Orlagh O’Brien helps us get in touch with our emotions

We’re usually not at a loss for words to describe how we feel – as many of us experienced yesterday with expressions of love aplenty for Valentine’s Day. But what if we try to visually represent the emotions that are running through our body? That’s the question graphic designer Orlagh O’Brien was looking to answer with Emotionally}Vague, a project named “in honor of the people who don’t know how they feel.”

In a survey, O’Brien asked 250 people to represent five emotions – anger, joy, fear, sadness, and love – through words, color, and drawings of dots, lines and arrows on a human silhouette. She planned to gather the data and then figure out how to visually represent the responses. As the results trickled in, O’Brien realized, as she explained at PopTech, “there was enough data from what people were drawing to suggest patterns of feelings.”

To show those patterns, O’Brien layered the drawn responses over one another with enough transparency to obtain the collective essence of the each emotion. On love, Orlagh recently elaborated:

Love is spread evenly around the body, similar to the whole body sensation of joy. It has the widest range outside the boundary of the body, far more so than the other emotions, suggesting the greatest reach to the world around.

The results of 70 men (left) and 70 women (right) depicting love.

When it came to respondents’ feedback tying color to emotion, she lined them up in such a way that emerging sentiments were unavoidable. On the responses associated with love (final row), O’Brien surmised, “Colors chosen…are very stereotypical to the whole Valentine’s Day greeting card palette: strong reds and magentas and some vivid yellow, similar to those of anger, the other ‘passion’ emotion.”

From psychotherapists to dance groups to architects, Emotionally}Vague hit a nerve with a cross section of people who are now using the data to inform their own work.

Images: Emotionally}Vague

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