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What is design for wellbeing?

Part of a series produced by VOLA, Wellness and Wellbeing is a thought-provoking short film presented by none other than acclaimed British designer Ilse Crawford.

What is design for wellbeing?

Wellness and wellbeing are two words that have, in recent years, begun to permeate our everyday vocabulary – in an irrevocable way. No longer can they be ignored as a fundamental part of how we, as humans, think, act, and interact. One major catalyst for the sudden interest in wellness and wellbeing has human-centred design; the now common-sense, but once profound notion that perhaps design would be capable of bigger and better things, if only it was anchored on meeting genuine human needs and desires as opposed to business objectives.

Ilse Crawford is a designer, academic, and creative director who has made it her life’s work to do just that. As founder of multidisciplinary design practice, Studioilse, the former founding editor of Elle UK works with her talented team to bring this vision to life, having designed spaces for the likes of Soho House Group and Aēsop, as well as sustainable furniture collections for Ikea.

Though she dabbles in a variety of fields, Ilse’s core pursuit is the ways in which the design of physical environments can influence people, their moods, and behaviours. “We spend 87% of our lives inside buildings, how they’re designed really affects how we feel and how we live.”


For Ilse, wellness and wellbeing is of the upmost importance in design. Focusing on understanding the real needs of people and lives that will be lived within a space before even thinking about aesthetics. This understanding distils down to what makes us human and makes full use of our innate senses.

“It’s important to design for the senses because we are primal creatures and we read our environment through the senses. They are still what connects us to the world no matter whether we feel that intelligence is a more valuable thing. I believe our senses are another intelligence.”


As we continue to live in a time of constant stress and hyperstimulation, more emphasis is placed on finding moments to just slow down and feel grounded. This collective yearning has seen a shift in the way in which bathroom spaces are perceived and designed. What was once seen primarily as a space for personal hygiene, the bathroom is now a place for retreat, rejuvenation, and self-care. It is through small, seemingly simple actions, such as turning on a tap, that StudioIlse provide moments that layer upon others to culminate in a life that is a bit more special. It is this subtly elevated sense of quality of life that ultimate, we know as a feeling of wellness.

Watch the complete short film Wellness and Wellbeing presented by Ilse Crawford for VOLA below:

On design is a digital platform created by Vola to shine a spotlight on elegantly resolved architectural projects from across the globe and share the insightful and inspiring perspectives of pioneering industry professionals. Wellness and Wellbeing is On design’s third film feature, so there’s even more juice where this came from. For instance, a personal account of the intrinsic relationship between Danish culture and design from Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen, founding partner of Norm Architects.



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