A Guide To Being The Elephant In The Room

Social Design, Book Design, Research Project, 2020

A Guide To Being The Elephant In The Room is a design research project showcasing the effect bodyweight stigma has on one’s behaviours. It manifests as a large book brimming with instructional writing and diagrams, to present a rigid, detailed and seemingly unnecessary system of governance that I, as fat person, adhere to in everyday situations as a means to control my unruly body. Heavily inspired by manuscripts and biblical texts, this self-written mammoth book, with its maroon cloth bound hard cover and gold debossed title, insinuates a sense of authority.

Yet its bare spine would mean that if it were placed on a shelf with other books, its size would cause one to notice it, and subsequently dismiss it. To be fat is to actually be that elephant in every room; you are aware that it is on everybody’s minds, yet it often goes unaddressed. Thus, this book not only provides a glimpse into my thought processes, but also visually parallels a fat person’s narrative; this book in itself is also the elephant in its room.

As the audience interacts with the book, they will notice that there are gate folds and barrel folds only on the pages which feature illustrations of my body. As more people unfold and fold back these pages, the book will get increasingly thicker. This parallels the idea that no matter how hard I follow the rules specified in this book, the elephant in the room doesn’t actually change. However, it always feels like there is an external force, pressuring me to conform. This is characterized by the audience folding back the pages as they originally were as they progress within the book.

The overall layout of these manuscripts is rather overwhelming yet also insinuates a structure. I wanted that effect to transfer onto my book such that readers are aware of the weight, pun intended, of the instructions. I also deliberately used quite a large point size such that there would be approximately three to four words in each line. This produces a very static, step by step rhythm when reading the book which again alludes to its instructional nature. I also arranged the columns such that the two pages seem to pinch towards the middle providing an uncomfortable and squeezed feel, which mimics the sentiments of the persona of the book.

Furthermore, I deliberately set the type of each column such that it produces relatively harsh ragged lines on the right edge of each column. This actually contradicts the overall justified text that is usually found in biblical texts and manuscripts, as shown above. However, this decision was made to insinuate that this text is an oddity; there is something that does not sit quite right with the reader. It has a repetitive structure all throughout the book and there is a tri-pronged system, but the ragged lines suggest an imperfection that cannot be quelled.