Skip to main content
Visual Communication (MA)

Xinwei (Nina) Wei

Xinwei (Nina) Wei is a designer, illustrator and interdisciplinary practitioner from Beijing, currently based in London. She graduated from Kingston University BA Illustration Animation in 2022 with a First-Class Honours degree before her MA. Her practice uses visual communication as a bridge or translator between various disciplines to facilitate conversations in healthcare and well-being.

She employs the participatory design processes, moving beyond the convention of traditional illustrative image-making, using expanded illustration as a tool for first-hand, multi-method research rather than just a form of presentation.

Nina Wei with the large version of her Balance Me! toolkit.

"Our brains are hardwired to utilize tools... A professionally designed tool can assist you in emotion regulation, developing interpersonal skills, and being more focused....", (Dr. Ami Braverman, 2019, Material Psychology).

How to design a visual creation system that uses tools to help people break isolation, initiate conversations, and release stress? My current practice is about how visual creation systems and participatory processes can create conversational “safe spaces” in healthcare and well-being contexts.

A hand holding a Balance Me! topping part to create a landscape sculpture.
Balance bases, supporting arms and topping parts in the Balance Me! toolkit.

Balance Me!

Balance Me! is a toolkit designed for people with learning disabilities and social care workers. The toolkit consists of three component parts: a balancing base, supporting arms and topping parts.

Inspired by Matthew Ronay’s Organ / Organelle (2014) and the form of brain structure and pheromone that controls emotions, I combined botany and human body science to design each piece. I also incorporated colour psychology into the design, using gradient colours on the surfaces to provide countless possibilities for outcomes made by the participants.

A safe space is imperceptibly created to facilitate conversations while the participants select pieces and seek balance, similar to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which is often used to regulate emotions for people with learning disabilities. The landscapes gradually built by the participants pulsate with healing and vital energy.

Please see more information and the upcoming publication on:

A collection of landscape sculptures made by a group of people with learning disabilities using the Balance Me! toolkit.
A Collection of Works Made by People with Learning Disabilities and Social Care Workers in Believe in Us Activity on 07/06/2023
Believe in Us Activity on 07/06/2023 in Sherard Road, London
Believe in Us Activity on 07/06/2023 in Sherard Road, London

Balance Me! collaborated with Katie Gaudion and William Renel from Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design as part of the Believe in Us project, joining as one of the creative stations to initiate in-person activities with Heart N Soul in London.

People playing with the Balance Me! large-scale version.
People playing with the Balance Me! large-scale version.

Compared to the regular size, which is more suitable for self or one-to-one conversations, the large-scale version requires more sense of collaboration and is more focused on eliminating isolation, building community connections, and opening up collective dialogues.

How visual creation systems can create conversational "safe space" in healthcare and well-being contexts?

"System is a set of things working together as parts of a mechanism or an interconnecting network; a complex whole." (no date. Oxford Languages). So I define a visual creation system as a set of collaborative working tools that can help create visual outcomes.

A conversational "safe space" refers to an environment or setting where individuals feel comfortable, supported, and free to express their thoughts, emotions, and concerns without fear of judgment or negative consequences.

In the context of healthcare and well-being, visual creation systems can combine visual arts and interactive technologies to provide users with a creative environment and medium that can stimulate individual creativity, relieve stress and initiate conversations through visual expression, which means a conversational “safe space” can be created by the visual creation system.

A experimentation of designing visual creation system
Experimentation 1E01 is a set of letterpress blocks to create abstract patterns by connecting the line configurations.
4 experimentations of designing visual creation system
Experimentation 2E02 is an image-making tool in that each configuration followed the same design rules, which allows people to create simple or abstract imageries easily, can be used for both letterpress and decorative image-making.
A experimentation of designing visual creation system
Experimentation 3E03 improved the base design giving more flexibility to rotate each configuration, as well as engaging with more materials.
A experimentation of designing visual creation system
Experimentation 4E04 is a toolkit designed for children with long-term illness, which can apply to different children's age groups. It is a balance toy-making system which includes many configurations and four joinable balance supports.

The visual creation system is the material and basis for "making". So we should consider basic factors like material, colour, shape and scale while designing the system.

In addition to these basic factors, these four experimentations tested out other factors such as interactivity, personalisation and autonomy of the visual creation system, providing a theoretical and practical basis for Balance Me!.