A Meeting of Minds: Open Style Lab & Interdisciplinary Education

During the Open Style Lab summer program, I mentored fellows from different disciplines of practice: engineering, design, and occupational therapy. The fellows were given the challenge of designing creative garments or accessories for people with disabilities.  The program provided an opportunity for me to observe perceptions and misconceptions of the body and disabled body from the lens of an Educational Instructor. Because I did not participate in the creation process, I had the opportunity to see the clients and fellows interact.

What happens when daily functions such as, going to the bathroom becomes a gargantuan task? How do designers or engineers approach this problem? I mentored fellows to think in the context of their client's daily activities and take into consideration the types of occasions their client would need to attend. What if a client attends church on Sundays and may need to wear a garment for such occasion?

I encouraged fellows to not only understand each other’s unique skills, each other’s mindset. What is a designer’s perception when creating a garment for clients with disabilities as opposed to an engineer? Why might a designer be inclined to start creating solution based on color and form? I assisted in providing a framework for the fellows to exercise their creative thoughts by creating mood boards.

After the design frameworks lecture, I observed the designers, occupational therapists, and engineers converse over each client’s specific condition in context to their daily activities. The occupational therapists have been trained to be sensitive and observant of client behavior and emotions. Their ability to relate to the client’s daily life, struggles, and emotional reactions were shared with the designers and engineers. The designers tried to explain to their team the subtle and almost intuitive choices of color, material, and form. I sympathized with many of the designers who had the difficulty of expressing years of hand drawings, observations of the color wheel, and hands-on practice in forming shapes. Overall, the program offered the fellows an opportunity to exchange perceptions, invaluable skills, and creative brainstorming.