A JOURNEY WITH CARDBOARD

Yoshi Torralva

From carrying a pizza box to lifting the box of a new iPhone, we interact with cardboard every day. Since it’s invention in the early 1800’s, cardboard has shaped the way present objects. Today, we often overlook the varied interpretations of cardboard as it has become the foundation of our constantly evolving society.

After cutting numerous paper pieces from vibrant French Paper from the intersections project, I was told to get a large piece of 32" by 40" Corrugated Cardboard (Check out my Intersections medium post!) Corrugated cardboard is not just regular cardboard but it has a wavy inner piece, called a flute, that gives it rigidity.

TRANSFORMING CORRUGATED CARDBOARD INTO A GIFT CARRIER

Unlike the project before, this project revolves around using a material that can both hold an object and be presentable at a dinner party. Thus, I have to consider both aspects of functionality and visual engagement when manipulating the cardboard.

Wait, what is my object that I’ll have to carry? A potted herb!

Stacie passed around a hat with slips of papers containing objects like doughnuts, bottled vinegar, macaroons, and epi bread. At first, I felt a little off put as I will simultaneously be working on two projects related to plants. However, I started to realize the possible opportunities to harmonize something that is so structured and natural. While Stacie and Steve were talking in class, I started sketching possible ideas alongside my notes. Right before we broke out, Stacie said not get too far ahead and just focus on making the corners and the cardboard reinterpretation of my object…

CREATING CUBES OUT OF CARDBOARD

Today, I’m going to make two corners made out of cardboard. The catch is that I need to make one with and without adhesives. I decide to take on the one without the adhesive first as it seemed to be more challenging. I could take multiple approaches to how this corner can be made. In my sketchbook, I start playing with the idea of creating positive/negative cutouts to interlock at the base. At first, I wanted to create a circle but trying to match that with the negative side of the cardboard might lead it to fall apart. This is why I moved in the direction of combining rectangular shapes. I chose this mainly to allow for multiple connecting points at the base to reduce the risk of it collapsing.

To make this, I first cut out a 12" by 12" square and then divided into four pieces. The bottom left would be the negative cutout and the bottom right would be the positive cutout. Once the pieces were cut out, I pressed the bottom pieces together but I came into an issue. I cut too much or little causing an uneven lock. This caused the flute to bend. Next time, I would copy the negative over the positive to create more of a precise match instead of using measurements.

The adhesive corner had less of an issue for sure. I created one 6" by 12" and one 6" by 6" piece. I folded the rectangular piece in half which allowed me to hot glue the square piece at one of the ends.

Visual notes on first critique for cardboard corners

TRANSLATING A POTTED HERB INTO CARDBOARD

Stacie and Steve supplied a plastic version of a potted herb. Although I did like the boxy pot, I didn’t feel connected to it. Thus, I went on my merry way to home depot to give a potted basil a new home in the studio! On my way there, I was contemplating the many options I had for herbs but, Basil seemed like the right choice. As I kid, I remember receiving basil at a dinner party. I would pluck the basil leaves off and give it to my mom to make food. Unfortunately, when I made the decision to get Basil, Home Depot didn’t have any. What I did do there, however, was spend thirty minutes looking at pots for my unknown basil. I made the decision to get a medium-sized orange terra cotta pot. Once I got to Trader Joes with my new pot, I spent another fifteen minutes looking for the right basil. Trying to remember what my mom told me about what healthy basil looked like, I picked one and headed back to the studio.

So many pots! What do I choose?

In case you were wondering, what is the plant’s name? It’s Viscera. Deriving from the word Visceral, I wanted my gift to create a visceral feeling when it is being received.

The cubes helped as a warmup to the characteristics of corrugated cardboard. Now, I have to manipulate the cardboard in a very different way to emulate basil. One of the biggest issues I started out with were the leaves. Cardboard isn’t meant to be free-flowing. So before I even sketched out any ideas, I wanted to analyze the basil itself. I looked at the way the leaves were shaped and how the grew at the stem. When comparing basil to my Pokeweed in my visualizing class, they are quite different in the way they grow. The leaves of the basil grow in fours and create an umbrella-like structure at different levels. Each leaf looked as if it was cradling a sphere

Sidenote: In a class called Visualizing, I choose a plant called a Pokeweed in Schenley Park. Since the start of school up until early October, I analyzed my plant to communicate it in several mediums: Wet India Ink, Prismacolor Stick, and Markers to capture the essence of the the plant.

I was way too overly ambitious with this corrugated cardboard basil. At first, I wanted to create two panels of basil silhouettes that would interlock together. When I started cutting one panel out, I came to a huge dilemma. No matter how sharp my knife was, the corrugated section of the cardboard made the leaves bend and break. My intent for hyperrealism within the basil was a mission failed so then I went back to sketch out, simpler ways, to communicate the essence of Viscera, the potted basil.

Before making a larger model, I made a smaller version of the leaves.

With this next version, I wanted to create individual leaves. One distinct feature about basil leaves is how they are shaped like upside-down cups. At first, I had flat silhouettes of the leaf but I wanted to embody the true form of it. So, I cut a long triangle piece at the bottom of the leaf; then I used hot glue to conjoin the ends to make the cardboard have a 3D like quality. For the stems, I needed to create enough strength and surface area for the leaves to be glued on. I chose to roll the corrugated cardboard with the flutes in a vertical orientation. From the previous idea of using interlocking panels to create a structure, I applied this to the pot. I cut out two trapezoid pieces that had slits starting from the top or bottom to lock. Then I added two circular cutouts, at different sizes, to support the locking pieces.

