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Design Through Making

Britton Jeffrey Kroessler

I am a playful designer, whose work and process is informed and centered around having fun. I design to make myself smile, and like to design objects and clever interactions that reflect the fun I have while making them. This fluidity in playfulness is supported and made possible by an extensive background in technical production, creative insights, and analytical logistics. In my former community of Providence, Rhode Island I had gained a reputation for being a relentless problem solver and the go-to person for complex issues with no clear solution. My clients ranged from toy startups, performance textile developers, puppet performance troupes, maritime camera manufacturers, academic institutions, and anyone with an odd one-off project that requires unconventional technical expertise.

Show Location: Battersea campus: Studio Building, Third floor

The body of work presented here explores two ends of the play spectrum: one that is silly, chaotic, unexpected, creative, and open, and another that is more methodical, deliberate, closed off, emotionally functional, and sombre. They are both reflective of the fluctuations of my being that I experienced thoughout my life, but was unable to define until my final year at the RCA. They are how I am able to joyfully create my own fun through iteration and user engagement, and how I respond to and heal from personal crisis through focused hands-on making when finding the fun in everyday life becomes difficult—and, in turn, help others heal. Despite their extreme variance, both works manifested from deep within, and it was through the Design process that I was able to precisely define them and turn them outward.

With the pandemic receding, I was able to playtest the Wiggel system by reaching out to families in my neighbourhood in early 2022. Throughout the winter I was able to sit down and show children how fun the design process can be. Every time I dumped the bag of parts out onto the table their faces lit up and the giggles commenced. We usually spent over an hour exploring the system, learning its rules and functions, and coming up with new ideas to build and create. It was easily my most fulfilling experience in my time at the RCA.

As far as Wiggel’s future? I think of it as a tool to help me better understand how children think and play with unconventional objects and systems, as well as a teaching tool to help explain the design process and how they can have an impact on the designed world around them. While the concept itself is not totally innovative, I see it as a stepping stone into the realm of co-design with children at the centre, to either drive its future developments or create a new entirely creative open play experience while having fun the entire way!

If you are based in London and are interested in playtesting the Wiggel system please do not hesitated to contact me.

[Note: All Images Used with Permission]

In June, Wiggel made its public debut at Milan Design Week at the WE WILL DESIGN Exhibition hosted by BASE Milano. Wiggle was just as much of a hit there as it was during the playtests–garnering interest from children, adolescents, and adults alike! The addition of an acrylic base made it possible to use the suction cup joints as a stabiliser (an interaction that was realised during one of the playtests) and cups helped organise the different lengths of dowels. While the system is far from shelf-ready, it was an invaluable glimpse into its allure to and functionality for new users.

Rituals of Machining
Four iterations from 3D Printed to finely turned and machined alnut and Brass.

Living with Neurodivergence has made me more aware of how I respond both intentionally and reflexively to mental and emotional hardship. It is through specific grounding rituals that I am able to maintain a sense of balance. When my mental state unraveled early this year, I found comfort in the meditative motions of the lathe, and the impermanence of wood–creating unique precision pieces that fit and function exactly as I designed them to. Physical Making became my means of therapeutically recovering from personal crises, and these small interactions are reflections of the rituals that I used to heal.

By reverse-engineering this process, and turning outwards to other Neurodivergent individuals, we worked to define their own grounding rituals through a Lexicon of tangible sensory descriptors and physical examples. The results were co-designed interactions that aim to afford the mental and emotional qualities of their rituals translated to a more accessible and discrete context.

Medium:

Wood, Brass, Bronze, Steel
Girl sitting on bench playing with bracelet and small wooden and fabric object.

'J's ritual is centered around exploring her neighborhood on foot, and returning to familiar places. She will frequently listen to music on repeat, which helps gauge how long has been walking for. 'J' described recent circumstances to me that has made her more cautious about walking outside as frequently, and they have not had the emotional energy to overcome wanting to stroll as they previously did to decompress.

“It gives me a sense of control, knowing that I have been here before.” ‘J’ explained how important familiarity was to maintaining their mental balance; walking familiar routes was a form of meditation for them. She had a particular fondness for wood and fabric, stating how the familiarity of the material is comforting.

'J's interactions are centered on familiarity through location, and familiarity through material. A bracelet of the buildings along her favourite walking route allow her fingers to move through the familiar space when her body cannot. A small wooden loop with soft curves and a band of fabric to mimic the continuous walking of a familiar path, with fabrics of different density and textures to associate with different spaces and feelings.