Valeska Noemi Mangel completed her BA Communication Design at the Peter Behrens School of Art with a theoretical piece on Responsibility and Design. After working in Graphic Design, Strategy and Editorial, she is currently Leading Researcher at the Institute for Futurepsychology and Futuremanagement. In this position she conveys pragmatic design methodologies to spark creative solutions, provoke personal agendas and reduce anxieties about the future for example at the UM6P University in Marrakech. At the RCA she founded the Design & Philosophy Society with the mission to fuel debate and critical thinking while showcasing the depth and scientific character of design. Her dissertation ‘Responsibilities and Opportunities of Design in the Industries’ was awarded with a distinction.
Valeska Noemi Mangel
The semantics of ‘Design’ hold the beauty of confusion. In the midst of the discipline's emancipation from market-led aesthetics it is rediscovering its purpose. For Valeska Noemi Mangel, the curiosity about what design could and should mean in the current globalised and deliberately doomed environment led her to the Service Design programme. Because what is a design, if it’s not serving—serving people, societies, environments or the planet? While developing projects in Service Design it is important to her to challenge briefs and choose partners with a mission that goes beyond economic acceleration. Her passion for poetry, reading and writing has a strong impact on the practice. And while many services focus on exploring the possibilities of digitalisation, she aims to consider tactile and sensitive mediums in her work, to not only create highly efficient, but beyond that, human experiences. Throughout her studies and work Valeska is keen to reframe the role of designers and the design reputation. Contributing to the maturing of the discipline and exploring its academic and even philosophic aspects.
Her MA project The Capsule Guild is challenging the education of designers throughout their careers, asking when there is the time to reflect on the complex decisions creatives make for others. Following her theory that while the role of designers in the industries is changing, the perception of practitioners has to evolve simultaneously. Especially in a productivity driven western community there is a need to respect the space to think, learn and share, instead of seeing it as a waste of time. Design is no longer just a hands-on practice; it is a critical perspective on the status quo.
After her MA she is now looking to work in between research, design and writing. She is increasingly interested in language in design and how buzzwords shape the perception and use of design methodologies. This is a possible area of interest for her ambition to research further in a majorly theoretical design PhD in the future.
This project stems from the hypothesis that our design education has to evolve alongside our new identities, purposes and needs in design. We are no longer just practitioners so what does it take to find our individual roles beyond that? When do we as designers get the time to sit back and reflect on our impacts, failures and creative decisions?
The first time we are asked to reflect was probably in our childhood. After we painted the kitchen with chalk or scratched on our desk in school, a parent or teacher would send us out to reflect. An educational request with the hope to shape our morals and manners. The concept of reflecting has its history in all of us and usually contains a quiet moment. Triggered by a (painful) disruption like a question, doubt or surprise. It’s a thought that we explore consciously. We develop personal practices to encounter these thoughts in diaries, mantras or conversations. As designers we need this quiet moment to learn, reflect and share, when making important design-decisions for others. Under the pressure of productivity we need to respect that reflection is necessary to create the considerate designs we need. How can we adapt a reflective practice to the busy work environment of a creative?
Reflection—Not just Another Task
Although reflection reduces stress and supports a healthy self-awareness it just feels like another task. And the average team review is mostly perceived as not honest and considerate enough to produce real learnings. So I invented the The Capsule Guild. A subscription service providing design institutions, studios or organisations with a reflective practice, inspired by Secret Santa and gumball machines. The idea is to print a reflective question and answer it as a team or alone in between projects. To then put it in a capsule and a sustainable dispenser in the workspace and receive a previous reflection out. Literally tying together projects and designers while allowing the space to reflect in an intimate and joyful way. Members of the Guild also get access to reflective events to learn and mingle. And to archive the learnings and make them accessible one can submit the most fruitful reflections and receive an annual report.
The Power of Joy and Intimacy
Especially in a global pandemic it was important to me to test the concept physically. I gathered 6 designers from different backgrounds and experience levels and sent them each a capsule, pre-stamped envelopes and a snippet with two reflective questions, constructed according to review standards in reflective practices. They could respond to a question, fill the capsule and send it to the next person. It was perceived as a joyful disruption that promoted a craving to reflect more, forces one to detach and promotes self-awareness. I learned that the questions themselves needed to be tailored. So I developed an open source voting system for The Capsule Guild’s members to suggest the themes and questions they want to reflect on themselves and vote for them to become a printable snippet.
The Contemporary Practitioner
The first capsules are in the prototype dispenser ready to kick off a chain reaction of critical thoughts, starting with the ones from my cohort.
This is not just one interaction, it is an ongoing thread of doubts, epiphanies and writing by designers. I keep my capsule on my desk to remind me to take the moment to think about my role, impact and vision. I hope that the impulse travels, raising awareness that a good design is no longer just aesthetic or functional, it is considerate of its complex environment. And we can’t produce anything considerate by just being efficient. So time to reflect is never wasted. This doesn’t only count for designers: Maybe there will be Capsule Guilds for different disciplines, reflecting on how we teach, manage or maintain our world better. Coming together to an interdisciplinary summit, where practitioners not do but think and learn together.