Sonder
Illuminating cancer stories

Project
Book

Role
Book design, illustration, art direction

Challenge
How can we uplift unspoken cancer stories?

Background
Much of what I’ve learned about cancer has been through listening to other people’s stories. These cancer stories surfaced experiences filled with grief, heartbreak, hope, and joy. Due to the sensitive topic nature though, many public-facing cancer stories are formulaic and lacking in emotional depth.

Solution
An in-depth series of accordion books documenting five individuals’ cancer experiences explored through visual and audio experimentation.

The Audience
Though anybody can benefit from these cancer stories, I identified three types of readers. Because I don’t have anyone close to me with cancer, I chose to design these books with the last group in mind.

  • Survivors
    Cancer survivors are hesitant to share their trauma. Hearing others like them speak honestly about their journeys can help them better understand their own emotions.

  • Caregivers
    Cancer focuses largely on survivors and neglects the unsung people who care for them. Bringing caregivers into the conversation paints a more holistic experience of cancer.

  • Those who don’t know anyone with cancer
    Knowledge gaps lead to many forms of ignorance including stigma and stereotyping. Education is the first step in acknowledging lived cancer experiences.

Survivor Questions

  • How did you react to your diagnosis?
  • How did people around you react when you told them?
  • What most helped you cope?
  • What were some of your most challenging moments?
  • Who did you go to for support?
  • What was your biggest fear?
  • What was it like to re-enter life after treatment ended?
  • How has your outlook on life changed? If so, how?

Round and Round

An accordion book was designed and hand-bound for each survivor and caregiver. It takes the form of a printed book because I wanted these stories to be viewed preciously. The accordion book symbolizes the cyclical nature of the stories. One side of the book focuses on the positive memories of the cancer experience while the other side portrays the tougher aspects.

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Visualizing Sound

Each book has soundwaves embedded in places where it was crucial to hear the survivor or caregiver’s story in their own voices. By incorporating an interactive element to play certain parts, readers can be a lot more engrossed in what is happening. Its emotional functionality is similar to that of music visualizers where following a visual graphic can help people be more immersed in the sounds they’re hearing by listening to cancer stories this way.

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Visual Exploration

All the imagery is a collage of newspaper and magazine clippings that metaphorically translates an instance of a person’s cancer journey. Because newspapers and magazines are culminations of a variety of stories from different people and viewpoints, this was a rich source to pull from. The collaged illustrations were coupled with typographical experimentation that emphasized certain aspects in the stories for readers to dwell on more intently.

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