For my senior capstone project, I chose to explore the question: “How can cognitive biases be materialized through design?”
Our brains do a lot of things without our realizing it as a way of efficiently sorting through the colossal onslaught of information we experience every moment of our lives. These automatic functions are helpful, but they are also responsible for the many mindless and harmful judgements we make about the people around us.
In this project, I use an optical illusion to demonstrate how our brains make decisions about what we see, and how these biases can contribute to discrimination.
I apologize in advance for hurting your eyes.
From a distance, you see the image. Up close, the image disappears and all you can see are the individual lines creating the image. This relationship between distance and visual perception is supposed to represent what we see when we observe people without knowing them versus understand people and the complexities and uniqueness of their nature.
One of the most powerful ways to experience this illusion is by seeing it at a large scale. I thought it’d be great if the illusion was demonstrated in a gallery space, because visitors would be able to interact with the work and experience the relationship of distance by physically moving closer to and away from the pieces.
For the sake of variety, I tried to gather different images of people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, ages, creeds, genders, abilities and orientations. I changed up the shape of the pieces to create some visual variety and considered where they’d be placed on the gallery walls.
I created a gallery guide to go along with the exhibition. In includes an explanation of the show, a short essay about our brains and the judgement of others, and a listing of all the pieces. I wanted to really emphasize the beauty of the patterns themselves, so I layered the different lines that I used for the pieces together to open and close the booklet. Emphasizing the lines is a reminder that there’s a beautiful rhythm we can see when we get up close and personal.
I’d love to do more with this project by revamping the gallery guide and finding more provocative imagery for the actual pieces. I limited myself to using stock photography because of time restraints, and feedback that I’ve received has really emphasized that the photography can be used to make the effect even more compelling.