Hope – vast, small, big

Alastair Somerville
4 min readAug 22, 2020
Two Lego minifigs look at each other while standing on pieces of printed paper that represent ideas about Hope

I’m currently working on a talk and a workshop on the topic of Hope for EuroIA in September. Obviously, it is being held as an online conference. This means I have two constraints, particularly for the design of a workshop. Firstly, I must explain and engage people with ideas of Hope – an enormously broad concept. Secondly, I must enable people to participate in activities while sitting at work or at home with only a few materials to hand.

This post is about the current prototype of both the ideas to be communicated and the method for involving people.

Vast, small and big

Overhead view of 3 pieces of paper, a pen and two minifigs

EuroIA is a conference for Information Architects. This is the profession that are interested in the organisation of the words, content and concepts that underlie websites. For a workshop to be helpful it needs to help information architects help their own corporate customers and end users think about Hope.

The subject is simply enormous so all I think I can offer is ways of thinking about it from different perspectives. Not a single tool or model but multiple viewpoints.

Perspective switching is important when designing architectures that are meaningful from system and human viewpoints. Different perspectives creates different problems that need to be recognised and solved.

The three perspectives that seem helpful can be summarised as:

  • Vast capacities of human imagination
  • Small acts of human compassion
  • Big spaces of nature and community

These three perspectives enable discussion of lots of new ideas about human cognition, emotion and sociability. All these can then be used in patterns and architectures.

I’m not going to explain the workshop content in detail here. Come to to the conference for that.

What I am going to show is the workshop material. How to make something that supports learning and working together but can be made by anyone with stuff they have in their home.

Paper, pens and junk

Colour print version of Hope model on two pieces of A4 paper

I have been adjusting to online workshops in the last few months. Generally, I create printed materials that are shared by workshop participants together. That’s not possible now.

Above is a printed prototype of ideas for the new workshop. Even that may not be possible to use in September: I cannot be sure people have access to a printer.

The material has to be make’able by people with what they have at home. All I can assume is paper, pens and junk (coins, Lego and general bits).

Overhead view of 3 pieces of paper, a pen and two minifigs

The workshop material can be made with two pieces of A4, a pen and a few pieces of junk to represent people.


Vast viewpoint of figure looking across paper with ideas of Autonoesis and Awe


The large piece of paper covers the vast ideas of human imagination.

Postcard-sized sheer of paper added to discuss small acts of compassion

A quarter of a piece of paper cover the small acts of compassion


Half a sheet of paper added to show the big spaces for nature and community

Finally, half a piece of paper covers the big spaces of nature and community.

Each piece of paper provides meaning by its physical size and its orientation as the model is sketched and built together.

I will offer a print-at-home version of the material but the workshop will be run on the basis of making and sketching together with simple things.

We’ll talk about and share activities that engage with ideas that are vast, small and big but the foundation is in these pieces of paper.

I hope so anyway…

Do come along if you can. Hope is a interesting thing to talk about now.



Alastair Somerville

Sensory Design Consultant, usability researcher and workshop facilitator. www.linkedin.com/in/alastair-somerville-b48b368 Twitter @acuity_design & @visceralUX