Design And Your Mind

Sophie Howarth talks to Thoughtful about beauty and the brain

Our founder Sophie Howarth sat down with the lovely folk over at Thoughtful to talk about design, the mind, and how wonderfully complicated it is to be human. Thoughtful is a movement of people who love beautiful things, and are on the hunt for responsible, mindful design. Read the interview in full here and share your thoughts @storeforthemind with #thisisthoughtful.

Thoughtful: So many of your projects focus on mental wellbeing. Why?

Sophie: I just don’t think anything is so interesting as the human mind. The brain is the most complex structure in the known universe. We have this incredible capacity for empathy, connection and imagination. If I’m going to spend my time thinking about anything, I’d like to think about the mind.

I don’t aspire to understand it fully, and I don’t come to any of this work from the vaunted position of having sat on a lotus flower or being a great professor of anything. I come to it as somebody who finds the relationship with my own mind and my own consciousness to be the most glorious and problematic and endlessly fascinating part of being human.

What does beautiful design have to do with a healthy mind?

I love beautiful things.

I actually had a go at thinking about the brain in other ways; I studied medicine, my husband is a neuroscientist and I spent quite a bit of time working for a think tank on psychological resilience. It was captivating, but missed a certain poetry. I really missed the tangibility of stuff and the delight of design.

I also worked in museums for 10 years, and I love that world but there’s this rarified thing, this work of art and you can’t have it.

I guess what I’m trying to create is tiny little works of art that you can have. I want beauty to be that available and that nourishing. 

Our customers are thoughtful people trying to live thoughtful lives, and learning what objects they feel will actually make a difference to them is super humbling.

What have you learned so far?

I set up School of Life when I was 30. I was ravenous for answers and input and knowledge from wiser people externally. Ten years later, my deep longing is to see if there might be some insight or knowledge or intuition internally. I’m learning to listen to myself and to look in rather than fill from the outside.

There's a humbleness to the incomprehensibility of the mind. 

A lot of our products are concerned with seeing if we can create a climate of quiet and provide a space in which we can be more aware of ourselves, the world and other people; to open up to what’s already inside us.

All of us are capable of amazing things. Our minds are already amazing, doing extraordinary work all the time and capable of being so imaginative. By just pausing to pay attention to that, that’s enough. I have no bigger mission or goal than to pay attention.