Typography. As graphic designers we interact with the term every day, and many of us treat the fonts on our computers like our first born babies. One S.O.D. member decided to challenge the main function of type by designing «Failure Regular»— a font so unusable— we have deemed it a designers worst nightmare. 



With it, we want to demonstrate that our reading process isn’t necessarily disturbed by imperfect type, and that the quirks and errors that make up his latest font, are the same ones that give it charisma and value. Something easy to translate to our relation with others and the way we interact together as well. 





- Loneliness (Russia - Norway) 2015


- See how we feel (in collaboration with the psychiatric department of Oslo’s district hospital) 2016


- Up-down / Down-up (Norway) 2017


- The benefit of Failure part.1 (South Korea - Norway) 2017


- The benefit of Failure part.2 (South Korea - Norway) 2018


Loneliness / St.Petersburg State Polytechnical University (Russia)


The first scientific paper on loneliness can be traced back five decades ago. A psychoanalytic treatise written by Frieda Fromm-Reichmann in 1959. The work of John Bowly (1973) on attachment bonds describes the beginning of theoretical conceptualisations of loneliness. Robert S. Weiss (1973) framed a theory of loneliness in which deficiencies in social relationship were applied to contribute to feelings of loneliness. Weiss describes loneliness as “a chronic distress without redeeming features”. 


A second approach to loneliness has focused on social skill deficits, personality traits that do impair the maintenance of social relationship. Research in the social skills area has shown that loneliness is associated with a lack of self-disclosure to friends (Marangoni & Ickes, 1989). Loneliness is connected to depressive symptoms, shyness and low 



A third conceptual approach defines loneliness as “the distress that occurs when one’s social relationships are perceived as being less satisfying than what is desired (Peplau & Perlman, 1982). From a cognitive perspective it is clear that loneliness is not synonymous with being alone, being with others does not guaranty protection from feelings of loneliness (Cacioppo & Hawkley, 2003).



The group started to investigate loneliness and found it that people can experience loneliness for many reasons and many life events may cause it, like the lack of friendship, the lack of relations during childhood or the physical absence of people around a person. At the same time loneliness may be a symptom of another social or psychological problem, such as chronic depression for example. But what our research lead us to find out is that loneliness is a subjective experience and that loneliness is often due to:


1/ The way we are evaluated by others according to certain standards 

such as: career, money, network, health and success (Watson, D., & Friend, R. - 1969). We are constantly over exposed to success stories. It is expected from us, in our society, to have a successful job, a nice place to live in, a good looking partner, two charming kids and a great bunch of friends. We are supposed to enjoy our holidays in some idealistic places. We are supposed to be healthy, fit and sporty. We are asked to be opinionated about more or less everything, but to keep our thoughts politically correct. 


We are constantly reminded that our imperfect lives must be changed. TV-reality has helped us to believe that an improper life style must be adjusted and can easily be modified (the biggest looser), that beauty is more important than brain (Top Model), that love is just a game (the Bachelor, Farmer wants a wife… etc). 


For those who do not enjoy this type of entertainment the competition takes another shape. The evaluation is done according to different criteria such as intellectual knowledge, money, political beliefs and jobs. From the moment we are born until the moment we die we are constantly evaluated and reevaluated. We get asked to take a stand, but to do it within 

certain boundaries.


2/ A refusal from our modern society to accept to take care of the individual instead of focusing on the mass. Refusal or lack of resources? Maybe a little bit of both. Most of the psychological problems that we have investigated such as HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), MDD (Major Depressive Disorder), SM (Selective Mutism), Social Anxiety and loneliness are known problems, but in most of the cases the symptoms were discovered too late. Mostly because nobody had noticed anything even though the symptoms can easily be spotted: body language, lack of appetite, loss of weight,… etc. (Peplau & Perlman, 1982)


3/ We are made to believe that every problem can be solved quickly with medication. Everything can be cured with a pain-killer. There are drugs for everything, every type of pain or/and problems. Sleeping disorder: sleeping pills. Depression: antidepressant… etc. Long term cures are seen as inefficient and time consuming, or seen as the beginning of the end by most of the people: “I’m that sick, this is a catastrophe”. In a society where any part of the body, both outside and inside, can be fixed, long term diseases are seen as potential death traps or/and heavy 

psychological troubles. 



