Dundee design team to participate in London Design Biennale 2018 in September

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Dundee-based video game designers Biome Collective will unveil a new interactive tool that allows young people start talking about mental health without words.

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. The project was 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, “The stigma around mental health is being reduced but people still find it difficult to find the words to talk about it. 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.”

Drawing on Dundee’s rich heritage of video game design, Biome Collective 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 Collective have responded to this year’s theme with an immersive interactive installation called Shpeel, a misspelling of the word “spiel”, meaning either “to speak” or “to play”.

Biome Collective, one of Scotland’s most pioneering video game designers, have been selected to represent Dundee at London Design Biennale 2018, the first time a city has been invited to contribute to the event alongside nations. This year’s theme is Emotional States.

A highlight of the global design calendar, London Design Biennale 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.

Dundee was named the UK’s first UNESCO City of Design in 2014. Since then the city has made a repeated public commitment to use design to transform the lives of its citizens.

Malath Abbas, video game developer and one of the co-founders of Biome Collective 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.”

Mental health is a major challenge for Dundee. The city has the fourth highest rate of unemployment in the UK, and some of the highest levels of deprivation in Scotland, both of which have been shown to have negative impacts on mental health.

Young people are increasingly experiencing mental health issues, the most common illnesses being anxiety and depression. Mental health is also a key issue for the Scottish Government’s themed Year of Young People 2018.

Dundee’s entry to London Design Biennale 2018 is produced by Tilde Arts in partnership with Creative Dundee. The project is supported by Creative Scotland, UNESCO City of Design Dundee, Abertay University, and University of Dundee.

The collaboration of all these partners, drawing on their networks and moving between disciplines, is a mark of city that understands how design can influence and effect social change.

A highlight of the global design calendar, London Design Biennale 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.

In response to the theme Emotional States, participants from six continents will exhibit engaging and interactive design installations across Somerset House revealing how design influences our emotions. In an exhibition of outstanding ideas and creativity, international design teams will illustrate how design can challenge, delight, educate and surprise.

Dundee, the UK’s first and only UNESCO City of Design, are 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.

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