Biome Collective will represent Dundee at London Design Biennale 2018 - the first time a city has been invited to contribute to the event alongside nations.
Tom deMajo and Malath Abbas (above left to right) of Biome Collective - one of Scotland’s most pioneering video game design groups - have created a project entitled 'Shpeel' in response to the event theme of Emotional States.
The project, supported by Abertay University, allows people to share their emotional state without talking, and uses gaming techniques, sound engineering and animation to alter the atmosphere of the gallery space and create an "emotional avatar".
A highlight of the global design calendar, London Design Biennale runs from September 4 to 23 and will see 40 of the world’s most exciting and ambitious designers, innovators and curators gather in the capital to show how design impacts our very being and every aspect of our lives.
As the UK’s first UNESCO City of Design, Dundee has made a repeated public commitment to use design to transform the lives of its citizens.
Drawing on the city's rich heritage of video game design, Biome Collective have responded to the 2018 theme by asking “What can video games do to help young people start talking about their mental health?”
Working with youth organisations and health services in Dundee, Biome created an immersive interactive - a misspelling of the word “spiel”, meaning either “to speak” or “to play”.
Malath, video game developer and a graduate of Abertay's Dare to be Digital programme, said: “We’ve designed a totally immersive experience that will allow people to share their emotional state in a non-verbal way. Using gaming techniques and 360-degree sound and interactive animation, visitors will be able to transform the whole atmosphere of the gallery space – the colour, sound and objects that enter it – to create an ‘emotional avatar’ which they can share with others and start a conversation about how they feel.”
The project started in May 2018 with a gathering of Dundee-based designers, mental health professionals, campaigners and clinicians who came together to give context to Scotland’s growing mental health crisis.
Participants included Scottish Association of Mental Health (SAMH), Brothers in Arms, a project dedicated to preventing male suicide, and counsellors and practitioners from local youth organisations.
“We’ve designed a totally immersive experience that will allow people to share their emotional state in a non-verbal way" - Malath Abbas
The project was then further developed with Dundee youth collective Hot Chocolate Trust, and The Corner, an NHS drop-in service for young people based in the city centre.
Laura Cooney, Community Learning and Development Worker for The Corner said: “Though the stigma around mental health is being reduced, people still find it difficult to find the words to talk about it.
"The young people that come to us often don’t have the language to describe how they feel. This can be really frustrating for them. Working with Biome Collective, we wanted to develop a tool – a conversation starter – that would enable any young person we work with to describe exactly how they’re feeling without words.”
Dundee’s entry to London Design Biennale 2018 is produced by Tilde Arts in partnership with Creative Dundee.
The project is also supported by Creative Scotland, UNESCO City of Design Dundee and University of Dundee.
Dundee is one of only a handful of cities contributing to the event alongside nations such as Australia, Brazil, China, Guatemala, India, Hong Kong, Mongolia, Saudi Arabia and USA. The event expects to welcome an audience of 30,000 ticketed visitors and up to 250,000 public throughout the nine days.