About ritual design

What are rituals?

Rituals are actions performed by people that bring higher — and perhaps illogical, magical, and delightful — meaning into their experiences.

Rituals help people to make sense of their life-stages, to construct meaning at personal and societal levels, and to color their rather uneventful ordinary lives. They can take many forms: performed by individuals or by groups, in loud and dramatic scales or small and intimate ones.  Rituals often resemble a dramatic staging, with roles, symbols, props, and enactments.

What makes ritual different from any other kind of human behavior?  Barbara Myerhoff explains what sets ‘rituals’ apart from the ordinary in her seminal work on secular rituals. It is about marking out special moments, that have meaning, and which the people involved are aware of something special going on.

The most salient characteristic of ritual is its function as a frame. It is a deliberate and artificial demarcation. In ritual, a bit of behavior or interaction, an aspect of social life, a moment in time is selected, stopped, remarked upon.

But this framing is a fiction. Artificial, its very artifice is denied and the claim is made that its meanings “are as they seem,” as presented.

This applies to rituals large and small: the encounters and separations in ordinary human transactions are punctuated by ritual gestures or statements, announcing our agreement on what has occurred — we have met, been amiable disposed to one another, parted with regrets, and so forth. Something of note has occurred.

Rituals gestures announce instrumental activities very often. As such they call the subject’s attention to his undertaking. He is acting with awareness. He has taken the activity out of the ordinary flow of habit and routine, and performed the gestured to arouse in himself a particular attitude, demonstrating that his actions mean more than they seem.

Taken from Barbara G. Myerhoff, “Chapter XI: We don’t wrap herring in a printed page: Fusion, fictions, and continuity in secular ritual,” page 199-200 of the book Secular Ritual — emphasis added by us.


Why is Ritual important for designers?

Rituals are complex experiences as they embody a certain culture, whether it’s individual or social in nature. Understanding this complexity can serve the designer in a multitude of ways.

  1. Products play a dramatic role in rituals, they act as props for people to perform their rituals.
  2. Products can be crystallization of a certain emotion, value, or a set of beliefs during a ritual.
  3. The goal of ritual is to help the person to cultivate meaning from the ordinary. Meaning can be personal, such as self-fulfillment, or social, such as connecting to a cause bigger than herself. In either case, ritual gives a perfect frame for a designer. Ritual is the embodiment of meaning, and products can be an affordance to meaning.
  4. Why meaning is critical to the designer? Meaning is the currency of a product. If product fails to provide meaning, it lacks its essence and its existence becomes void. The essence of meaning can be practical, emotional, intellectual, or all of them together.
  5. Products provide stability, and a place to hold on to during the turmoil of life. Rituals are benchmarks for such a stability.

Products shape us as much as — and perhaps more than — we shape them. They help us to grasp and make sense of the real world. Products influence our experiences, either as props or as characters in our lives. We construct meaning based on the mediating power of products.

Ritual design aims to harness this power of products to trigger meaning for humans.  We believe that we as designers can create more meaningful products that bring values, deep emotions & spirituality into our experiences.


What are different kinds of rituals?

We created a matrix of ritual with four dimensions, along the spectrum of secular (non-religious) versus religious, and spectrum of individual versus collective. We’ve marked down some examples on the matrix to show the differences in categories.

Ritual traditionally has been studied regarding the collective yet religious contexts. This research initiative aims to open up the space for individual contexts.

