Poetic design; connecting consumers back to nature.
With a rise in awareness all over the world, young designers are taught to design with a heightened focus on sustainability. We are constantly reminded that everything we design has an afterlife and the methods and materials we use have great impact on our own futures. Poetic design in particular teaches designers to develop with immense sensitivity and redesign in beautiful ways. While keeping sustainability in mind designers are often drawn to design using minimal and natural materials and in turn develop with a heightened sense of environmental consciousness. Here I will look at the poetic creations of Kenya Mende, Shuhei Hasado, Yuki Ida and Tom Gerhardt and discuss how their poetic designs, like many others, can connect us back to nature.
“Producing something new from scratch is creative, but making the known unknown is also an act of creation.” (Hara, 2007). Here, Kenya Hara refers to the act of “re-design” where objects are given a second life. They are redeveloped and changed to have a greater meaning or function. A model of re-design is Kenya Mende’s ‘Anniversary Matches’. The matches are created coating twigs in a red flammable ingredient that mimics the conventional match. They are designed in a manner so natural that we see the twigs still have remains of their small branches on them that are left as small outbursts. The matches’ show very clearly the beautiful raw material of a twig. There are many substantial ways that designers can develop awareness in everyday life and the art of designing by making the known unknown is often a very natural and thoughtful process. In the case of Kenya Mendes ‘Anniversary matches’, there is an overwhelming consciousness to the raw materials used by letting the natural aesthetics shine though and reminding us that the twigs final function will be the match before it returns to the soil where it came from. The thoughtfulness of this design allows the users to not only use the match functionally but to also connect to it emotionally and have a sense of care for the object as we are reminded visually of the delicate resources used.
Nature is all around us, it is apart of every day activities and often goes without any thought. We all have a boundless connection to nature, whether it be the care we have for animals, the love we have being close to the ocean or even the childhood memories of dancing around in a garden. Often in design today there is a lack of connection to nature, we are frequently looking for the fastest and most efficient materials and not at the meaning or purpose. “Making our lives better should mean making our lives richer ” states designer Christopher Gaul as he discusses the idea of reconnecting to the world around us. (Gaul, 2011).
Another designer who creates with great purpose is Shuhei Hasado, who created ‘Geta’ a series demonstrating that we do not have to sacrifice our relationship to nature with modern life and reminding us that memories and senses associated with nature never leave us. By “taking something we already know and making it unknown,” Hasado creates a great excitement to all our senses in his design, as users are reminded of the textures they have once walked on, and given a sense of being with the earth. (Gaul, 2011).
Likewise Yuki Ida’s ‘Straw straw’ prompts us to the process of nature and the importance we have in existing in a way that is maintainable. The design of the ‘straw straw’ creates a subtle awareness to the user by using a process of re-design, here Ida only changes the conventional plastic straw material to actual straw and by doing so brings the user a mindfulness to the straws lifecycle. Jun’ichiro Tanizaki also discusses the idea of “consideration to our own habits and tastes” when referring to the development of objects such as houses. (Tanizaki, 1977). It is exciting to think of all the existing designs that have potential to make the people of the world more aware of their actions.
In today’s society we are often drawn away from the importance to connect to the world around us, modern design has taken over to become a “story of the relentless pursuit of efficiency”. (Gaul, 2011). Designing for the vast majority of society means creating without a need to engage aesthetically, emotionally and philosophically with the world around us and this also means less thought into the afterlife of an object. Elizabeth Shrove highlights the consumer needs in her book ‘Users, Technologies and expectations of Comfort, Cleanliness and Convenience’ and states “it is useful to show how users configure and appropriate specific technologies but it is more important to follow the construction and reproduction of middle-range ‘services’ such as those of comfort, cleanliness and convenience.” (Shrove, 2003).
We are all aware the world around us is changing each day with impacts such as global warming rapidly becoming more significant. We see increasing amounts of pollution entering our waterways and insoluble materials being created leaving us with even more matters to clear. As designers we have a great responsibility in thinking about the complete lifecycle of our creations. We must design with care and appreciation for the world around us and invite consumers to become aware of the impact that they too have on the world. Designer Tom Gerhardt uses his knowledge in design to connect users to nature. One of his past designs was creation of the ‘Stone Mouse’. The Stone mouse, like the name; uses a stone as a mouse. The user has the option to use any stone they find, the stone may have a past meaning to them or may just simply feel good to hold.
The contrast to the technology we are using and the small movements we make when holding a mouse are heightened when using a stone. The mouse makes apparent that “everyday routine can easily estrange us from the beauty and richness in ordinary experiences”. (Gaul, 2011). Small details in design such as touch and environmental resources can easily bring us back to mindfulness and once again connect us to nature.
Whether it is obvious or not poetic design creates mindfulness and sensitivity to every day life. Designers have the powerful possibility to connect users back to nature and also to create and awareness to their damaging habits. It is of course not a rule that the designer is to only create in a sustainable or conscious manner but it is of great value to the minds of consumers and the environment if we do so. I believe poetic design has the ability to create awareness, bring users back in touch with nature and give objects a second life. The opportunity to create a rich and meaningful experience is evident in poetic design and we are reminded that it is worthwhile to reminisce in Buddhist’s believe “to be mindful is as simple as it is as challenging. But even a small moment of mindfulness in the midst of everyday distractions can be profound.”
Gaul, C. 2011, The Art of Everyday Things, pg.1–3 [of excerpt], Sydney, Australia
Hara, K. 2007, Designing Design, Lars Müller, Switzerland
Tanizaki, J. 2001, In Praise Of Shadows, Vintage, London, UK, pg. 9–10
Shrove E, 2003, Users, Technologies and Expectations of Comfort, Cleanliness and Convenience, England.
Ida, Y. 2003, Straw Straw, Muji Award 03, viewed 6 December 2016, < http://www.muji.net/award/03/eng_nwpiece01.html >
Mende, K. 2007, Anniversary Matches, If On A Winter’s Morning, viewed 6 December 2016, < www.ifonawintersmorning.com >
Gerhardt, T. 2010, Stone Mouse, Tom Gerhardt, viewed 6 December 2016, < http://tomgerhardt.com/ >
Vidani, P. 2015, Week 7 case study 2 [haptic geta] Shuhei Hasado. viewed 6 December 2016, <http://jolin1021.tumblr.com/post/36455281802/week-7-case-study-2-haptic-geta-shuhei-hasado>