4/ The apology of the “zapping generation”; if I don’t like it, I can always zap it away. Everything is about entertainment, and serious subjects are less and less discussed within our social network. Everything has to go faster and faster, if a subject is slightly boring we zap it and try something else, something different. We have access to multiple channels, multiple devices, thousands of medias but we only keep “surfing” on the top of the wave, we don’t investigate. We know millions things, but none perfectly. We’ve seen, touched, tasted everything that is available in our surroundings, but we don’t take the time to truly appreciate or enjoy it. Done, let’s do something else. We act like unsatisfied collectors. But instead of items we collect emotions, adrenaline kicks, snap shots for our friends. In such environment dialogs are getting more and more difficult to build up. Our over-exposed brains does not have the ability to concentrate long enough in order to truly take part of a real discussion. Debates are totally stripped to the minimum to avoid offencing the potential audience. We’d rather drop a discussion than having a serious talk. We refuse to be confronted to our responsibilities. Zapping is more effective and does not involve any type of social commitment. 


Sociologically oriented theorists have seen loneliness as resulting from cultural factors and the structuring of social institutions. For instance, sociologists have argued that secularization, mobility, and/or urbanization contribute to the high incidence of loneliness in society (Slater - 1970).


When we reached this stage we felt we had started to frame our problem a little more precisely. We came out with the conclusion that loneliness isn’t due to social media, regardless what people tend to make us believe. Loneliness isn’t a frivolous problem, but a social failure due to our lack of empathy that can lead to heavy depression, social anxiety and sometime even suicidal tendencies. We also found that, in most of the cases, when a problem disturbs the establishment, which happens often, instead of being taken care of it is framed as a taboo or/and a nonsense. The “don’t see - doesn’t exist” determines our behaviour according to what is expected and accepted. As visual communicators we also realised that the fact that we are constantly over exposed to images, advertising, posters… etc, tends to generate a stressful environment which increases our need to block other’s problems and needs. A perfectly logical “self defence” mechanism.



The time spent researching and analysing the theme helped us to shape and to frame loneliness. But one of the most important outcome is that the group and the students were not embarrassed to share their personal feelings about this specific problem. They were fully aware of the fact that a fairly large amount of people do experience the same issue and that the only logical solution will be to talk about it, to visualise the problem instead of denying it. 

- See how we feel (in collaboration with the psychiatric department of Oslo’s district hospital) 2016


A collaborative project between the psychiatric department of the Ullevaal hospital  and S.O.D.


We were asked to visualise mental illnesses such as depression, bi-polarity, schizophrenia, etc, to trigger an awareness about these issues. 


During this project we worked closely with psychiatrists and patients as well. Our group had to investigate the impact of such illnesses in our society and to try to understand the lack of communication around these specific problems. Why mental illnesses are often neglected and categorised as being the result of weakness and mental instability.


 “The World Health Organisation has worked out that depression will be the second most burdensome disorder on Earth by 2020 and other mental health problems will be in the top ten…”



If the first research about loneliness were done in the late 60’s and the 70’s mental illnesses have been clearly investigated for centuries but it is only in the late 70’s that some of the most extreme treatments were considered obsolete and that people suffering from such issues started to be helped in more subtile manners (therapy). But today, according to psychiatrists, the problem is not solved since it has been proven that in most of the cases when someone finally ask for help from an official institution it is already too late (confidential source). The problem should be communicated in an early stage to be solved and/or cured. Our task was to inform people with a potential to develop light mental disorders in order to prevent the development of heavier health complications. We were asked to develop a set of posters that would be displayed in one of the biggest public library specialised in cartoons in Oslo, the choice of this location was relevant since it has been proven that people suffering from mental health issues are often heavy cartoons consumers.The group focused on the positive sides of mental illnesses, involving creativity as a part of the outcome of light mental issues. We tried to demonstrate that everything has two sides and that something commonly seen as a problem can easily be seen as a solution once Graphic Design principles applied and used.



During the process our work was presented to patients from the psychiatric department and their feedbacks were used to adjust our design strategy. In 90% of the case our work was accurate and managed to communicate what we first wanted to achieve: an awareness about mental issues and their consequences in our society.

