I Miss My Pencil

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What if a doorbell could trigger the connection between scent and memory? How might traditional Chinese craftsmanship be paired with modern audio technology to demonstrate that “Made in China” isn’t always equated with “cheaply produced”? Could one person’s love of a material—specifically, cork—be exaggerated to elicit emotional response in others?

Chronicle Books and IDEO put together a 240-page glossy tome to answer these and other thought-provoking questions about what inspires designers to design. The authors, award-winning IDEO design director Martin Bone and IDEO materials expert Kara Johnson, complement each other’s thinking beautifully, approaching each design brief from the outside in and the inside out, respectively.

For the book, Martin and Kara divide their experiments into three chapters: Aisthetika (exploring the senses), Punk Manufacturing (merging traditional craft and mass production), and Love and Fetish (pushing the extremes of emotional connection). Each experiment starts with a provocative hypothesis, an observation of human behavior or specific elements of materiality, and ends with an object and its story.

Smellbell. Because scent can trigger memories, the authors were intrigued by the idea of giving the scents that permeate a person’s home more relevance to his or her life. To do so, they came up with a doorbell that automatically assigns a unique fragrance to anyone who rings it. Over time, the home becomes filled with the combined perfume of the people who’ve visited. Smellbell makes scent functional, not just atoms in the air.

Trademark. The ubiquitous “Made in China” label has become a euphemism for “cheap,” a fact that frustrated the authors. They sought to counter the stereotype by seeking out traditional craftsmanship and applying the same techniques to modern industrial design. They did so by merging the intricate handiwork of filigree boxes with an audio speaker. The result: an elegant twisted-wire alternative to a speaker’s usual fabric or mesh facade.

Screw Cork. Why would anyone love cork? Cork is an intriguing material that many designers want to play with—but often can’t, because it doesn’t easily fit within the constraints of mass production. But surely it can do something nobler than stop air from spoiling the Chardonnay. The authors decided to reverse the material expectations we have for a wine bottle. While they were machining the cork, passersby became deeply engaged, and the object elicited admiration from anyone who saw it.

With each of these experiments, the authors provoke new ways of seeing the objects that surround us. The next time we use, buy, or design a doorbell, stereo speakers, or a bottle of wine, we will regard each object differently.

I Miss My Pencil won a 2009 IDEA Gold Award and was honored in HOW Magazine’s 2010 Design Annual for photography/illustration.