Challenging stigma with high-quality homeware
If you wind your way to Shropshire, you will discover Designs in Mind, a working studio where adults living with mental health challenges work together on ambitious, experimental art and design projects.
With close to 100 artists and managing 20 projects a day, the studio is a bustling centre of creativity where design has the power to positively affect how the team and students feel through the experience of making. New participants not only learn artistic skills and methods but how to work in groups and engage collaboratively on projects.
Joanna Davies, founder of Designs in Mind and a trained occupational therapist, noted how her first role in a ‘Psychiatric Day Centre’ didn’t seem to answer any of the needs of those attending. Within the centre, she set up a specialist art group to work on projects and commissions for a wide range of settings and, convinced this was the way forward, eventually took this concept out of the day centre and into the community. Fast forward a few years and Designs in Mind came to be, taking in members at a difficult time in their lives and helping them find ways to move forward. With care ethics as the foundation of the group, the studio is not just a place to talk about feelings, work, learn and contribute, but to centre people’s voices and experiences in the design process.
The studio has a clear, active impact on members’ daily lives, and arguably our society, as their work shines light into mental health issues in such an accessible and approachable way.
Scion x Designs in Mind
Scion living is part of Sanderson Design Group and is a proudly British-designed brand that is inspired by bold motifs and confident colour joining with Scandi influences. They make a wide range of patterns for use in their wallpapers, fabrics and homeware. Sustainability and design for diversity are core pillars of their business ethics, so it is easy to see how they were attracted to the idea of working with Designs in Mind.
“On a mission to bring positivity to the fore through creative endeavours, Designs in Mind’s philosophy is right up our street, so a collaboration that combined our values was the perfect match… Their passion and belief in the power of positivity through creativity echo our values of embracing the joy of simple pleasures in every day and the impact that our homes can have on our mental health.”
The Power of Positivity in Design: The Process
Introduced to each other by designer, creative director and founder of BuyDesign, Theo Williams, Designs in Mind felt empowered with the tools to set up this collaboration.
“Through BuyDesign we have had great visibility, successful collaborations and developed our industry knowledge which has helped Designs in Mind progress creatively and financially. [Theo] encouraged us to contact Scion to build a relationship with the possibility of collaboration. His knowledge has been invaluable in the development of our creative material for the design industry.”— Elin Humphreys, Design Lead at Designs in Mind
Led by Designs in Mind’s Design Lead Elin Humphreys, and Scion’s Charlotte Gibson, both teams worked in an 18-month process to bring art to the fore as a means of helping adults working through mental health challenges. Through a series of workshops that empowered people to create and design the collection, A Place Called Home, was born, celebrating small pleasures in vivid colour.
Every response was consistent with the ideas of pets, florals, and gardens especially. Those simple mood boosters such as light coming in through the window, snuggling up on the sofa, etc. Then, each week for 10 weeks Designs in Mind chose an area to focus on and ran their creative workshops according to the theme.
Using a variety of methods in the studio, from drawing techniques to screen printing, the Designs in Mind members brought their artwork to life. A creative dialogue was set up where these artistic techniques were tested and supported by Scion designers, to realise a capsule collection of designs that would radiate positive home values and relatable moments, all with a cheeky edge.
Colour became an important focal point and, as something that Scion is well versed at utilising, Charlotte and the team were more than willing to get creative with colour, “We took swatches, photography, paint samples, dipsticks, and colour boards to show the members how we form colour.”
The Scion team went even further and shared how they go about discovering their next eye-catching prints, “We started off with an inspirational image and then built on it through what we know about happy colours, with calming, muted, chalky shades being mixed with poppier shades, then allowed the members to go wild and create their own colour story, drawing out what colour means to them.”
However, the Scion colour process was not the only consideration taken into account. Charlotte continued, “We gave feedback on the design elements so that it was a learning event as well. For example, how faces are drawn and how we would tweak it to reflect our Scion style. Faces on characters are super important.”
The integral success of this partnership was that it stayed connected to the joy and simple pleasures that design can give when creating and, as an extension of that, the joy that these wallpapers and fabrics would bring to those who bought them.
“We have loved being part of this project, and are so proud to see the work that our members have produced being manufactured into beautiful products that can bring so much joy to so many.”
The collaboration with Sanderson Design Group’s brand Scion launched the London Design Festival 2022 and the full collection of fabrics can be found at Scion living at https://www.scionliving.com/the-edit/designs-in-mind/
Article by Wynne O’Brien
Images courtesy of Designs in Mind
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