Schizophrenia— or multiple personalities disorder, is an often severely misunderstood mental issue. Patients suffering from this state of mind often have trouble communicating what it’s like inside their heads, and so we embarked on a mission to visualize just that. The images were later shown to patients at Ullevål hospital, and their reactions were reassuring; “This is exactly how we feel.”

Our third poster series made in partnership with Ullevål hospital, is one that consists of three coherent images. A close-up look into one individuals experience of depression, visualized through a three-staged “zoom”

Bi-Polar: Rather than focusing on the down side of this health issue we decided to try to demonstrate how being bi-polar can enhance creativity. This poster was designed to inform people about the positive effects of bi-polarity.

- Up-down / Down-up (Norway) 2017


This project aimed to visualise what could be done instead of complaining. Visualising our daily frustrations to inspire others to do the same. 


All these little things we get annoyed at when taking the public transportation, shopping groceries, at work even. Would it be possible to use these instants-of-frustration to create something positive and to communicate the fact that being annoyed, complaining, generate insatisfaction on a larger scale that we can possibly imagine. 


Our goal was to describe the way we interfere with others as well, to communicate the fact that no one is perfect and that we should accept our own mistakes and judgemental state of mind before pointing the finger at other’s mistakes and misbehaviours. During this project we decided to take a different approach than the one applied during the two first projects, slightly more ironic and sometimes a little poetic as well. 


“The average adult complains for eight minutes and 45 seconds a day. in a lifetime… 140 days”


This project opened doors to a different approach regarding how we should communicate in the future. The same process has been applied to our other projects since then. This process could be explain as follow: “if we have fun while developing our ideas it will be visible in our final work and consequently more accessible to a larger audience”. 


We also realised that in addition of being displayed in art galleries our work shoudl also be displayed outside this classical set-up to reach more people and to convey our messages to a larger amount of viewers. 


This project can be seen as a “key project” as well. It allowed us to look back and to understand where and why some of our previous works were not as powerful as expected. For a lot of us this project gave us the freedom to develop other ideas without too many restrictions due to a static theme such as loneliness and mental health issues. At the same time it is important to remember that S.O.D. had been up for three years then, creating strong connections between its members and a safe working environment. The group had became what it was first to meant to its members: an open space, free of any type of restrictions and not subject to commercial imperatives. 

Fake or not. We are constantly reminded about the danger of so called “fake news” bit what it fake and what is real? It’s all relative according to specific point of views.

The happiest items of all: ballons. A visual allegory about how far one can go to dedramatized fairly harsh messages.



Closing remarks.


These projects have been a stepping-stone towards future investigations of societal or cultural themes may be put under a new light by using the means of S.O.D. By exposing societal issues as something different than an individualized fiasco, we close in on what has been written about critical theory through the means of critical design: ‘Critical theories aim at emancipation and enlightenment, at making agents aware of hidden coercion, thereby freeing them from that coercion and putting them in a position to determine where their true interests lie’ (Geuss, 1981:55). Perhaps that is why non-profit organisations, galleries, and educational institutions in Denmark, Canada, USA, and South Korea all have expressed interest in our S.O.D projects. Having said that, we expect no revolution in the social understanding through graphic design alone. But perhaps S.O.D will make a small, but significant gesture of emancipation to those who feel the need to share their thoughts and make a change. 





About the author


Yann Charles M Bougaran is an associate professor in graphic design at Kristiania College University, Oslo. He started S.O.D. in 2013. He is a former Art-Director, Creative Leader and Graphic Designer.





Bardzell, J & S. Bardzell (2013) What is “Critical” about Critical Design? CHI ‘13, Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems: 3297-3306


Corcoran, K., J. Crusius & T. Mussweiler, T. (2011) Social comparison: Motives, standards, and mechanisms. In D. Chadee (Ed.), Theories in social psychology (pp. 119–139). Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell


Fromm-Reichman, F. (1959). Loneliness, Psychiatry, 22, 1-15.


Geuss, R. (1981). The Idea of a Critical Theory: Habermas and the Frankfurt School. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 


Hawkley, L. C. & J. T. Caccioppo (2010). Loneliness Matters: A Theoretical and Empirical Review of Consequences and Mechanisms, Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 40 (2): 218-227.


