Gran's dementia inspires Graphic Design project


Alzheimer’s Society’s research shows that many people are worried about ‘saying the wrong thing’ to people living with dementia. And despite almost all of us knowing someone affected, two-thirds of people living with dementia report feeling isolated and lonely.

That’s why this Dementia Action Week, (May 20-26) they're encouraging everyone to take action by starting a conversation with someone living with dementia they know. UWTSD Final year Swansea College of Art Graphic Design student Shaunna Bowen is one of these taking part in the conversation. Here, she tells us why......

A photo of Shaunna and her grandmother smiling together.

"Dementia affects over 850,000 people in the UK and will increase to one million by 2025. One of those sufferers is my Nan. In my second year of studying Graphic Design at UWTSD. I decided to design a book based on this which gives a real insight to what dementia is like from my Nan’s perspective. As a designer this really inspired me and challenged me on how I could produce something that would give the reader a real insight. I used broken typography and imagery to represent the deteriorating effects of the illness as it progresses which is mirrored into the book.

I then felt as though I barely scratched the surface with this subject and really started to feel more and more passionate about doing something for Dementia and also my Nan. The problem I started to find was that a lot of people know that dementia affects memory loss but not many people know that sight and perception is so damaged because of it. People have been quick to judge my Nan because of this as Dementia is an illness that we cannot see so therefore people think my Nan is healthy which in fact couldn’t be anymore further from the truth.

This led me on to expand this project into a third year personal project. The concept behind the idea was to give the public a visual experience of what dementia may be like. I designed the branding for an imagined exhibition that would be based around visualizing dementia. Using drawings of my Nan’s clocks, I laser cut them out of acrylic and turned them into shocking but beautiful pieces of artwork that would feature within it. I also used lenticular lenses to distort typography quotes that symbolizes the affect dementia has on my Nan’s eyesight. I decided to make the bold decision of not branding this concept, I wanted to keep everything subtle but shocking at the same time. A wild idea of mine was to replace all the clocks in London with the clocks that my Nan drew to use as an advertising campaign for the exhibition.

Clocks faces describing the effect of dementia on visual perception.

A view of Big Ben in which the clock-faces have been replaced by distorted hand-drawn clocks.

After bringing this project to an end, I feel it as really shown a different perspective on dementia for people around me. However, I personally feel as though I’ve learnt so much more about this illness and I feel like i’m getting to learn more about it and understanding my nan a lot better now. This project has been really tough for me on times as it’s so personal but I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved. It’s really been the driving force and motivation behind my third year as a designer in University, it’s brought so much passion to me and I feel personally as I’ve seen a different side to design. I feel as though designing for a good cause whether that may be about dementia or something different in the future has taken a huge place in my heart. I hope people take something away from my project on dementia, even if it is just having more patience with someone in public that they think may be a sufferer with this awful illness.

This last year in Swansea College of Art has been the toughest few months but has also been the best. I couldn’t have finished it without my supporting lecturers and family that have pushed me to my limits to ensure I’m working to the best of my ability. I really think it has put me in good stead to what leads next. In a few weeks I start my 3-month internship at Waters Creative and I’m so excited to be working within the real design industry and who knows where it may take me."

Shaunna Bowen stands in front of a display of her project work.

UWTSD's Donna Williams, Course Director of BA Graphic Design at Swansea College of Art said:

“As part of the BA Graphic Design course, students create a self-initiated brief for a module named ‘other people’s shoes’. This module challenges the student to create visual communication through empathy and understanding.

"Students have to find a meaningful project within ten miles of Swansea College of Art and Shaunna chose a personal and heart touching project, which allowed us into the world of her Nan’s dementia. This was not only about a strong and inspirational woman, but also about the importance and strengths needed in families. Shaunna’s, Nan’s drawings of the clocks touched our hearts. Combined with Shaunna’s design skills, it invited the viewer to connect and understand that such a simple exercise for everyday folk is a different world for people with dementia.  The staff felt privileged to have been part of her journey. We are delighted that Shaunna has already secured an internship and is also on her way to new designers in London.”

A book cover titled Through the Eyes of My Nan; the cover shows Shaunna's Nan holding a baby in her arms.

Further Information

Rebecca Davies

Swyddog Gweithredol Cysylltiadau â’r Wasg a’r Cyfryngau

Executive Press and Media Relations Officer

Cyfathrebu Corfforaethol a Chysylltiadau Cyhoeddus

Corporate Communications and PR

Tel: 01792 483695
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