Probing burn-out while burned-out: An exploration into combining autoethnography and prototyping design probes as a burned-out designer

Thumbnail Image
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
Degree programme
Master's Programme in Collaborative and Industrial Design
This thesis aimed to document how I, as a burned-out designer, functioned and operated during a six-week design project to create a prototype design probe with consideration for my health and well-being. Concurrently, throughout the autoethnographic journaling, I observed how journaling can support my work as a designer, the project itself, and my health. The guiding topics of this thesis are burn-out and its recovery, nature therapy, and design probes. The characteristics of burn-out were understood as both an occupational phenomenon and exhaustion; whereby exhaustion can combine with disengagement to work, which can cause health problems. I looked to understand ways of supporting recovery from burn-out and found there are three activity pathways: low-effort, social and physical. Thus, it was fitting to include nature therapy as a topic of inspiration, whereby it presented four helpful therapeutic approaches that fit into these three pathways. These tools for recovery can be useful as activities within a design probe. I then set out to complete a six-week design project where I documented my design activity while also documenting my personal experience through journaling. The outcome of this six-week design project was a prototype design probe that was comprised of three main sections titled ‘introduction’, ‘daily activities’, and ‘outro’; the probe aims to build understanding about an individual’s experience of recovery from burn-out. The empirical findings of the journaling were extracted with thematic coding, sense-making, and content analysis. This produced four thematic categories to classify insights from the journaling: ‘prototype probe’, ‘journaling’, ‘designer’, and ‘well-being’. Overall, the aims of this thesis were met, in that I was able to successfully document the six-week project’s process and learnings relating to my health and professional activity. I ensured my health was prioritised throughout the duration of the thesis. However, two of the thesis objectives were not met, they both revealed the limitations of my health and the scope of this thesis.
Julier, Guy
Thesis advisor
Veselova, Emīlija
burn-out, well-being, designer, design probes, autoethnography, research through design
Other note