The UX of CONSCIOUSNESS - first part

Nov 18 – Nov 25

Brief: Design an experience that explores the nature of consciousness.
Partners: Nancy, Kaiyang, Melanie, Xiaomeng 

In this project, we were asked to design an experience that explores the nature of consciousness. We looked into different parts of subconscious, starting with Sigmund Freud and his exploration of associations and impulses that are not accessible to consciousness. We felt that the unknown part of our minds would be more interesting to explore, as it is not in focal awareness. At first, we read different articles that would help us understand how different parts of the subconscious work. Afterwards we had a discussion about dreams and impulses that affect our way of thinking. Finally, we decided to go with the idea of how our subconscious affects our conscious.

Working on our idea.

We decided to go to the British Museum to look at how different cultures throughout history interpreted this idea. Artefacts that correlated with our idea were the masks. They made us think about how different cultures used masks throughout the centuries and various meanings that they carried. We analysed a few different masks as shown in the table. The most common use of masks has been for ceremonial purposes, as a way of representing a spiritual figure. Masks allow us to hide our facial expressions and emotions, thus enabling us to present ourselves as something more powerful, as for example spiritual figures. We wanted to take this idea further and look past the use of physical masks and more into emotional masks.

Artefact analysis

It is part of the reality of living that we have different “masks” or personas we show to the public. For example, many men feel a need to portray themselves as confident, all-knowing and strong. But when we peel back the layers, fear, anxiety and other facets, we find ourselves with genuine and unfiltered emotions, which are the result of different experience, traumas and memories inside one’s subconscious. Subconscious interprets and acts upon the predominant thoughts that reside within our conscious mind, whereas our conscious mind contains the critical thought function of our brains.

Play Video

Interview with Sarah.

In order to study and look into the subconscious of our storytellers without influencing it too much, we used an abstract research method “Draw with your subconscious”. We created an abstract painting, using only black ink. We asked our storytellers to draw whatever images they saw in the abstract painting. After they outlined different images, we asked them to tell us about the experience that had been triggered by the images. Through this exercise the subconscious surfaces. People who may never verbally share this information with someone, feel it is permissible to do so via art.  This exercise can bypass conscious efforts to hold back certain thoughts because it can provide containment for the fears of rejection and insecurities. In a way, this exercise enables us to look behind the “mask”.


Freud, S. (2001). Complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud (Vol. 5). New York: Random House.

Hospers, J. (2019). Philosophy of art – Art as expression. Encyclopedia Britannica. (Accessed: 22 November 2019). Available at: