Where Joy Hides and How to Find It?

Based on talk by Ingrid Fetell Lee on TED. Awesome watch indeed!

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This particular TEDTalk was given by designer Ingrid Fetell Lee in which she explains how she became the “Nancy Drew of joy.” Having sleuthed out the link between tangible objects and the intangible emotion of joy, Fetell Lee shares her findings in this eloquent, uplifting talk.

She advocates for the “aesthetics of joy”, design that inspires joy through color, shape, and more.


Lessons To Be Learn

  • Why certain shapes and patterns evoke joy universally,
  • How joy is essential to your well-being, and
  • How incorporating the aesthetics of joy into design enhances the human experience.

Main Points

  • Objects and patterns in the physical world can evoke joy. Simple things do would. Really. There was once I saw an odd looking soft animal doll in my colleague cubicle, the doll is so cute that i felt kind off happy just by looking at it. Apparently, as per my colleague explanation, the doll function is to de-stress him and his peers. And I do think it works wonders.
  • People generally delight in round shapes, vivid color, symmetry, abundance, and buoyancy or elevation. Same concept in the Almighty design of babies, they are cute because they almost round in shapes, and smell nice.
  • This universal response makes evolutionary sense because many of these physical attributes connote health, safety and survival. It can be view as our mental or brain pre-programming software which makes us humans.
  • Yet many environments such as offices, hospitals, schools and government institutions are devoid of joyful aesthetics. This can be fixed through individuality effort in the office. Yes, as a single individual, you might have neither the authority nor the power to change the entire office environments, but you do have such power with respect to your own workstation or cubicles.
  • Everyone deserve joy. Designing for the “aesthetics of joy” results in life-affirming spaces that enhance feelings of security and friendliness.

The Talk Summary

“Your work gives me a feeling of joy.” 

This was the professorial feedback Ingrid Fetell Lee received as a first-year design student. Fetell Lee was initially perplexed. Joy seemed insubstantial. However, the idea that physical objects can spark intangible joy intrigued her. So much so that she spent the next decade researching the linkage. Psychologists describe joy as a strong, fleeting, positive emotion scientifically measurable by the urge to jump up and down. By contrast, happiness is feeling good over time. Ask people to describe their sources of joy, and several patterns emerge, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity: Bubbles, rainbows, hot air balloons and sprinkle-topped ice cream cones brighten people’s days. Such commonalities are reassuring in a time of political and cultural divide.

Why do some objects spark joy while others don’t?

People delight in round shapes, vivid colors, symmetry, abundance, and buoyancy or elevation. Once you start noticing the “aesthetics of joy,” you’ll spot examples everywhere, such as a vibrant splash of graffiti or a canary-yellow car. Yet many places where people spend their time, such as offices, hospitals and schools, are drab and monochromatic. Culturally, the embodiment and attributes of joy are reserved for the young. However, all humans deserve joy.

“Color, in a very primal way, is a sign of life, a sign of energy. And the same is true of abundance.”

Around the world, artists, designers and architects are creating joyful environments. In Japan, artist Arakawa and poet Madeline Gins designed a youthful apartment building with bouncy floors, bright colors and bold shapes. Other joyful projects include a hospital by Danish artist Poul Gernes, a nursing home by architect Emmanuelle Moureaux and the rainbow-striped schools by nonprofit Publicolor. Administrators report that the children in these schools have better attendance and feel safer than before.

Similarly, international studies show that employees in colorful offices feel more assured, alert and friendly than those in dull work-spaces. These responses makes evolutionary sense, as color connotes robustness or vibrancy. The same is true for abundance, which historically assured survival. Further, neuroscientists discovered that humans find angles threatening and curves calming. The designers who rebuilt Sandy Hook Elementary School after the 2012 mass shooting added soft arcs and wavy walls to create a joyful, secure learning space. Indeed, joy isn’t a superfluous emotion but a direct link to your survival instinct. Rather than endlessly pursue happiness, quest after joy. Individual joyful moments accumulate to something much greater, and to seek joy is to seek life.


Categories: Personal Development

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