In the intersection of heart-wrenching personal narrative and revolutionary design theory lies the “Resilience Chair,” an award-winning design by Caroline Williams of M.AD School of Ideas Atlanta. Conceived from the labyrinth of her own journey grappling with perfectionism and an eating disorder and sculpted within the profound ethos of Expressionism, Caroline’s chair represents more than a piece of furniture. It serves as a symbol of transformation and triumph, embodying the concept of rebuilding one’s life piece by piece. Delve into Caroline’s story and the creation of her Resilience Chair, an artifact of her journey that led her to clinch a New Talent 2023 Gold Award.
By: Caroline Williams
For this project, we were tasked with designing a chair based on synthesizing themes in both a personal story and a design movement. My process involved hundreds of sketches. First, they explored form. Then, they studied the synthesis of my themes.
My project began with writing a deeply personal essay-style story centered around my battle with perfectionism and disordered eating. I also researched Expressionism and wrote about themes of the movement. I did an exercise of mapping out these themes on an x and y axis and determining the zone of conflict in which they overlapped.
My thesis statement influenced my design: “The complex process of repairing ourselves and building our resilience leads to a life of purpose.”
I then did a deep exploration of how to represent this thesis statement with form. The main word I focused on representing was “rebuild” I chose organic-looking shapes that entangled and morphed together to build a complete profile to visually represent this concept. I sketched and perfected the design, then moved on to schematic sketches, finding exact measurements and proportions. I chose materials and created a fully comprehensive design brief, including complete schematics, precise measurements, materials, color selections, views, angles, and environmental settings to render the chair.
This project was incredibly special to me because of how personal in nature it was. Some topics are not always easy to talk about, let alone write a whole story and design a piece based on them. I found the process incredibly therapeutic, and it taught me to think conceptually on a new level. I will always consider this project profoundly personal and close to my heart, and it is one that I am incredibly proud of.
Caroline Williams is a designer from Richmond, Virginia. She attended the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, where she studied studio art with a concentration in graphic design. Upon graduation, she began working as a publication designer at N2 Publishing. After two years, she decided to continue her design education and attended the M.AD School of Ideas Atlanta, during which she also served as the AIGA Atlanta Student Board President. After the year-and-a-half portfolio program, she stayed in Atlanta and is now working as an in-house graphic designer on the marketing team at Brown & Brown.
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