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Disturbance _ A visual display of Migraine Aura

by Francesca Magliani

Disturbance is a research and the visual representation of the perceptions induced by migraine aura. The migraine aura consist in a series of symptoms – visual, sensory and linguistic symptoms – quite often characterized by hallucinations.
My name is Francesca Magliani and I do suffer from migraine. As a graphic designer, I have found easier to explain my problem trough images instead of words. For Disturbance I did not wanted to represent only my own migraine, but I wanted to make a tool, an object that could help to facilitate the communication between someone who has migraine and someone who does not. So I started talking with some specialists and with many people who suffer from migraine. Many of them told me that one of the most frustrating things was the struggle to try to explain by words, what only them could feel and see. The next step was to define a way to represent it. I tried different media and different styles. In the end I decided to work on the media I love the most – the edition – and I made a system of abstract illustrations. Every illustration represent the single disturbance. In some cases they show an evolution, or just a single photogram of it. They represent just one disturbance at the time, but migraine aura is often composed by several disturbances combined.
In order to show how the system works, I illustrated a series of “aura portraits”. These posters show the combination of different disturbances and represent the portraits of some of the people who told me their stories.
Since I do not have a medical preparation, I have been reading several books about migraine. The most useful has been Migraine, by Dr. Oliver Sacks. Migraine explains the disturbances in a very simple, but complete, way. So, since I was looking for some texts to combine with the illustrations, I took some abstracts from Oliver Sacks researches.
I wanted my edition to be as simple and clear as Sacks texts: Every element that compose the book is made in order to ergonomically adapt to the migraneur reader needs. The format, the amount of white and black of the pages, the weight and the color of font and paper. All these elements are combined to do not interfere with the contents.
Representing someone else aura is somehow like representing someone else dream, you can try to imagine it, but you will never live it. So, once the work was done, the biggest satisfaction for me was to see people’s reaction when they saw the edition. Many of them had an enthusiastic reaction when they finally saw their migraine represented on paper. And that is how Disturbance have become the tool I wanted.
To learn more about this project, please click here