Hi, I’m Lexi, a New York-based graphic designer exploring the intersections of advocacy, education, and design.

Somewhere Feelings

How can we create a safe space to engage + process our emotions in our bodies for both caregivers and children?

Somewhere Feelings
was developed with DERT Books to guide readers through understanding how we can feel emotions in our bodies.

Inspired by child development research (Bodily Maps of Emotions, 2013), the feelings discussed have an associated action to activate or release their impact.

︎︎︎ Client: DERT Books
︎︎︎ Roles: Editorial Design, Writer
︎︎︎ Collaborators: Marcos Chavez
︎︎︎ Deliverables: Baby Board Book

Mood board displaying range of work b

Creating an original baby board book for a socially-conscious book brand.

DERT is a social enterprise that designs + sells books to fund literacy programs globally. They re-imagine and package renowned works of literature to connect families with reading.

As a book brand wanting to create regular reading habits generationally in families and communities, it became apparent that a text that resonates with adults and childreen would be important. After all, for baby readers who are engaging solely for sound and vocabulary exposure, the reading experience for caretakers is vital, especially for continuing to read regularly. 

Art Emotions Map, showcasing several small polka dots with half colors, associated with a variety of different feelings.

The world is a complex place where many feelings and situations arise that children navigate for the first time.

This research isn’t new and is still being unpacked in adulthood. Upon my research for my own interest, I came across a child development research paper, Bodily Maps of Emotions (2013). The research discusses activation points in the body for our emotions, and how they might be heightened or released in different parts of the body.

Reading about where these emotions occur inspired me to connect motion and actions in my book, creating a space to engage with your feelings.

The Art Emotions Map by Google Arts & Culture and UC Berkeley, which connects colors and visuals to the ambiguity of emotion, also inspired me. Knowing how important color is in child-based media, this work prompted me to choose a thoughtful palette that links to a discussion about emotions.

Image credit: Art Emotions Map (Google Arts & Culture + UC Berkeley)

With this in mind, I wanted to create a stimulating book for reflection and interaction with our emotions.

When I was a kid, even now as a designer, a favorite book on my bookshelf was Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. The fun colors, personification of the letters, and how the shapes interacted with each other was a core memory I had when reading this.

The playful illustrations and type treatments in Henri’s Trip to Paris also inspired how I would connect my own writing to the book's visual style.

I also delved into the work and process of Christian Robinson and Fred Rogers, who create engaging and emotion-driven work for young audiences. Their approach and research-driven initiatives presented in playful manors heavily impacted how I wish my story to come across.

Through writing a children’s book, I think I also wrote something for myself.

The writing process for this book first began with some light childhood development research, as well as re-reading and watching old favorites of mine and other family members.

Because baby board books are often intented for loved ones to read to smaller children (and themselves in the process), I wanted to unpack common emotions and responses that we can pass down, not even knowing.

Introducing emotions is complex, so I knew that color, expressions, and clear type were critical. Visually, I wanted to layer these tools together, allowing the book a longer lifespan for engagement, first looking at visuals, then processing and reading, and later reflecting on small details with the shape’s emotions or silhouettes.

Spread of a baby board book, with two hands and several shapes in-between. The text says, "Together we'll walk this road. Whatever you feel is completely okay, we'll figure out the rest of your day."

Somewhere Feelings

The title Somewhere Feelings developed after reflecting on a regular reminder I’d often receive–to release the tension in my shoulders. 

Though formatted in a seven-page baby board book, Somewhere Feelings is a concept I connect with often, trying to analyze how I’m feeling and where I’m holding those emotions. 

I hope all readers and listeners can begin to reflect and engage with this text, feeling a little more in tune with yourself.

©Lexi O’Neill 2024
All rights reserved, unless otherwise noted