Task 1: Critical Writing

Poetic design is valuable as it introduces unfamiliar interactions and has the ability to associate a memory with an object. It creates an experience for users to be contemplative and sentimental and reconnect us to nature and everyday experiences through the use of metaphors. Poetic design demonstrates that an object can be more than just a function for the necessity of human needs but can also allow users to learn from and question the memories they make with the object. Through a sense of discovery users are able to engage with an object that gains more meaningful elements both psychologically and emotionally.

The industrial society as a whole aims to utilise design to create objects that are simply constructed to satisfy basic human needs. (Max-Neef, 2007) The economical implications of the industry, where replication and low cost production is prized, are significant as mass production aids the economy. (Benjamin, 1999) However objects could potentially lose their form as it they are only required to follow a basic function and therefore will blend into the environment and lose its meaning. Poetic design shows the urgency to evoke meaning into everyday objects with the pursuit of shape and function, in order for users to feel more challenged rather than just being focused on the basic satisfaction of the product’s efficiency. (Max-Neef, 2007)

Poetic design provides an opportunity for the user to be in the shoes of the designer where they are able to discover a problem and solve it. It involves a new way of thinking which initiates engagement when encountering the unknown. ‘By ingeniously mingling fragments for knowledge with dialogue and speculation, we are able to come up with heretofore-unknown images and ideas’ (Hara, 2007) Kenya Hara mentions how creativity and abstract development of the mind sparks from encountering these unfamiliar interactions. As users delve into the unknown they are able to evaluate an object from a different perspective and initiate a sense of curiosity and contemplation as they are brought out of their ordinary routine. (Hara, 2007)

Poetic design involves breaking down the components of an object to reinstall the original purpose of the object. (Hara, 2007) By understanding what is the ‘norm’ a new potential is made and designers are able to experiment and create theoretical and abstract conceptualisations of a new idea. These new ideas permit awareness and allow users to be emotionally and psychologically re-connected with the object. (Hara, 2007)

Two examples of poetical products that were created by breaking down the components of typical industrialised objects are Anniversary Matches by Kaoru Mende and Straw Straw by Yuki Ida. Both products are based on common-household products which are utilised for everyday use where they have become commercialised and their natural materials and history are unnoticeable or unrecognised. Both designers portray these origins by experimenting with the presentation of its material by making it resemble more of its natural form. These designs are able to illustrate these origins and hence add in-depth meaning by making the unknown known and add an experience through awareness and a connection with nature.

In order for matches to be mass-produced, they were transformed into wooden industrialised looking sticks, which hold no aesthetic attention and are only created to be used for its singular function. Mende however deconstructs the elements of an ordinary match in order to rediscover elements of its function and origin by creating a more natural visualisation of wood with ‘Anniversary Matches’. The matches are created to resemble twigs as they have small branches and stubs stemming out from the base of the stick. The twig is a dark barky brown colour and has a woody indented texture which furthermore makes it look like a tree branch. The head of the match is enlarged and rounded and sticks out of the twig, making it look like a red blossom. The overall hand-crafted object is aesthetically pleasing due to its detail and resembles natural forms which allow users to take a closer look and examine the product closely. He emphasises that the materials were made out of a living, ephemeral materials and introduces a representation of growth and development of time. This growth is then celebrated with the blossom (the head that is made out of phosphorous) when it is lit as users usually light up a match for a cause of celebration. Mende furthermore adds meaning by exploring the history of the match made by natural materials and hence emphasises the relationship between humans and fire over the span of thousands of years. (The Museum of Everyday Life, n.d) It illustrates how humans have been able to create an invention overtime in which they can form fire with a device using friction and wood which can fit in the palm of their hand.

Mende, K. 2000, Anniversary Matches, Rethinked, viewed 5 December 2016, <http://rethinked.org/?tag=kaoru-mende>.

Yuki Ida also re-designs straws with ‘Straw Straw’ as she also breaks down its components to bring awareness of its origins. She plays with the origins of the name of a straw as straws were originally made out of natural materials such as stalks of rye grass (Hollander, 2014) This was due to mass production and the dissatisfaction of using a straw (due to it leaving a gritty residue) where the material of straws gradually changed to plastic but the name stayed the same.(Hollander, 2014) By making a common household object in a different material, the object becomes foreign and hence the user encounters another unfamiliar interaction. They are able to contemplate the materiality of the straw and hence drink from a material that is grown from the earth and gain a more natural experience.

Ida, Y. 2009, Straw Straw, minimalissimo, viewed 5 December, <http://minimalissimo.com/straw-straw/>.

Once creators break down the components of an object they are able to integrate metaphors into their work. Metaphors are unique and valuable due to their social and cognitive usability and their ability to initiate reflection and contemplation. (Enard, 2015) Designers are able to combine multiple ideas together to make one integrated idea in order for users to look at an object in a different perspective. It allows users to be challenged and bring them out of their systematic routine as they are drawn to an unfamiliar and unknown problem and are urged to solve it. (Enard, 2015) Once solved users gain a sense of satisfaction and hence enhance their interaction with everyday experiences.

‘Blank’ (2011) by Sabaro Sakata is an example of a poetic object that utilises metaphors to enhance the quality of its use. It combines a usb and a cork jar which both have the same function to store something. However what is metaphorical about the design is that both objects store something in different ways. A usb collects technological data which can only be accessible through an electronic device. A jar however is able to store something that is only physical. By combining these ideas together, the presentation of the object is transformed and re-designs its meaning and experience with the object. The design illustrates the concept of a message in a bottle, a slightly romantic and poetic way of sending a note full of value. You would not usually find a message inside a usb valuable as it cannot be physically seen. By combining the usb with the jar, it uncovers a visual idea that the message is hidden and invisible in the blank space entrapped between the cork jar and the usb. This object allows users to treasure the non-physical and the ability to store data.

Sakata, S. 2011, Blank, saburosakata, viewed 5 December 2015, <http://www.saburosakata.info/projects/289/>.

In today’s society, producers may only focus on designing objects for basic human necessities in order to simply benefit an individual’s practical endeavours. However, integrating poetic design into products allows users to break from a normative routine and be able to learn from these unfamiliar interactions which make users contemplative and reconnect to nature and everyday experiences. Through re-designing the meaning of an object and the utilisation of metaphors, users handle the object in a way that serves beyond its functionary purpose. They will be able to connect with it, be challenged and explore the unknown which will lead users to be enlightened or educated and broaden their perspective towards metaphorical aspects of the world.


Benjamin, W. 1999, The Work of Art in he Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Pimlico, London.

Enard, M, 2015, See Through Words, unknown, viewed 5 December 2016, <https://aeon.co/essays/how-to-build-a-metaphor-to-change-people-s-minds>.

Hara, K. 2007, Designing Design, Lars Muller Publishers , Japan.

Hollander, C, 2014, A Brief History of the Straw, unknown, viewed 5 December 2016, <http://www.bonappetit.com/entertaining-style/trends-news/article/history-of-the-straw.>

Max-Neef, M. 2007, Development and human needs, Alastair Mcintosh, unknown.

The Museum of Everyday Life, n.d, A History of the Match, unknown, viewed 5 December 2016, <http://museumofeverydaylife.org/exhibitions-collections/current-exhibitions/history-of-the-match>.

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