Recommended ReadsOctober 27th, 2020

Intelligence isn’t just in our heads. It’s in our bodies as well.

Bonnie Graham
Bonnie Graham, Design Researcher

I recently learned a fact about octopuses that stayed with me: two thirds of their intelligence is in their arms.

“The majority of their 500 million neurons are in their arms, which can not only touch but smell and taste – they quite literally have minds of their own.” (The Guardian)

It got me thinking about the types of ‘intelligence’ we hold in our own limbs, particularly when we are trying to understand people and problems. Intelligence is commonly seen as purely cerebral, while the sources that shape our understanding – our senses – are overlooked.

There is the art of listening (aural sense) – perceiving beyond the words being said, hearing the pauses between words, the emotion (or lack of emotion) behind what is being said.

The art of observation (visual sense) – learning from someone’s body language or gestures, using visual aids to spark conversation and deepen understanding.

The art of tactility (touch sense) – using physical objects to invite communication in non-verbal ways, building tangible things to explore shared understanding.

I’m yet to explore taste and smell specifically in my research practices but I have learned that others are using the art of olfaction to identify, analyse and archive the smells of cultural pasts.


Subscribe to Paper Giant

Once a fortnight we share our thoughts on design-related topics, review thought-provoking articles and share what's happening in and out of the studio.

Three paper airplanes flying through the air into people's inboxes.
Paper Giant

Paper Giant acknowledges the Wurundjeri and Boonwurrung people of the Kulin nation, and the Ngunnawal people as the Traditional Owners of the lands on which our offices are located, and the Traditional Owners of Country on which we meet and work throughout Australia.

We recognise that sovereignty over the land has never been ceded, and pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this website may contain images and voices of deceased people.