Theory

With our increased dependency on technology, we have less and less time to relax, switch-off and decompress from the stresses of our daily lives. It’s hardly surprising then that one in four people in the UK are affected by mental health issues, with one in five of us feeling anxious “all or a lot of the time”.

Mental health and wellbeing are far less understood than other areas of health and are widely stigmatised - 20% of people who suffer from anxiety do nothing to cope with it.

In recent years, more emphasis has been placed on mindfulness techniques to help tackle depression and anxiety, giving people the tools to bring a sense of calm back into their hectic lives. Mindfulness centres on the concept of moment-to-moment non-judgemental awareness and includes medically proven techniques, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and controlled breathing.

Inspired by the movement of the sun behind clouds and the serenity of the natural world, The Big Book of Calm is a guided mindfulness tool. The light patterns displayed on the central paperwhite LED screen and through the clouds lead a controlled breathing pattern – clinically proven to reduce the heart-rate in anxious situations – while the acoustic felt panels act as an audio baffle, reducing uncomfortable noise levels which can trigger anxiety.

The Big Book of Calm is designed to be the same size as a ‘coffee-table’ book, allowing the user to stand it upright and open in front of them while seated as an audio and visual barrier, while not being too large as to seem anti-social. The traditional book aesthetic prevents the product from looking conspicuous in public, and the modern materials make it lightweight and easy to transport.

In traditional meditation techniques, we remind ourselves of our presence here on earth – a technique called ‘grounding’ – while allowing our minds to wonder upward. The patterning of the acoustic panels reflects this; the clouds encourage us to let our mind wonder free, while the rocks ground us.

The rocks themselves are modelled after the standing stones at Castlerigg Stone Circle, Cumbria – one of the many Neolithic sites in the UK and one that I find particular inspiration from – reminding us of the ancient world that has gone before us, making our worries seem less significant and, reminding us that we are not alone in our existences.

[Statistics from Mental Health Awareness Survey 2014 - YouGov]

Technical

Materials: Leather (cover) / Waterjet-Cut PET Acoustic Felt (panels) / Frosted Acrylic (screen) / LEDs (light unit)

Dimensions (Open): 300 mm (h) x 470 mm (w) x 20 mm (d)

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This project was developed as part of my Product Design MA, and as such only reached the first prototype stage. It is also my first foray into exploring the nature of time and our experiences with it.

To read about the evolution of The Big Book of Calm, please have a look at my Product Design (MA) Blog.