As promised, here is the post about designing a postcard for my intended thesis event - a yoga session for able-bodied and disabled participants alike, with audio recordings of people reflecting on what their experience is like with the sensation of paralysis. Participants are expected to leave the event with a better understanding of their own bodies as a result of this visceral experience that is both within [the yoga itself, and the breathing associated with it] and without [the personal nature of the recordings]. For our second class of Design Delight, we were expected to come up with a postcard that informed people about the nature of the event.
After deciding to focus my thesis event on yoga, I thought I had it easy. There's just so much iconography and visual language to explore when it comes to yoga. I quickly rejected using stereotypical yoga pictures of silhouettes against a magnificent sunrise in some beautiful natural landscape, untouched by technology. Aside from their emphasis on the able-bodied practice of yoga, I knew that I wanted to design something more significant and thoughtful for the postcard, which was meant to be [according to the design brief from our instructor] the type of thing that a participant would buy in the gift shop of the event in order to tell friends about it. I felt like this was at odds with the introspective and thoughtful nature of my event, and I wanted to avoid this overt commodification of what I thought should be an individual-centric event. There would be no photos taken during the event, no glamour shots of it in action, no gift shop at the end.
And so, I looked up yogic symbols online and researched the meaning behind their ornate appearance. Of the various symbols that I encountered, I found myself attracted to the mandala. While other yogic icons symbolized the one-ness of all beings [the Om], the divine within [the lotus], protection [the hamsa], or the Buddha himself, the mandala symbolizes harmony and unity, with its concentric rings representing the various circles of life. Knowing that I wanted my event to evoke harmony and unity within the body of all participants - able-bodied or not - I decided to make my own mandala for the postcard.
I wanted to use the opportunity of designing my own mandala to incorporate symbolic imagery of the central nervous system. After spending hours drawing one from scratch, I realized that the mandala that I had created lacked the elegance of the ones that I had seen online and modeled mine after. While there was a beauty, in a way [and if I do say so myself], of the drawing that I came up with, it was too unrestrained to evoke a sense of calm or quiet. I redrew the mandala in Adobe Illustrator, keeping core elements of the original sketch while refining others.
I called my event "Meditations of Paralysis", playing with the idea of literal meditation through yoga, and combining it with thoughtful contemplation, as suggested by the turn of phrase "to meditate on". I chose the words "meditations of" instead of "meditations on" because I felt that the former suggests more than just thinking - the meditation of something implies an action, whereas meditations on something references a body of thought, as in a collection of someone's thoughts on a specific matter. I used a light white watercolor background for the postcard, its subtle gradations evoking a visual quiet without being completely blank. I inverted this background for the back of the postcard, making it dark, using the dichotomy between the front and the back of the card to represent the pieces of the spinal cord that remain after an SCI.