Strange Little Habits
Parsons School of Design
Superstition is surprisingly common. If you are not superstitious then someone close to you is. 'Strange Little Habits' is an illustration book that talks about the origin and the psychology of superstition. It tells you a story of your own psychological bias at work. It's enigmatic, dreamy, and a thought-provoking take on what we might learn by looking at the 'little habits' around us. It guides you to examine your magical world of superstitions.
My grandma and I are very close. I spend a lot of my weekends at her place and her time is spent in pampering me with my favourite dishes. But something peculiar about her always intrigues me. She is highly superstitious. Or at least I believe that’s what it’s called. At times she yells at me for leaving the house immediately after someone has sneezed, warns me to never eat a twin banana, and cut my nails in the evening. I wonder what makes her think this way? What led her to believe all this? Isn't it superstitious behavior?
There were a lot of questions that I needed answers to!
I started by looking at the meaning of the term itself. The usefulness of a term is limited by the clarity of distinction it involves. Here various conflicting meanings have been included under the term "superstition". One is likely to feel that it's significance entirely depends upon the user's point of view. This triggered me to trace back and understand the history and relevance of the word.
Psychology of superstition
The narrative revolves around answering the questions- Why is superstitious behaviour so prevalent? How is the behaviour established and maintained? Is there a superstitious personality?
Readers should be able to recognise themselves in the behaviours of other superstitious people. My hope is that this book encourages readers to think and reason, read and understand and inspire change.
For many people superstitions are based more on cultural habit than on conscious belief. From a very young age our minds are taught to follow certain rituals and traditions. Apart from that a very few people are really aware of the psychology behind it.
Helping young minds differentiate and understand the root of such practices without blindly following them. Using storytelling to impart information around superstitions and using an illustrative methodology to educate about "the superstitious person" through strong visuals inspired by the traditional Indian illustrations.
I conducted a survey among 53 people on superstitions and I got some surprisingly interesting answers. The survey included asking questions like do you have any particular personal superstitions of your own?(it can anything any rituals before a big game, test or performance that you hope will help you triumph), Is anyone close to you superstitious? What superstition is followed by that individual?, Do you think superstitions are unhealthy?
Through this process, I was able to generate a few key insights.
It is easier to be superstitious than to admit it.
I understood that people might be resistant to accepting that they have a particular superstitious behaviour because of the "negative" connotation attached with that word.
Superstition is surprisingly common, everyone had a story to tell!
If you are not superstitious then someone close to you is- a relative, a friend, a co-worker who routinely invokes magical thinking in the hope of gaining some advantage.
"Grandparents are the most superstitious"
Many youngsters felt that grandparents are the most superstitious of all and that they keep telling them to avoid things to prevent bad luck.
How might we create awareness amongst the youth on superstitious behaviour?
Sketches & Lo-Fi Prototypes
Brainstorming through Sketches & Lo-Fi Prototypes. Keeping the how might we statement in mind, the goal was to come up with as many distinct ideas as possible and test them with the users.
Mid-Fi Prototypes & Usability Testing
Based on testing and feedback we decided to further build on three distinct ideas.
1. A virtual dating application for couples to do activities together when in a long distance relationship. The users loved creating lists, and doing tasks together.
2. A common digital space mimicked from the real world interactions for couples to share messages, reminders, thoughts with one another.
3. A shared calendar feature designed for couples in an LDR to avoid scheduling conflicts
After another round of testing we worked on the site map to finalise the flow of the application. This step included narrowing down and refining the features. Based off testing and research we prioritised the features through different lenses using the MSCW framework.
User Journey Map
Mapping out Ria’s journey with setting up a virtual date with her partner for a special occasion.
When we have a break at work, we call each other in the car, and then watch TV together at the end of the day using a website that lets us share screen. “It’s almost like being in the same room together”
During the interviews and research the quote above was something that stood out the most to us. That feeling of making the couple feel at home, warm and safe, being taken care of while being far away from one another was the essence of the brand.
As creating a digital room for a young audience was the heart of the product, this involved careful selection towards the illustration heavy visual style. Pixel art stood out as a neutral visual language that couples resonated with.
Shared calendar to avoid scheduling conflicts
Explore distance-friendly date activities!
Feels like home.
Learnings & Next Steps
This project for me was a lot about learning, unlearning and relearning a certain concepts I had in mind regarding the study itself. My entire one and a half month of research came across as biased and had to start up again with a blank slate. I had to re-look at it from a different perspective. I was short of time and had to make quick changes with the way I was working.