Research Questions

1. What is happiness and meaning?

2. How are these distinguished?

3. How can this distinguishment be
communicated through an unbiased platform?


Connie Hwang, SJSU Graphic Design Professor
Primary Advisor

Julio Martinez, SJSU Graphic Design Lecturer
Secondary Advisor

Philrene Toney, SJSU Health Science & Recreation Lecturer
Tertiary Advisor


When I was working at a grocery store, I dreaded it because it didn’t feel like a meaningful job for me. The main tasks that I really hated were bagging people’s groceries and stocking. One of my coworkers told me that he just stacks the groceries as if he were playing tetris. I began to realize that simple things like this can translate into a happier mood, regardless of whether it’s truly meaningful or not. My coworker looked at the same thing I viewed as a dreadful task as a game.

Regardless of what brings one meaning and happiness, both are achievable on their own; you don’t need meaning to be happy and you don’t need to be happy to have meaning. Although it is ideal to feel both, it may not be the case for most and that is what I wanted to explore.

With inspiration from my old coworker, I thought of using Tetris-like shapes as being a metaphor for my topic. I will use these shapes to communicate to people how happiness and meaning are translated in their life.

Survey Interviews

My initial idea before devoting myself to the topic of happiness and meaning was to explore how creativity is a major source of happiness. The main goal was to prove how everyone can become happy by adding creativity in their life. I surveyed 24 random people who volunteered through social media on the topic of creativity. After hearing the answers, that is when I decided to switch the focus of my project. I realized that meaning and passion play an important role in one’s happiness, but based on my experiences I found, it isn’t necessary. I decided it made sense to explore what happiness and meaning really are. 


How It Works

The exhibition site would provide an empty bamboo tray that the pieces would fit into. These small pieces would be collected at the stations set up in the exhibition. Each station presents a new category, and has a large-scale version of the piece represented by that category. On the large-scale pieces, the information about what the two sides of the piece actually means is displayed. Users would start with an empty tray and fill it up as they visit each station.

On the left is the possible pattern variations that can be formed when arranging the pieces. Regardless of which side of the shape is faced upward on the puzzle, a perfect square can always be formed. This is a fun and interactive way of solving a question that is two sided. The question that this exhibition is asking is: “how is your life shaped?”


The final outcome of the exhibition took many iterations, which can be viewed in my process book, as the user experience became the main focus. The current floor plan and design makes the exhibition efficient, visually intriguing, and intuative. The exhibition was designed to be a pop up exhibit for any of the galleries at Minnesota Street Project in San Francisco, California. The layout of gallery used in these renders are similar to the Ever Gold Gallery of Minnesota Street Project.

The entrance is meant to visually striking utilizing the physical environment. The doorway acts as the space between the logo and a shape that completes it; a subtle touch on the premise of the exhibition. For users that know about the exhibition, the large graphic will also help with wayfinding. For the part of the public that is seeing this for the first time, the graphic will be enticing and will encourage people to see what is to be displayed inside.

Everyone wants to be happy and no one wants to feel meaningless. This exhibition can help determine how our lives are shaped by these two qualities of life.

Interactive Screen

With the interactive screen, users can view how many patterns have been formed from other exhibition visitors. The reason for this was so visitors can leave their data behind and share with the community their response to the exhibition. Users will also feel a sense of connection while they are reading what other users have put as their source of happiness and meaning. The patterns displayed are scaled in relation to how many people identified with that pattern after completing their puzzle. Displayed on the left is a motion sample.


This project was the perfect way for me to utilize everything I have learned and to polish those skills even more. As I reflect on the process, I am reminded that I always have room to learn more and that is what I love so much about design. I am not sure what field of design I will end up in, that is also why I chose to design a broad project. I love estlabishing a brand system. I love exploring typefaces and picking a color palette to match with a brand. I love sketching and seeing products come to life. I love definining the user experience and designing the interface. Most importantly, I love the impact that design can have on people and I hope this exhibition could leave a positive one if it were actually built.

  2020 timeiswhatyoumakeofit