Exploring the notion of ‘care’, the museum’s Designers in Residence have tackled mental health, empathy, microbes and traditional craft
This year’s showcase of the Designers in Residence, an annual programme at London’s Design Museum supporting emerging designers, has gone online. The four designers – Cynthia Voza Lusilu, Enni-Kukka Tuomala, Ioana Man and Abiola Onabule – began their residencies in 2020 and were asked to respond to the theme of ‘Care’. The topic was chosen before the pandemic, but subsequently gained even more resonance over the course of the 10-month residency.
Now the results of the residents’ projects – undertaken at home and in virtual environments – are live in an interactive digital showcase hosted by the Design Museum. The projects – tackling care in its broadest sense – explore mental health within Black British communities, the role of empathy between humans and nature, fashion inspired by traditional crafts in Nigeria, and humans’ relationship to microbes inside urban environments. Here’s a look at the designers and their work.
Cynthia Voza Lusilu
The Paris-born transdisciplinary designer has been exploring how design can support positive mental health in Black British communities. Working collaboratively with mental health professionals, urban planners and Black residents living in the borough of Lewisham, she has designed new supportive tools – including care packages and an accompanying online platform – to promote well-being and stimulate conversations around wellness.
The work of Finnish designer and artist Tuomala focuses on empathy and its role in daily lives, and for her residency project she looked at empathy between humans and trees. ‘Forest Empathy’ reflects on the urgent need for humans to rethink their relationship with the natural world. Tuomala created a film revealing the complex personalities and perspectives of forests, alongside a new ‘Empathy Ecosystem’ tracing the role of empathy in human and non-human life, and a tree tour of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea that invites visitors to connect with urban forests in London.
A designer and researcher working between architecture, strategic design and critical practice, Man has been exploring how architecture can collaborate with biology to create healthier, more sustainable environments through data visualisations that map microbial communities in west London. Using new scientific technology, she has designed a series of interactive digital walks that imagine a future where agriculture is essential to urban life, and food gardens are caring spaces for both humans and microbes alike.
For her project, London-based fashion designer Onabule drew inspiration from both her Nigerian cultural heritage and the stories and lives of other women, to explore the craft of adire, a type of indigo-dyed cloth typically made in southwestern Nigeria by Yoruba women. Her new collection uses adire techniques to investigate how local West African textile designs can be redefined to resonate with contemporary fashion. Onabule also created a collaborative film that brings to the forefront practices of care such as local production, slowing down and conversation around the cultural importance of cloth.
The digital showcase is available to view online until August 2021
Portrait photography by Felix Speller. Onabule’s work modelled by Ore Ajala and photographed by Jessica Gianelli