The illustration's concept was influenced by the Mood Meter app I have been using to track my color-coded emotions for this project. The emotions in the app fall into quadrants along the dimensions of pleasantness and energy: High Energy Unpleasant (red, angry), High Energy Pleasant (yellow, happy), Low Energy Pleasant (green, calm), and Low Energy Unpleasant (blue, sad). My participation in a Creative Quest whose March theme is “colour" also influenced to go outside of the usual monochromatic palette.
Each time I pick a word for this project, I’m always weighing several options. For “E,” I thought about the word “equity” because I’m working on better integrating a more equity-centered design process, along with resources to support it, for our design team at work.
When I dug deeper, I decided to focus on “emotion” for two weeks. I think I have a good sense of other people’s emotions and how to respond, but I can’t always articulate or express my own. It’s been a bizarre experience to learn as an adult what many privileged Americans have taken for granted. Growing up in a psychologically safe and financially stable home continues to pay dividends in life. While not fully developing emotionally may not have been my fault as a child, it is my responsibility as an adult.
I was able to have extra inspiration for this sprint because I’ve been part of a Creative Quest in March focused on the theme of “colour.” Combining color with emotion seemed natural to me for this project. Research confirms the relationship between colors and emotions, colors and behaviors. Brands use that research to influence our purchasing decisions. We intuitively use color psychology in how we dress to how we design our homes.
As I continue to participate in this month’s Creative Quest, I feel a tremendous amount of joy in noticing and seeking out color in the world around me. I’ve taken more photos with Dispo, a photo app inspired by the delightful experience of seeing what develops later from moments on a disposable point-and-shoot. Every day at 9am, I access my private and public photo rolls and smile at a contact sheet of color. I’ve even participated in a colorful pasta party with this club of curious souls.
In exploring the intersection of color and emotion, I was reminded of thermographic colors and mood rings. I was also reminded of Pixar’s film Inside Out and found this amazing graphic:
My Google search brought me to a blog post which led me to the Mood Meter app, developed by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. The Mood Meter complements RULER, an evidence-based approach to social and emotion learning delivered in schools and an acronym for the five skills of emotional intelligence:
Recognizing emotions in oneself and others
Understanding the causes and consequences of emotions
Labeling emotions with a nuanced vocabulary
Expressing emotions in accordance with cultural norms and social context
Regulating emotions with helpful strategies
Mood Meter associates colored quadrants with different emotions, along two dimensions of pleasantness and energy. Pleasantness falls along the horizontal axis and is our subjective mental experience how we feel from the most unpleasant at -5, to neutral in the middle, to the most pleasant at +5. Energy falls along the same scale on the vertical axis where it goes from -5 representing extremely low energy, to neutral is in the middle, to +5 representing the most energetic.
The app makes it easy to identify and label emotions and then recognize triggers and ways to regulate them. I tracked my emotions for about a week, with near-hourly precision on Sunday that became less regimented during the work week. With about 24 hours of solid recordings from March 7, the colors and emotions from that day would become a playlist, another sensory experience influencing and influenced by emotions.
Admittedly, I felt anxiety around putting together a playlist. I hadn’t done one in many years. With a busy life, I rely on Apple Music as my curator. When I could put my music insecurity aside, it became more fun to explore songs and see if they described my mood, weird or not. It wasn't about making the most hip playlist. My Sunday didn’t have a wide range of emotions so I almost wished it was more chaotic to create a more dynamic listening experience. That said, there's an interesting selection of artists from Fiona Apple to Janelle Monáe in this YouTube playlist.
Once I had the playlist, I decided it would be nice to create album artwork to accompany it. Each line represents an hour of time, color-coded according to Mood Meter's emotion zones. The black lines represent sleep.
When I tracked my emotions hourly on that Sunday, I discovered I was also tracking my time. An hour seemed to fly by and I often felt I didn’t do as much with that time as I could. While focused, I’d completely lose track of time and feel better about how I was using that time. It was definitely more challenging to track my emotions hourly during a work week filled with back-to-back Zoom meetings.
It was fascinating to stretch my emotional vocabulary to fit the range of emotions I was experiencing along the dimensions of pleasantness and energy. I often found I started thinking about my energy level before pleasantness as I identified my emotion in the moment. On a Sunday filled with chores, I found my emotions were far less intense aside from pleasant connections with my fiancé and unpleasant Sunday Scaries.
I now have a retroactively curated time capsule of sonically expressed emotions.
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