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DRSelects: SIGWELL's Leandro Tonetto

DRSelects: SIGWELL's Leandro Tonetto

1. Please introduce yourself, your role in the DRS and your research.

Hi, my name is Leandro Miletto Tonetto. I am a design researcher with over 20 years of experience in design for emotion, health, and wellbeing. I was born and raised in Brazil, where I worked for over two decades before moving to the United States in 2023 and assuming the role of associate professor in the School of Industrial Design at the Georgia Institute of Technology. My background is in cognitive psychology, leadership, and design, and my experience spans both academia and industry-related projects.

I have had the honour of receiving funding from the Brazilian government for over a decade to develop design research aimed at fostering the wellbeing of underserved children undergoing hospital treatment within the public healthcare system. Currently, my projects focus on children and the elderly population in the United States. At Georgia Tech, I found a stimulating design community to help grow my work in digital technologies to support wellbeing. Also, I am still an affiliated professor at the Federal University of Health Sciences of Porto Alegre, Brazil, where I have students working on design research.

I became involved with the DRS over a decade ago. I have participated in most of the DRS and IASDR conferences since 2012 and have been an active member since then. At that time, I was looking for ways to gain an international perspective on design, emotion, and wellbeing; the DRS was where I found a community to share ideas and learn about these different perspectives.


2. Could you please give an introduction to your SIG, any recent events/outcomes and any upcoming events you’d like to share?

SIGWELL focuses on discussions surrounding the subjective aspects of wellbeing and health, along with happiness, and how design can support us to have a better living. Emotional experiences, life satisfaction, and mental health are among the topics frequently explored within our community and in the papers featured in our special tracks at DRS Conferences.

While healthcare remains a pertinent area of our discussions, our focus extends far beyond it. We delve into how design can foster people's wellbeing across various facets of everyday life, including education, commuting, relationships, and physical exercise, to name a few. Essentially, wherever people are, there are opportunities for designers to support their wellbeing.

Comprising myself and eight esteemed colleagues from diverse institutions, we have been actively engaged in discussions on emotion and wellbeing long before SIGWELL was created. Many of us initially connected through the now extinct Design and Emotion Society. We're thrilled to share more of our insights with you. For several years, we've organized special tracks at DRS conferences, and in the upcoming DRS in Boston, we're hosting four sessions covering topics such as subjective wellbeing, experiential wellbeing, health and wellbeing, and spatial wellbeing.

Please stay tuned, as we plan to broaden discussions in these areas beyond our next conference in Boston. We'll be hosting online events featuring theoretical and methodological discussions, along with case studies.


3. What are some of the benefits of being involved in the DRS through a SIG? How can those who are interested in becoming part of your SIG learn more?

I strongly encourage everyone to become more involved with the DRS. I cannot emphasize enough how much I have grown through my connections with colleagues in the Society. In general, being familiar with scholars and studies from around the globe has broadened my perspective on different cultures, allowing me to learn about diverse design processes and theories that were outside my comfort zone. This experience has made me a stronger researcher and professor, for which I am extremely thankful.

There are various ways to get involved with SIGWELL. If you're interested in joining the board, please contact me, and we can discuss collaboration opportunities to engage in ongoing discussions. Additionally, please consider joining our LinkedIn group, where we will keep you informed about upcoming events, discussions, publications, and other opportunities.


My selection:

In "Embodiments of compassion in caring and non-caring products: Exploring design for values with a multisensory approach," Lusi and collaborators discuss the complex relationship between compassion and product design, transcending the conventional boundaries of sensory perception. By incorporating compassion into the design process of both caring and non-caring products, the paper explores a path toward more empathetic and value-sensitive design practices. Through a nuanced exploration of sensory modalities, it offers methodological insights that promise to enrich the expressive potential of future product design, fostering deeper connections with users.

"Touchy-feely: A designerly exploration of haptic representations of three mood states," by Xue, Zheng, and Desmet, explores how haptic objects can convey the nuances of different mood states. Through meticulous analysis and experimentation, the paper uncovers the potential of haptic features to articulate the experiential qualities of moods, complementing traditional verbal and visual forms of communication in design processes. By presenting examples of mood-expressing haptic objects, the study opens new avenues for emotional and sensory exploration in design practice.

"Tinder and heartbeats: Wellbeing in the use of dating applications," by Salaric and collaborators, confronts the often-overlooked implications of interaction design on user wellbeing within dating applications. Through empirical research, the paper exposes the negative emotions experienced by users and advocates for a more mindful approach to interaction design. By highlighting the significance of fostering healthy relationships, the study underscores the pivotal role of design in shaping positive digital experiences and promoting overall wellbeing.

In "Fragments of frictions: A route to spatial manoeuvres for uplifting wellbeing in school environments," Stevens offers a holistic exploration of the interplay between spatial design and the wellbeing of K-8 pupils. Drawing upon a diverse range of qualitative research methods, the paper unveils the dynamics that shape the spatial surroundings of children and their impact on wellbeing. By showcasing examples of how research insights inform design interventions, the study provides a compelling argument for the transformative potential of design in enhancing the educational experience and fostering a supportive environment for children's development.

This selection would be incomplete without at least one paper addressing the aging population, and systems and services. I found this combination in “A systemic perspective on designing for well-being in dementia care: Learning from the case of Dementia Friendly Communities,” by Shen and Sangiorgi. Interestingly, wellbeing is addressed at a systems level, encompassing individuals, networks, and communities. The authors discuss Dementia Friendly Communities and elaborate on how to design to support people’s strengths (instead of symptoms and deficits), promote service inclusivity, and activate resources within communities. As the authors state, the results presented are preliminary, but this does not detract from the much-needed complex discussion they promoted. I cannot wait to see what they do next.

 April 25, 2024