Skip to main content

Design As Catalyst

Grace Marie Keeton

My STEM-centric family, colorful Latino heritage, and innate curiosity and tenacity have driven me to push myself to develop both sides of my brain.

I am constantly on the search for variety and the opportunity to grow by forcing myself out of my comfort zone. I am a creative people-centric strategist and user-experience designer who draws on research with depth in the human condition. I do this research in order to create a thorough framework for my work and feel that this gives me the ability to be flexible and adapt well to various fields. This meticulous methodology supports my growing intuition within design to act quickly and produce results.

I am passionate about driving design that has aesthetic value and theoretical depth. Coupled with my Mechanical Engineering background, which draws on my problem solving and critical thinking propensity, I am passionate about delivering user-center design. My ambition is to leverage all of my attributes and experiences to deliver product(s) that will enhance a category, brand and/or company while bringing joy to the ultimate user.

I am looking forward to applying and developing my skills in a full-time position. 

Awards: Distinction (highest award) on her Dissertation titled: “Everyone Fails: Exploring the vulnerable and uncomfortable taboo that is failure. How we might recognize it, address it, and move forward.”


Portfolio and Cover Letter


Degree Details

School of Design

Design As Catalyst

I strive to design things that comment on the human condition (i.e. what makes people unique vs connected, human vs inhuman).

I feel passionate about designing to help either ignite or process emotions.

I believe in being emotionally connected and invested in my work.

I design things with theoretical depth.

Designing for one person can be just as valuable as designing for a thousand.

I am inspired by design that taps into human humility and vulnerability (both as an audience and as a subject). 


The Movement of the Dancer — Movement was studied through experimentation and conversations with dancers. This was supported through the expert consultation of a physiotherapist. The goal was to identify key movements that could be replicated by the common user through interaction with an object.

Prototypes — Small-scale mockups were created to test different shapes, while larger prototypes were created to test different movements.


The Movement of the PORDUBRA

The Movement of the PORDUBRA — The user can adjust the brightness of the light by interacting with the lever on the left. The globe light on the right can be positioned as the user desires to allow for directionality in light that might compliment the large panel light on the left.

The name PORDUBRA is derived from the dance term 'port de bras' meaning 'movement of the arms'. Through years of training, dancers develop extensive knowledge and appreciation of their bodies. In scientific terms, they develop a heightened sense of proprioception and kinesthesia. These are the senses that allow us to navigate our world and allow us to understand the difference between movements. It is our kinesthetic and proprioceptive senses that allow us to stand still and run at full sprint.

After months of working and consulting dancers, physiotherapists, and reconnecting to my own roots within the world of dance, I came to the following conclusion: that taking a moment to appreciate the effect your body has in the physical world is of paramount importance. For this project, I created a tool, using light, that aims to amplify the senses of proprioception and kinesthesia while in the home.

The PORDUBRA is a lighting fixture for the home that invites users to orchestrate a choreographed dance between light, movement, and shadow. Red touch points indicate where users might reach for in order to adjust both the luminosity and direction of the light. On the right side, the user is invited to extend their arm in order to adjust a lever; the highest and lowest positions result in the brightest and dimmest luminosity, respectively. Equally, on the left side, users can take grasp of a handle, guiding a globe light along the rails and positioning it at whatever height might be required. Users gain physical and visual feedback directly related to the movement of their arms, thereby amplifying their sense of body.

Through everyday interaction with PORDUBRA, users experience a meditative moment, improve their proprioceptive sense, and practice kinesthetic movement.

Thank you to Kylee Smith, Ugne, and Zoe Birch for your help in producing this work.


wood, brass, acrylic, glass, LEDs, leather


71cm diameter | 4 months

Helios at Dawn

Time and Nature

Nighttime Ambience — For eight hours a night, (the average recommended number of hours of sleep for the average adult) moonlight is imitated through the front-facing light panel that gives the room a warm, ambient glow.

Dawn — For the hour leading up to daytime, dawn is imitated by shining a cool, blue glow onto the wall. The dichroic glass reflects a warm orange, honoring the insight that both blues and oranges are often associated with both sunrise and sunset. The blue tones, taking visual precedence in this case, have been shown to interfere with melatonin production allowing for the body to continue transitioning from night to day.

Daytime — Daytime is encaptured through a bright light reflecting on the wall. The light is specifically designed, both in temperature and luminosity, to closely imitate the colors of daylight.

Dusk — For the hour leading up to nighttime, dusk is imitated by shining a warm, orange glow onto the wall. The dichroic glass reflects a cool blue, honoring the insight that both blues and oranges are often associated with both sunrise and sunset. The warm tones take precedence, however, and do not interfere with melatonin production as the body prepares for sleep.

Lighting Cycle Details — The four stages of the Helios lighting cycle are the product of three different lighting sources and two types of dichroic glass.

Archeology tell us that Babylonians and Egyptians began to measure time at least 5,000 years ago. Our ancestors would rely on the sun to shine on sticks, and later obelisks, and measure the shadow it cast below.

Now, the most accurate clock in the world is measured by the atomic vibrations of strontium 87. These atoms tick at femtoseconds so precisely no second is lost over the entire age of the Universe.

From Edgar Allen Poe, to the Japanese philosophy of Ma, to Einstein’s Theory of relativity, time and space have been discussed and theorized to be wholly entangled. As we continue to fill the space on our clocks with more markings (signifying infinitely smaller increments of time), so too do we feel the need to fill this space with action and productivity. In this extreme reality, time has become arbitrarily constructed. Whereas our ancestors relied on their relationship to nature and the sun above, our relationship to time has been diminished that of synthetic numbers flashing across a digital face; the incessant ticking of a clock that blends into the noise pollution of the modern world.

Helios challenges this current reality by presenting the opportunity to reconnect to our instinctual relationship with time. One of the earliest forms of timekeeping and, as the Science Museum of London states, “the one truly natural units of time,” are day and night - phenomena dictated by the sun. Through this project, I drew influence and inspiration from this original time-keeper to encourage a stronger intuitive sense of time and time passing.

Through experimentation with color and perception, expert consultation from those in the field of Neurology, and feedback from a group of representative users, a lighting cycle was developed to denote four different moments of time: night, dawn, day, and dusk. Color, light temperature, and luminosity interact at different levels to indicate these different times.

Helios aims to renew our intuition and refine our connection to the natural world.

Thank you to Dr. Gabriela Keeton for your help during the completion of this project.

In future considerations, there is potential for Helios to provide a positive impact in the lives of those with Dementia. One of Dementia’s most debilitating effects comes from a patient’s loss of perception of time and Helios could be investigated to become a tool to reinforce an intuitive sense of time in those living with this syndrome.


Brass, wood, laminate, dichroic glass, LEDs, acrylic


21x23cm / 4 months
Design Products Publication — Follow the link to read the latest issue of 2MD.
Launch Project

Design Products Publication — Follow the link to read the latest issue of 2MD. —

Too Many Designers (2MD) is a publication by Design Products Students at the Royal College of Art. We would like to give you a glimpse of what we are thinking, not just making. Welcome to our second issue, Pandemic.

In Collaboration with:

Editor and Co-Founder
Editor and Co-Founder
Editor and Co-Founder
30 July 2020
13:00 (GMT + 0)

When The Place Shuts Down: Jan Rose

A series of conversations between students, tutors and industry leaders about design products.
Read More

Previous Student

Next Student

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • YouTube
Royal College of Art
Registered Office: Royal College of Art,
Kensington Gore, South Kensington,
London SW7 2EU
RCA™ Royal College of Art™ are trademarks
of the Royal College of Art