Relying on rituals

Bear with me here. I might end up babbling a bit.

I’ve been reading a lot lately about rituals; what they are, why we have them, and how they can be created/used by designers. A ritual “is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered place, and performed according to set sequence”.

I think all of us have little rituals we go through in our lives. Sometimes they move into being operations (getting into activity theory here), and sometimes they’re larger things we perform as part of a community. We may not even realize the smaller actions have become ritualistic: I make my bed every morning, in exactly the same way. It’s a symbolic gesture I go through to mark the beginning of my day, that I am transitioning from sleep to movement. It has gotten to a point that when I don’t do it, I feel off, my morning can be unfocused and that evening I’m annoyed that I don’t have a nice, neat bed to climb into. (I honestly hate making the bed, but it has become something I rely on in a strange way…)

Ok. Moving on, how does it relate to design…

In design, I think we also create rituals within our process. The people we always talk our projects through with, the coffee breaks we take at the same stages, the way we block off time to work at certain times of day, in specific spaces, with specific playlists.

Anyway…I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but I think it’s interesting. There’s some cool work being done at the Ritual Design Lab about rituals and design. They’re also looking at how corporations can use these ideas to create productive and engaged workforces. The whole idea of rituals being used by corporations gave me the creeps. I got a totally cultish, mind control, drink the Kool-aid vibe from it, but maybe I’m just paranoid….

Regardless, the idea of rituals as a tool really speaks to me…We’ll see where I go with it…