Laing, O. (2015). The future of loneliness, Guardian, 1 April. URL: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/apr/01/future-of-loneliness-internet-isolation



Park, A. (2009). Feeling Alone Together: How Loneliness Spreads, Time Magazine, 1 December. URL: http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1943748,00.html


Perlman, D. & L. A. Peplau (1981). Toward a Social Psychology of Loneliness. In: B. Duck & R. Gilmour (Eds) Personal Relationships in Disorder (pp. 31-56). London: Academic Press.


Trampe, D., D. A. Stapel & F. W. Siero (2007). On models and vases: body dissatisfaction and proneness to social comparison effects, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92: 106-18. 


Twenge, J. M. (2014). Generation Me. New York: Atria Books.


Papanek, V. (1971). Design for the real WorldAcademy Chicago. 


Social Oriented Design (S.O.D) is an exploration of how design skills can go beyond commercial goals to create a social impact on the public. Approached with inspiration from critical design theory, and implement a multi-national collaboration group consisting of students, designers and teachers, the group investigates socially related problems and taboos through a plethora of creative expressions.



By Yann Charles M Bougaran


Graphic Designer as a “social shaper”


1 / What exactly does graphic design solve: What is the problem? Is it social? Is it aesthetic?

The design, if one refers to its etymology, is “project”. Its main goal is to shape objects: can I give my projects a shape to promote its communicative values? In other words: Is the purpose of design to communicate?(Vielem Flusser, Design Philosophy.)

Communication is the act of conveying intended meanings from one entity to another through the use of mutually understood signs. According to Norman Potter graphic design is a craft allowing one or another to communicate messages that can modify our social surroundings. 


Design evokes the logical conclusion of the analogy of design as language. But how can this pragmatic approach can be translated?

In the early 1920s, Otto Neurath developed a project that fully invested in this pragmatic dimension offering a perfect demonstration of the function of design based on language: The International System of Typographic Picture Education (ISOTYPE): rather than showing objects, it was a question of “exhibiting” social facts in the form of diagrams. To do so Neurath and his team developed a pictogram system to create a visual language easy to understand; “words divid, pictures unite”. The isotype lays the foundation for a form of design conscious of experience, finding the principle of its forms not in the subjectivity of the designer, but in the need to establish a relationship with a specific audience according to its social context. 


Victor J. Papanek challenged the design establishment and suggested alternatives to how design could be applied to generate an awareness regarding social issues (Design for the Real World - 1971). Papanek’s book introduce the idea that contemporary designers are squandering natural resources to design “gadgets”. He clearly suggest that designers should focus on using their skills and craft to solve environmental and social crisis. He argues the need for reprogramming of designer rather than re-evaluating the present state of “purchasing” consumer society. He emphasises the need for designers to develop a moral judgment and a social conscious that are relevant to the needs of people in the world today.   



2 / Can designers have an impact on culture? 

Can a graphic designer convey specific messages in order to influence our behaviours and our relationship to our social environment? 

Graphic design is not a science. Nothing is really defined. There are rules of course, but they’re more likely to be seen as guidelines. Graphic designers are problem solvers. To solve a problem one must understand it, frame it. To do so it means that the subject, and the idea, must be investigated as much as possible. Graphic design is highly connected to sociology as well. If a designer is not able to understand the environment he/she lives in or understand human behaviour, habits, life styles and social patterns - then a designer can not possibly design. Graphic Design can easily be seen as the craft to visualise cultural, political and societal changes this mean that Graphic Designers can also influence our perception of specific events.  



Based on these two fondamental principales S.O.D. is constantly trying to connect our craft and skills as designers to a non-commercial approach of Graphic Design to truly interact and to generate a awareness about specific issues to a specific audience.


One of the main topics S.O.D. has tackled is the one of loneliness, and for this project; we designed two posters. One visualizes how we’re more social than ever, yet almost always alone. The other portrays a hug— our most basic form of comfort. The two men hugging are meant to remind us of the cruciality of physical contact in our battle against loneliness.

Artists and musicians are notorious for revealing their inner worlds to the greater public— exposing both their soft, violent and vulnerable sides. S.O.D. is all about using design for social impact, but with this specific project— we deep-dived into how design can be used in a more personal way.

