"As a culture, we are obsessed with the pursuit of happiness, but in the process we overlook joy,” says designer Ingrid Fetell Lee in her TED Talk: “How Can We Design More Joy Into Our Surroundings?” Happiness is a long-term state of being, but joy occurs completely in the moment. It is giddy and infectious and, Lee argues, vital to our well-being.
The feeling of joy may be elusive, but we can access it through aesthetics, through design. Joyful aesthetics change people’s attitudes and behavior. “And they help us understand why one environment makes people anxious and competitive, while another brims with sociability and tolerance,” writes Lee in her new book Joyful.
Joy is particularly lacking in the public spaces we seek to protect, particularly schools—the topic of this month’s cover story. Lee relates how the work of the nonprofit Publicolor affects underserved public schools in New York City. These schools were industrial institutions constructed with concrete and adorned with a tan and taupe color scheme. Publicolor enlists students to repaint the schools in bright, vibrant colors as part of its program to engage at-risk youths.
Though empirical evidence is scarce, the repainted schools report improved attendance from staff and students, a drastic reduction in graffiti, and better test scores. Perhaps most surprisingly, both teachers and students “consistently say they feel safer in a school that has been painted by Publicolor,” writes Lee.
Another example of joyful design that advances security objectives is the new Sandy Hook Elementary School. After the 2012 shooting, the school was torn down and rebuilt. The new bright, colorful, and spacious building has a secret.
According to an article by Chris Weller in Business Insider, the new open design works hand-in-hand with security. Students and visitors “pass through multiple security checkpoints on the way to the entrance,” writes Weller. “They also pass by several bioswales, which are angled landscapes that direct storm run-off and keep outside people at a distance.”
The 20-foot windows in the colorful atrium let in abundant light and allow staff to clearly see anyone approaching the school. Each classroom has reinforced walls and bullet-resistant windows. Parents still worry about security, but Weller notes that the campus “will protect all future students in what is essentially a very safe work of art.”
This issue also boasts other reasons for joy. In the spirit of continuous improvement, Security Management has added more color, refreshed the design of the departments, and added two new items: “Flashback” explores the history of ASIS and the security industry (see the first example on page 66), and future issues will explore the lives of members through the “Getting to Know” page.
In this season of renewal and new beginnings, we can all resolve to carve out time for joy. We might be happier and healthier—not to mention safer—for it.