Grace Hancock, Fidget your way to a Better Brain

Can you believe that there are objects on your desk that can improve our physical and mental health?

Melissa Dunkerley Article 2


We fidget all the time, whether it’s scratching, touching our face or bending back a paper clip. We just do. The designer, Grace Hancock from the University of Brighton further develops this study of fidgeting and reasonings with the design of her own products.

Hancock mentions that often without knowledge, when we are stressed, bored or anxious we fidget. It helps us think and yet it is discouraged? That is why Hancock designed the series, Fidgets (2012) to act as a more approved therapeutic activity. In the series there are 5 products one you can press, rub, squeeze, scratch and spin. Each product relates to each individuals personal fidgeting choice. The materials are also made from materials that help heighten the ‘relief’ feeling you get from fidgeting. Hancock states that these product help improve physical and mental well-being as they work as a coping mechanism rather than a cure. As the BBC News (2005) stated that, “Psychologists found that children who could move their hands around freely were better at learning than pupils who were not allowed to move.”

For the ‘Press’ Fidget designed by Grace Hancock it is made cleverly from cut perspex, silicone and silver to create a light that you can hold. When you press the button it turns on the light.

Press, Fidgets (2012) Grace Hancock

The ‘rub’ fidget fits in the palm of your hand, when one rubs the black off the copper powder and resin, the fidget task is over.

Rub, Fidgets (2012) Grace Hancock

The ‘Scratch’ Fidget works when scratched to reveals a beautiful colour and shape. It’s outer layer is made from latex paint and the layers beneath are made from sliced resin and cast.

Scratch, Fidgets (2012) Grace Hancock

The ‘Spin’ Fidget can be held in the hand and has a pewter shape that can be spun around. It is also made from a cast resin.

Spin, Fidgets (2012) Grace Hancock

This ‘Squeeze’ Fidget is a Silicone form that can be used just for squeezing pleasure or to remove something. There is a small pewter placed inside and can be removed in different ways.

Squeeze, Fidgets (2012) Grace Hancock

All of these fidgets are symbolic of our natural fidgeting activities. They all have a roll in playing some stress relief, deep thought, anger, boredom and more.

Unlike Fidgets (2012), Stackable Lightboxes (2013)  by Grace Hancock hopes to manage a different disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder. The New York Times, 2002 stated that researchers from the Baker Heart Research Institute in Australia say that concentrations of a chemical messenger in the brain rise and fall in relation to the amount of sunlight. Hence for Hancocks design, which is made from cold white LEDs which produce the feel of bright day light. Users can play with them and also add and take away pieces based on mood. This is no cure but it can help control symptoms says Grace Hancock.


Stackable Lightboxes (2013) Grace Hancock
Stackable Lightboxes (2013) Grace Hancock

Stress and Anxiety is another mental health issue that can cause self destructive behaviours such as teeth grinding and nail biting. Hancocks, Repelling and Attracting Magnetic Rings (2013) is a collection of rings that can be fiddled with. Inside are two magnets that will interact with other magnetic objects. The red dot is metaphorical for the user to stop for a moment and relax.

Magnetic Rings (2013) Grace Hancock
Magnetic Rings (2013) Grace Hancock
Magnetic Rings (2013) Grace Hancock
Magnetic Rings (2013) Grace Hancock

Other fidgeting objects you may be aware of are just simply every day objects such as paperclips, pen clicking, string, rubber bands etc. In contrast to the objects above, fidgeting is not their purpose, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be played with.

Bent Paper Clip
Bent Paper Clip

This theme of poetic fidgeting is also seen in designer, Maggie Phoeng’s Spin Ring (2011), which is a silent owl ring you can spin around your finger, designed from the annoyance of loud fidgeters.

Owl SpinRing (2011) Maggie Phoeng
Owl SpinRing (2011) Maggie Phoeng

Even TwiddleNow are producing toys called Twiddle Desk Fidget Toy, which can be stretched, unfolded, torn apart and clicked back together. It is interesting how destructibility also plays a big role in the relief that comes from fidgeting. You know the one, where you tear off the edges of a styrofoam cup or doodle all over a nice clean page only to throw it away later.

Twiddle Desk Fidget Toy by Think Gek
Twiddle Desk Fidget Toy by Think Geek


These Designers are sharing their knowledge that fidgeting is therapeutic, because it is a natural human activity no matter what we are fiddling with.