By visualizing lyrics from our favorite songs, we wanted to show how design can add another level of expression to personal experiences (others or our own)

Subway Connect was our attempt at sparking spontaneous interactions between strangers on the Oslo Metro, through graphic design. We placed pictograms and messages encouraging people to take notice of their fellow passengers next to the common warning signs inside the trains, but as it turns out, people aren’t really into being told what to do.

After watching our first take on the experiment fail, we decided to flip it, and pulled the reverse psychology card. This time, strips on the floor reading lines like “don’t talk to the guy next to you” had strangers share a laugh in an otherwise dull subway car.

We gave our cheers to the long-lost art of writing postcards, and set up booth at Grafill (Oslo) where people could write to whomever they pleased. The day after, we payed the postage and sent the cards on their merry way. We’re sure plenty of grandparents and almost-forgotten-about friends had their day made that week.

Can computers generate shapes out of words? Surely. But can those shapes then be interpreted back into the original word by the humans observing them? An experiment made possible through an online generator and later re-traced in illustrator.


People suffering from depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or any other mental challenge, aren’t any more responsible for their sufferings than those who battle with cancer. As a way to try and show mental disorders as something non-threatening (to calm both them suffering and those who suffer on others behalf), we designed a series of colorful, harmonic posters to be displayed in comic shops around Oslo.

A satire-like poster series expressing what annoys us the most on public transport in Oslo. Our message is pretty clear: “Don’t be responsible for someone else’s first world problems” and, nevertheless, better laugh than getting upset.

«Turning Negativity»— a newspaper that displays complaints from strangers (collected in the subway, on the streets, at work and around the net) in an alluring, new form. Recorded words of misery were processed by an online poetry generator— turning them into curious sentences, and images of trash were crafted into abstract artwork. The result was a piece of printed ephemera to remind us that everyone has the power to turn everything— even solid negativity, into something ravishing and valuable.


- The benefit of Failure part.1 (South Korea - Norway) 2017

- The benefit of Failure part.2 (South Korea - Norway) 2018



The benefit of Failure is a project started by S.O.D. in South Korea in March 2017. Our work is the result of several three to two days workshops where we try to visualise the benefit of our own failures.


Our main goal is to clearly state the following message: if you don’t fail you can’t possibly learn. Failure is as necessary as success and should be prioritised in our educational system and in our society. Its values should not be underestimated but lifted up and communicated every day. Trying to reach success at all cost is a mistake that stops us to develop our personal skills, that limitates us. Limitates us to work without even trying to develop and create new solutions to solve old problems. The fear of failures stops us to go further, to learn new technics, to develop ideas and to experiment.


“Most of  the time we hear about success stories, rarely the opposite. Is it strange then that failure became such a taboo?”


By setting up very short work sessions we avoid the students to focus on the end results, the craft itself. In three days maximum they need to develop a visual solution easily understandable based on the benefit of one of their own failure. The time limitation generate a shift in their working habits and allow them to develop ideas in order to solve a problem based on their research and their understanding of this specific given problem instead of trying to create a visually appealing product based on their abilities to design. 


The time limitation allow the student to be more flexible regarding their own expectations as well, knowing perfectly that they won’t be able to produce a wonderfully crafted piece of art helps them to distance themselves from the craft process itself and allow them to accept visual imperfections, visual failures. It results to a stronger focus on the message, and a clearer message as well since totally stripped from any visual artifices. 




When we decided to run this project in South Korea we had several questions in mind: can we talk about taboos knowing the fact that we will have to deal with language barriers and a fairly different cultural mind set? Can we communicate using our skills as designers and these skills only? Can Graphic Design be used as an international language to convey one societal issue and, if possible, to try to solve it?


The result of our workshop is certainly the best answer to these questions. The feedbacks from the students and the fact that we were allowed to set-up an exhibition at the Museum of Art (Seoul) as well.



A working group of four members consisting of students and one teacher was created in Oslo August 2013. A year later it had become a network of more than 30 people, which now includes members from Norway, France, England, Finland, Canada, South Korea, Belgium and Russia. 


South Korea, Seoul Women's University.
South Korea, Paju Typography Institute.