A project on identity and happiness
Brief: How might we help people improve and balance the agency they have (or could have) upon their lives so they can be healthier and happier?
Aim: To expand, inspire and provoke the thinking of Alpha Telefonica
Date: October - December 2018
Developed in collaboration with Elizabeth Fairleigh, Francesco Cagnola, Kun Qian, Luwen Zhang and Saumya Singhal.
How we considered identity:
Our hypothesis on happiness:
*Based on James Marcia’s theory on developmental psychology &
Kath Woodward Questioning identity: Gender, Class, Nation (2000)
At the time of working on this, the Trump Administration was trying to redefine a narrower definition of gender as being only male or female and unchangeable once determined at birth.
Around 650,000 people in the United Kingdom do not identify as either male or female. With increasing awareness of gender fluidity and increasing number of non-binary people coming out we questioned the conventional concept of gender.
People we interviewed:
A Facebook organiser of LGBT Allied group (two-spirit), LGBT youth collective manager, members of RCA Queer Society (transgender, gender queer), president of Beaumont Society (transgender), a director of Mosaic LGTB Youth Centre, cisgenders.
While carrying out these interviews, we made a few mistakes and learnt a lot...
We phrased things incorrectly e.g. explore instead of discover (explore implying promiscuity) and at times questions were asked that went a little too deep. Team members became hesitant about running further interviews incase we upset anyone.
The topic is sensitive and for each person means something different. While some interviewees expressed frustration at having to explain their gender identity, others took it as their personal mission to see that people understood and were accepting.
Stories were shared during the interviews and while they were accepted and empathised with, really comprehending the reasoning behind decisions was trickier.
We asked people who identified as cisgender where they would go to learn more about gender and many didn't feel comfortable attending LGBTQ+ meetups to learn more, incase they offended anyone with their presence, questions or misinformation.
We found differing definitions of Non Binary and different ideas of what it means. The spectrum of gender is growing and constantly adapting. The education system is failing to keep up. We found increasing form of media representing gender non conformers (magazines, theatre, dance, online forums etc) yet we still looked for a safe space that we could ask questions, hear personal accounts and admit when we didn't understand.
Gov.uk LGBT Action Plan 2018: Improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, Twitter and Instagram influencers (e.g. Queer Letters), Ali Hanon - Gender as a performance, National Geograhic - Gender Revolution, Beyond the binary, Judith Butler, Is Gender Fluid?
Journey of gender discovery:
But while explaining our projects to friends got responses such as these...
...we saw this as an opportunity.
Instead of focussing our design on something to directly improve the happiness of gender non-conformers, we based our design on improving the social perception to increase their agency.
So we broke out the problem into 4 keys stages and ideated as many ideas as we could.
We then moved ideas into an Importance - Difficulty matrix, expanded a few and voted on our solution.
(Click for more detail)
Introducing Non Dinary
Non Dinary, is an educational dining experience focused on the notion of gender as a construct. The experience is a metaphoric meal introducing how sex, gender identity and gender expression both differ and relate, what it means for gender non-conformers and the complexities it can bring. By approaching the conversation in an unconventional and lighthearted way over a meal, Non Dinary gives our customers a safe space to learn and ask questions so they leave with the terminology, understanding and confidence that’s lacking in common knowledge.
Why over food?
Nothing brings people together like food.
Preliminary research indicated that interactive experiences are one of the most effective and memorable ways to learn. The sharing of food has always been part of the human story. “To break bread together,” a phrase as old as the Bible, captures the power of a meal to forge relationships, bury anger, provoke laughter.
How it works
A future goal is to get gender non-conforming friendly restaurants who have collaborated with us marked with our logo on navigation apps and recommendation websites such as Google Maps or Tripadvisor.
We foresee the Non Dinary method being booked as an educational tool in additional settings such as workplace LGBTQ+ societies, human resources inclusivity campaigns, or even in schools.
"It is a great eye catching conversational tool and a different exploratory way of approaching the topic. It removed the pressure and is accessible to everyone."
- Stylist and creative content director at Phuild Project.
"Congratulations on a very professional piece of work. I enjoyed reading the poster and watching your video. It was a pleasure to talk to you and I am delighted that I was of some help in your excellent work."
- President of the Beaumont Society.
Reflections on the project:
Due to the sensitivity, complexity and changing nature of the topic, we placed a lot of time on the discover and define stages. By setting fixed deadlines for each stage, we could have progressed to develop and deliver faster.
When selecting the ideas both for and from the Importance - Difficulty Matrix, we didn't get the opinion of those we interviewed. This would have validated the crucial decision we made at this time.
The sometimes difficult nature of working in a team of 7 from different nationalities and backgrounds.
We made the conscious decision to propose a solution which was not fully aligned with the client's present offerings because we saw potential with our solution and potential ethical data issues with some of our other ideas even though they may have been more aligned. Had we not been in a university setting and free to explore, I would have questioned this decision more.