Nurturing Wellness: A Design Imperative for a Changing World

Uday Dandavate
2 min readNov 30, 2023

In the past year, I engaged in dialogues with various online groups and moderated intimate conversations in different cities, seeking signs of change guiding our creativity purposefully. Synthesizing people’s fears, aspirations, and frustrations with the world’s current state, I’ve concluded that when framing innovative design problems, we must consider improving personal and social “wellness.”

Why is wellness crucial?

  1. The pandemic offered firsthand experience of a global public health crisis, revealing long-term physical, psychological, social, and economic hardships.
  2. Wars, ethnic conflicts, and the rise of divisive rhetoric cause perpetual anxiety.
  3. Politically fueled hatred and anger perpetuate fear without consideration for long-term consequences.
  4. Concerns about AI misuse are growing, overshadowing its potential benefits.
  5. Visible signs of natural resource erosion and climate crisis raise significant concerns.
  6. Trust in economic and political systems for marginalized communities’ justice, happiness, and prosperity is declining.

What does wellness mean?

Western Connecticut University defines seven areas of wellness:

  1. Physical Wellness: Eating well, exercising, avoiding harmful habits, recognizing signs of disease, and injury prevention.
  2. Emotional Wellness: Optimism, trust, self-esteem, satisfying relationships, and emotional control.
  3. Intellectual Wellness: Openness to new ideas, critical thinking, and motivation to master new skills.
  4. Spiritual Wellness: Guiding beliefs, principles, values, love, compassion, forgiveness, joy, and fulfillment.
  5. Interpersonal and Social Wellness: Good communication, intimacy development, and community contribution.
  6. Environmental Wellness: Learning and contributing to the planet’s health, protecting against hazards.
  7. Cultural Wellness: Developing awareness, appreciation, acceptance, and embracement of cultural differences.

Additionally, I propose adding “wellness of imagination” to the list. In an era where our minds are tracked and manipulated, safeguarding our humanity through imagination wellness becomes critical.

How do we factor wellness in design?

Designers have two key responsibilities for the future:

  1. Champion mindfulness in critical decision-making to ensure ethical outcomes.
  2. Harmonize diverse stakeholder perspectives for more inclusive creative processes.

Using the eight areas of wellness as lenses, we can co-imagine future scenarios and critically assess potential negative impacts, planning actions accordingly. In a market-driven, highly competitive, innovation culture, designers uniquely navigate technology, society, and wellness, offering a rear-view mirror to the future before it’s too late.

In essence, my year-long dialogues and moderations emphasize the need to channel creativity towards enhancing personal and social wellness. Global challenges like the pandemic, conflicts, political unrest, AI concerns, and environmental issues highlight the importance of this focus. Complementing Western Connecticut University’s seven wellness areas, the addition of “wellness of imagination” becomes crucial in protecting humanity from manipulation. Designers, with their role in championing mindfulness and harmonizing perspectives, navigate a competitive, innovation-driven culture while safeguarding against negative impacts.

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Uday Dandavate

A design activist and ethnographer of social imagination.