Skin Anxiety

UX Studio Practices / 03

Nov 7, 2020

Catherine Achieng, Damul Yang, Jinsong (Sylvester) Liu

Cover illustration by Damul Yang.

‘Skin’ is a wildly expressed topic in artworks. The brief articulates various metaphors: skin as a boundary protecting inner skeleton, a functional organ that can feel, stretch, breathe, or even a canvas that illustrates cultural meanings.

Design a way to expresses the skin/world interface.

Recently I am interested in the evolution of prehistoric species. The brief reminds me of how arthropods (like insects) developed a three-section torso and some differentiated keratinised skin. Another example is marine mammals like whales have scaleless skin because their ancestor had adapted to a separate land-based eco-environment. It seems off the topic, but nature always inspires us. Just like what we said in MAUX, the world is chaotic but unexpectedly related.

Concept: Skin Anxiety

Our initial divergent thoughts covered filtered window screens of architectures, textured skin from scales or cocoons, and skin-peeling phenomena. Finally, we merged our idea into the disturbing, stressful metaphor of dermatophagia.

Dermatophagia is a compulsion disorder of gnawing or biting one’s skin, most commonly at the fingers. This action can either be conscious or unconscious (Sampson, 2019).

Idea by Damul: Virus Filter Window Screen

Old & New Skin. Image by Sylvester Liu.


It is a compact two-week project, so we adapted the reflective practice from the beginning: Build, test and learn.

I quickly built a rough model with paper and disposal gloves to sense the size and emotions of peeling off ‘skin’. Surprisingly I could detach the glove wear it to get a more immersive experience. But peeling off the paper is not that satisfying since the poor finishing.

Paper and Glove. Model by me.

The second model used plaster bandages (recommended by Damul). It came with rough texture associate with aged, fragile and scrappy skin. Cracks at junctions started to indicate people to unseal but still need emphasising.

Plaster Bandage. Model by me.


The class could instantly understand and empathise our idea in the presentation. Alaistair showed particular interest in our colourful prototype. He highlighted that the design reversed sadness to feasting in moulting and offered to expand it into human size.

From my perspective, the contrast of the paleness and colourfulness emphasised the contradictory emotions. The core concept is clear but not well-expressed with the model. We will focus on refining a more explicit model and comprehensive experience next week. One idea is creating projection art on our body inspired by the artwork Body Canvas (Guda, 2012)3 and MIND MAP (Boissonnas, 2020)4.

Special thanks to Damul who is self-quarantined this week. It is challenging to work things out in this abnormal situation. Hopefully, we can meet safely and finish this project next week!

  1. Abstract: the Art of Design: Neri Oxman: Bio-Architecture. (2019). [Documentary] Netflix.
  2. Sampson, S. (2019). Dermatophagia: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 Nov. 2020].
  3. Guda, N. (2012). Body Canvas • Projection Art on the Human Form. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 Nov. 2020].
  4. Boissonnas, V. (2020). MIND MAP. Available at: [Accessed 7 Nov. 2020].