ritual



Hacking ritual design
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Productivity Rituals, Workaholism, and Corporate Religion
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Ritual Co-Design and Transitions
A PhD student in Australia, Kirsten Moegerlein, has a very interesting research proposal that focuses ...
Ritual Design for Enchanting Transitions
A few years ago, Kursat and I wrote a position paper for a symposium at ...
IdeaPOP: a ritual design brainstorming app
We created the app IdeaPOP for our class at Stanford, to help facilitate better -- ...
The Value of High-Intensity, Extreme Rituals
The Puzzle of Extreme Rituals, is a class and stream of research at the University ...
How do you design a ritual?
 This post was originally published at our publication on Medium.   In ritual, the world as lived ...
Introducing Ritual Design: meaning, purpose, and behavior change
This post was originally posted on our Medium Publication on Ritual Design. --- Part 1 of a ...
‘Better Than Before,’ by Gretchen Rubin, a book on habits & behavior change
‘Better Than Before,’ by Gretchen Rubin is reviewed in the NYTimes by Hanna Rosin today. ...
Mary Oliver on How Habit Gives Shape to Our Inner Lives
An article from Brain Pickings on the power of habit, profiling the poet & memoiristMary ...
The Value of Time-Indulgent Ritual in Your Workday
The Value of Ritual in Your Workday - HBR. Peter Bregman has a 2010 article ...
How Ritual Delivers Performance: Lessons from Sports for Org Design
How Ritual Delivers Performance - HBR. Paolo Guenzi writes in the Harvard Business Review on the ...
The Difference Between Routine and Ritual: How to Master the Balancing Act of Controlling Chaos and Finding Magic in the Mundane | Brain Pickings
The Power of Food Rituals (and Pre-Consumption Rituals)
Nadia Arumugam writes on Forbes, in July 2013 on the power of food rituals -- ...
The Somebody App, from routine to bizarre
I was listening to the podcast Reply All & heard a story based around the ...
Can we design boredom rituals?
Here's an article from the journal Behavioral Sciences in 2013, by Shane W. Bench and ...
Graphic Design and Religion
via Graphic Design and Religion A Call for Renewal - Daniel Kantor - GIA Publications. Graphic ...
Design Anthropology for better product design
Dori Tunstall has a rich blog of insights on design anthropology, and how we can ...
Is This Your Brain On God?
via Is This Your Brain On God? : NPR.: Brain Interactive is a piece on NPR ...
Why Rituals Work
Why Rituals Work - Scientific American. May 14, 2013 |By Francesca Gino and Michael I. Norton ...
The Power of Rituals in Life, Death, and Business
via The Power of Rituals in Life, Death, and Business — HBS Working Knowledge. An article ...
Why Rituals Matter Part 1: My Daily Tea Ritual
Why Rituals Matter Part 1: My Daily Tea Ritual – Samovar Tea Lounge. Why Rituals Matter ...
The Importance Of Ritual To The Creative Process
The Importance Of Ritual To The Creative Process | Fast Company | Business + Innovation. Art ...
Lessons From The Crematory
Interview: Caitlin Doughty, Author Of 'Smoke Gets In Your Eyes And Other Lessons From The ...
Making Meaning
Making Meaning by Steven Diller, Nathan Shedroff, and Darrel Rhea gives valuable insights on what ...
why ritual works
Researchers Francesca Gino and Michael Norton from Harvard Business School conducted a research study on ...
Music Design for Rituals
NPR had a brief piece on choosing the right music for Wedding Receptions -- what ...
Design Your Life, self-mapping exercise
  An excerpt from a Huffington Post new year's article by Linda Tischler, profiling the designer/artist ...
New Jewish ritual design products
I came across Reinventing Ritual at the library, and just delighted by the title, borrowed it without ...
Design as Religion
A dig from AIGA's website, an article Design as Religion. Nick Currie makes an elegant reading ...
Positive Psychology & Wellbeing
Psychology traditionally deals with problematic situations and clinical cases. Martin Seligman, however, is a person ...
Spirituality in Wellbeing index
  A recent talk on developing well-being applications illustrates ways in which design can contribute to people's ...
Steve Jobs and Spirituality in Product Design
A reflective look upon Steve Jobs and Apple can reveal some untold dimension on spirituality. ...

Comments 2

  1. I work in large companies designing change strategies. ..I use performance, music and art rituals to open collective minds and prepare the ground for fertile imaginings.

  2. Pingback: Diseño de Rituales : Diseñando sentido en las experiencias de cada día – – TORONJA OJONA

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