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Simon Lloyd Lewis
Invisible Disabilities Tee-shirt
U101 Design Thinking
I am a resilient person living with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, an incurable neurodegenerative disease. Throughout this module, my goals are to gain a deep understanding of my subject and develop strategies to overcome challenges caused by periodic loss of hand and voice use due to numbness and mobility issues. Beyond graduation, I aspire to advocate for disability rights, raise awareness about my condition, and contribute to research advancements in multiple sclerosis treatment and support.
My project draws inspiration from Alan Moore's WATCHMEN and combines elements of British Sign Language and visual art. Using a photograph of a page from WATCHMEN as a starting point, I developed a concept of block-coloured, comic-book-style frames. To convey the theme of invisibility in disability, I incorporated the signing motion for "invisible" over the eyes. I then used Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and a 3D character engine to create a repeated image of a hand in a painted or stenciled Graf-style. The word "invisible" was added vertically on the right side of the frames in a bold, block-coloured font, influenced by WATCHMEN. The hand image was designed to create the illusion of movement, reminiscent of analog film frames.
I began with the problem statement “Design a Tee-shirt that effectively represents the challenges faced by individuals with invisible disabilities. The design should visually convey the hidden nature of these disabilities, highlighting the struggle of navigating a world that often fails to recognise or accommodate their needs. The shirt should raise awareness and promote empathy towards these individuals' unique experiences.”
The design process aimed to capture the experience of feeling invisible as a person with a hidden disability. To achieve this, a suitable font was chosen to vertically display the word 'invisible' in a comic-book/urban Graf-style on the left side of the frames. The bold, block-colour scheme was influenced by WATCHMEN. The hand image was incorporated to create a sense of movement, reminiscent of analogue film frames. Learning British Sign Language inspired the use of the downward motion sign for 'invisible.' To maintain clarity and movement, the hands were designed carefully. The Glaser Babyteeth Solid type font enabled the creation of a glyph effect, making the word 'invisible' visually dynamic and adaptable to its surroundings. Asymmetrically repeating comic-book-style elements such as hands, faces, and frames on the Tee-shirt highlighted the word's significance and centralised its importance. The face was crafted using Character Creator 3 and traced in block colour with Adobe Illustrator, with closed eyes emphasising the final frame's meaning.
My design embodies the principles of design justice, disability activism, and the 'nothing about us without us' approach. By prioritising the perspectives and experiences of disabled individuals, it conveys a strong and impactful message that challenges conventional narratives. It aims to provoke discussion about multiple sclerosis (MS) while avoiding clichéd and patronising portrayals, instead presenting a raw and authentic representation rooted in personal experience.