“The positive affect of this project on my life is of immeasurable value to me, personally.”

Christian Cowper (Designer & Co-founder, PHAT Design)


‘Baby Bowl Gang’. Starting out a just a series of glaze tests, they have evolved into the ‘Baby Bowl Gang’. Each is totally unique in character, and could be used from anything from an egg cup to a jewellery holder, to a desktop fidget toy.


Through project ‘Play’, Christian uses design to overcome personal challenges; showing how personal design is equally as important as using design to overcome other functional or societal challenges.

Depression and anxiety are extremely cruel, complex, and intensely personal mental illnesses. The experience of them as a whole is very difficult to put into words. Depression and anxiety are an awful composition of self-torture you cannot escape. At times, you are in total undebatable belief that everything you have ever done has been a worthless waste of time, and everything in the future is going to be even worse. As for the present, it can feel like you are trapped in a claustrophobic cave, too tired to scream for help. Christian says only looking back now can he see the danger that not doing this project may have caused.

The intention of this project was importantly, selfish. Selfish not in a sense of egotistical greed, but in a sense of a totally self-centred response as the only way to achieve anything from this project. This project was a totally personal journey. 'Play’ began without a specific goal, but to simply “play through design”. The freedom away from pressure gave time to explore, experiment, and experience the positive intentions of play.

Play is light-hearted and fun! Play has a freedom and fundamentality away from the rules and restrictions we encounter in real life. Fundamentality, curiosity, discovery, imagination, humour, acceptance – these are all principles expressed in play. Understanding, following, and giving in to Plays principles. Wholeheartedly embedding the principles of play into the design process was key to the projects success.

"If its purpose is more important than the act of doing it, it is probably not play."

Stuart Brown (Play researcher, psychiatrist)

Craft, an area balanced between art and industry, shares numerous mental health benefits with play: improving cognitive function, alleviating stress, and boosting our self-esteem, just to name a few. Christian followed a series of craft-based experiments through this project, playfully exploring different materials. Woodwork, ceramics, and metalwork; each of which have their own family of materials and making processes. Taking a step back from design to just play with each material offered almost infinite opportunities for creativity. 

Reflecting on the imperfections and acceptance that exists within crafts, there is a crossover connected to ourselves. People are thriving with individuality, understanding that things can be individual, imperfect, and incomplete gives us a never-ending scope to improve and enjoy.

Escaping from the seriousness of self-criticism, the now immense positivity this project has impacted on Christian’ mental health is evidence of play’s continued importance throughout our lives.