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    Salutogenic Design

    As the time that people spend in virtual environments increases, it becomes more and more important to design healthy “visual” spaces where people can still find some connection with nature. The need to humanize space has always been deeply felt by architects, for example, because they often experience what soulless urban design does to people. Spirit-crashing cityscapes, in fact, can cause “inactivity, depression, and loss of community[…].” Architects have propelled a movement to humanize design and are reclaiming their important role in shaping the environment to focus on construction that benefits the health of residents. This approach is known as salutogenic, which enhances health.

    Aaron Antonovsky, an Israeli American sociologist, coined the term “salutogenic” by combining the Latin salus, which means health, with the Greek genesis, which means origin. He focused on those qualities that make some people more resilient as they face stress in their daily lives. Space is a key part of the health equation because it deeply affects people. In her article “Beyond Drive-By Design,” Sharon VanderKaay, a Toronto-based architect, identifies those “vital, health-causing qualities” that characterize salutogenic design and help create human-centric environments.

    While meaningless urban design is legislated and often imposed on people (this helps understand architects’ quest), with graphic and web design, designers still have the power to educate clients and help them create a space that “enhances health and prosperity.” Health and prosperity, simply put, are the cause and effect of good design because a healthy “visual” space is conducive to reading, which is the way people consume content.

    Good design considers space as a vital element that enhances the user’s state of mind and, therefore, his or her ability to interact with content and act on it. White space, in particular, is the most important element of design because it anchors a message in a space that is not cluttered by blinking ads and too much information; it considers users’ needs to find a restful place for their eyes as they’re consuming content. It doesn’t occupy every inch or pixel.

    There is too much useless complex design around that pollutes our environments and complicates our lives. Such design defeats its intent of communicating with people and instead becomes an obscure code to decipher. Therefore, simplify, simplify and, once again, simplify to create a beautiful environment that is conducive to communication and is of service to your client.

    Visual clutter is increasing furiously. How content is presented to users, how users interact with content and how design mediates these interactions will become more important than just how well designers know the latest technologies and what sorts of techniques and tools they have at their disposal.

    About the Author: 

    I have extensive experience both in editing and editorial design. I have worked for a few years for the Berlin American Embassy both as an editor and graphic designer. My primary duties included writing weekly articles on traveling and European customs and creating a new layout for the official newsletter. I have been fortunate enough to contribute with my work to serve the needs of the Guhyasamaja Buddhist Center,where I did my first internship. I continued working for a non-profit organization, Partners for Tibetan Education, where I worked on small projects. I like working on a variety of projects where I can always learn something new while still helping shape a project with my skills: editorial design, illustration, writing, and foreign languages. Illustration is another passion, too, where I can experiment with colors and patterns freely. My work as an illustrator has been awarded by Pentel.

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