The Curated Thresholds of Vulnerability
Web Design, Interaction Design, User Experience Design, Content Writing, AV Management, Environmental Design, Research, Illustration, Gallery Installation

Designer: Brittany Latham
MFA Graphic Design Thesis
Boston University 

The Brief

The brief for this project was simple: could you find something you are critical of and make a body of work around it? Rooted by the Social Penetration Theory, also known as the “Onion Theory,” this two-part thesis explores human vulnerability. Inspired by the intentional disclosive nature of one’s environment and self, I further explored how our environment aids in unveiling our vulnerabilities through facilitating self-disclosure.


Through a rigorous four-month research process, I explored the dichotomy between vulnerability and the process of revealing one's self, either intentionally or unintentionally. Further studying vulnerability, the Onion Theory explains how we communicate are layered like an onion. The self is at the center of the onion (person), and the outermost layer is the most surface-level part of our communication. Vulnerability is the only way to reach the next layer of human communication by a process of input, or taking in information, and output, revealing information to others. Just as an onion might shed its layers unintentionally, I wanted to experiment with how our environment allows us to shed our layers by prompting vulnerability through a series of questions.

Applied Outcomes

  • This is a two-part thesis, in which part one was displayed in the lobby of the first gallery, the “input” zone. Here participants would draw a card and give a written answer to the question on the back of the card using the stand provided.
  • To stimulate vulnerability, I asked participants various questions – some are very surface level, and some have a deeper meaning. They would then take the card to the next gallery.
  • Participants didn’t know that as they were writing using the stand in the “input” zone, what they were writing was being live-streamed and projected to both a website and the “output” zone in the gallery.
  • To help maintain anonymity, the live stream is on a 36-second lag from the camera recording in the input zone to the projection in the output zone. This relates to the idea that we are more likely to disclose when it feels anonymous but don’t fully know what happens to our disclosure and how others will relate or react to it.

Design Highlights

  • The design system for this piece is highly fluid, fun, and playful. Custom “Pick Me” cards feature a wide variety of space on the back for participants to draw or write on.
  • Much like how we communicate, the visuals were created non-linearly, giving them a sense of randomness.
  • A live website showcases more information about the project and its theory. It also showcases a live stream from the hidden camera in the gallery directly to the website via a Twitch stream. This allows for a seamless remote user experience.
  • Neutral backdrops and paint allow for prompt cards to stick out.
  • Consistency in design, color, and font choices created a consistent and seamless experience between the “Input” and “Output” zones.


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