Research Questions

1. Do people still believe in superstitions?

2. Where do superstitions come from?

3. Are supersititons perpetuated by personal belief?

4. Does culture influence supernatural belief?


Connie Hwang, SJSU Graphic Design Professor
Primary Advisor

Diane Lee, SJSU Graphic Design Assistant Professor
Secondary Advisor

Stuart Vyse, Psychologist, teacher, speaker and award-winning author in superstitions and critical thinking
Tertiary Advisor


Humans are naturally fascinated with the unknown, as there is a desire to answer questions that we don’t always have the answer to. It may be more accurate to simply say there is not enough information, but it is not always the most satisfying result. Superstitions have become a natural staple to explain the unexplainable in life, through tales of warning, lessons, or just facilitating fear. These old wives tales are not typically taught through means of traditional education, but rather passed down between each generation—through family, friends, and strangers— resulting in a long and culturally rich game of telephone.

As a result, modern day answers have developed to these antiquated stories and have impacted nearly every culture in some way —still rich in its original superstitious belief, despite our modern era of technology and information.

This can be seen in the forms of Feng Shui, Vedic architecture, and others. But there is truth found in these faith-based beliefs, if only proved through psychology and common sense, not necessarily the spiritual world.

Even in the present day there are superstitious beliefs still being cultivated and found true from self-perpetuating reinforcement. This thesis will cover the antiquated and modern versions of known superstitions across the globe through examples of culture, design, and life, its accidental perpetuation from the human condition, and how this results in a certain type of truth in the otherwise mythical history.


The proposed location for this maze was set for the San Fransisco Exploratorium, specifically the Bechtel Central Galley, as dictated above.

How It Works

You begin at the outside entrance and fill out a few questions on the digital beginning survey followed by your first step into the exhibition maze with a greeting on the wall. The following room is where your desicion making begins. You can choose to go left or right, depending on person preference and each room will have their own challenge to face and you are assisted by a small clue on the wall that reenforces what the room itself represents. You may only move forward, however, not backwards. The ending room will have a culmination of info for your chosen path.

Entrance/Entry room
The entry room serves as a two part path. You first are introduced to the design and survey on the outside of the exhibition front entrance followed by the first greeting room you enter. This is to allow enough information for the user prior to their experience.

Black Cat room
The first room choice-- do you take the door that is guarded by the black cat or do you choose the feline-less path?

Fissure room
The floor is covered in cracked concrete. The shortest path to the next door forces the user to walk among the breaks in the ground, but you also have the option to walk the thin fissure-free walkway along the wall.

Umbrella room
There is only one door choice for this final room, but you must choose how to move forward. There is a sprinkler system set up and running water above the exit door, and you may choose to open the large umbrella to shield yourself against the water, or walk through unprotected.

End room
When finished with your experience you end up in the final room that projects your picked path onto the floor. You can see which choices you made and how that compares to previous users before you. There is also information on the origins of each superstition.

Open umbrellas
During the Victorian Era in England, umbrellas were initially made with metal spokes and springs. Because of this, it was very easy to cause damage if opened in a small space, thus common folk to be wary of opening umbrellas indoors.
Stepping on cracks
In its origin, cracks were seen as a link between the supernatural and real world. It was believed that if you stepped on these lines, you would encounter a bad entitiy and poor luck unto you and your family.

“What we don't understand we can    make mean anything.”

— Chuck Palahniuk

Leaning ladders
Any open or leaning ladder ends up creating a triangle in it’s negative space. It was believed that this was a symbol of the holy trinity and walking through this shape would divide the spiritural connection between them and bring negative energy unto you.
Black cats
Black cats can actually be seen as good or bad luck bringers depending on the cultural origin though the common American version comes from Christian belief, where black cats were believed to be the real world form of witches or demons.

Illusion of Choice & Design

In the birds eye view you can notice that some of the rooms are duplicates. This is not a mistake, but rather was part of the thesis enforcement. Truly in this experiment there is no right or wrong answer, but rather what we believe to be the correct choice. This is to emphisize the idea of applying supersition in our daily life. We don’t know what is the right choice, but we do what what we believe to be true.


Supersititon is something we all have, typically more subconciously than concious. However, supersition is subjective, as it is our personal belief that translates our understanding. Design works the same way, as sucessful design requires the given audience to be able to understand what is shown. Because of this, universal symbols and nomenclature become tools of translation to the rest of the world. Without these tools of design, this exhibition would not work— there must be prior understanding to what these symbols mean in order for the space to be successful.

This thesis is meant to bring conciousness to the unconcious belief and provide a moment of reflection. The space is a commentary on how we think and allows an educational opportunity to understand the origins of such instinctual beliefs.

  2020 timeiswhatyoumakeofit