guide you and help you plan." Harmless positive exercise. Forgive someone, always good! “Check out what your gut feels and get comfortable acting on intuition instead of logic.” Good sound advice! Take a cleansing sea salt bath. Choose or make up a mantra that inspires you. Go on a tech fast for a day or even a few hours. At first, you will notice how addicted you are to your technology but then you will start to feel better about yourself and life.

So, what does this all have to do with spirituality and industrial design for the future? Actually lots!!! As our worlds become more sensor-based and automated. What will we do with all that free time? Soon we are going to be searching for the meaning of life, trying to improve our mental well-being and connect to communities that might have fallen apart a bit. It’s our job as designers to improve life as we know it. Industrial Design teaches students to use critical thinking and creativity while bringing new value to companies, communities, and people. Our goal is to design products and systems that make life easier. Why couldn’t design and spirituality mix in the future? It has in the past.

Lisa Browne, Associate Professor, School of Industrial Design, Unitedworld Institute of Design (UID)

Disclaimer: The opinions / views expressed in this article are solely of the author in his / her individual capacity. They do not purport to reflect the opinions and/or views of the College and/or University or its members.

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