The main supporting part within this cardboard interpretation of the potted basil is hot glue. The leaves are connected to the stem with it and stems are attached to the base with it. If I were to make another model, I would like to explore ways in which I can stabilize the stems without glue as it was tricky to hold while it was drying.

My classmates’ interpretations of how they created corners were really insightful. Some used weaving techniques and others cut precise divots for their corners.

THE FIRST SET OF PROTOTYPES

Now, I can start making a carrier! For the first set of prototypes, I was given this set of criteria:

  • Use no more than a 32" by 40" of corrugated cardboard per carrier
  • Allowed to use adhesives such as hot glue and tape
  • Implement criteria on the given the Studio Design Project 2 website
First page + supplemental page of handbag carriers

As you can see in my first page of sketching, I mainly focused on the visual side of the carrier. On the top left corner, I sketched out a boxy carrier that had an opening on the top for the leaves to be exposed. Although I felt that this was doable, it seemed like any ordinary box that has already been mass-produced. So for the rest of the page, I wanted to focus on forms that were less boxy. In the middle of the page, I drew carriers that had purse like qualities. The trapezoid shaped carrier is the best example of this exploration. I began to experiment with the possibility of creating a clamshell out of cardboard

The idea of being able to carry a potted herb in a bag like form was something interesting that I wanted to explore. Continuing with the same trapezoid form, I started looking at possible ways the cardboard could be formed to hold the base of the pot.

I envisioned the cardboard being folded to create a triangle with an opening in the middle. The biggest problem I found within this idea was that it looked easy to fall out. More than half the plant would be exposed potentially leading the plant to get hit. This is why I decided to hold off on this and try to think of something else.

Within this same page, I experimented with the possibility of using circles as a foundational element. Circular forms aren’t all that associated with corrugated cardboard so I thought that this would be a neat way to challenge the form of corrugated cardboard. In the middle page, I thought about trying to integrate a large circle into the same trapezoid but it seemed unnecessary. This is why I decided to use make cardboard circles as a framing device and as a rocker for the plant. The reason why I wanted to make the plant rock back and forth was to show a sense of weightlessness and visual surprise towards the packaging. It would also be used as handles and frame Viscera the potted basil as well. The base of the two circles will be held together by a box like piece that has a hole on the top to support the base of the pot.

CIRCULAR CARRIER

Having the overall form in mind, I now needed to understand how I would attach the box to the two circle pieces. The two drawings from my sketchbook illustrate my process in thinking of different ways to construct the piece. One option that I considered what creating slits on the two circle pieces to allow for more stability. Since we could use adhesive, however, I made the decision to glue the pieces of box with the box to make a rapid prototype.

Cutting out large circles from cardboard could either go really well or bad. I knew that I couldn’t make a perfect circle by hand. To make a circle that would at least have a rolling function, I made a small hole in the middle of the circle where I could bring string through. I then taped string on the pen where I could draw the circle. The two circles have a diameter of 20" making it challenging to double check that I don’t cut off one circle as the width of the cardboard is 40".

For the top and bottom part, I bent them along the circle where I made mark to cut. Then, I added the sides. The main supporting part is hot glue.

I really think that the circular design combines both the function of framing the potted herb and being a handle for it. An added bonus is that it balances as the pot gives a great center of gravity to the carrier. The biggest problem I see right now with it is that when someone held it over their shoulder, they often would hit the basil leaves which might not be well received.

A SHRINE FOR BASIL

For my second model, I was interested in making a layered like design to cover the plant from the sides and top. I didn’t really spend so much time on sketching it out but more so experimenting with cardboard to create the desired shape. With this sketches that I did today, I left the front part exposed for the person receiving the basil to take it from the front. The concept of creating a cage that both protected yet left the plant visible was something that both carriers yet becomes a statement piece with the basil.

For the base of this carrier, I used the left over part of the circles. For one of the circles, I created small slits for the pieces to go through while the second circle will be the base of the carrier. Using the same method of creating a circle, I repeated this process by increments of an inch.

Visually, I really like this design because it really grabs your attention to look around it. This was my intent for people to view the plant from different angles as the pieces of cardboard change shape when you move. One thing that I didn’t really take account was the visual cue to hold the plant by the center ring. The size of the base is also out of proportion. If I were to remake this same design, I would cut the base to become a triangle since the front part is unnecessarily protruding.

Making this model was definitely more complex than the circular carrier. This is because I have to make around ten cutouts and eight slits which is far too complicated to construct in a short time.

ALSO people found many different uses for this design and I thought that I should show you their creative ways to use this carrier…

Maybe this meant that this should be for everything except for a potted basil!

CRADELING A LEAF

It was 11 p.m. when I finished the shrine-like carrier so I was trying to think of another carrier that wasn’t complex but still had the same intention making the pot easier to hold. I went back a couple pages back in my sketchbook to see a plant leaf silhouette carrier that I drew from the start. Going from this first sketch, I started to add onto this idea.

While I sketched this idea, I drew some other ideas of levitating the potted basil in a way and a clamshell design.

To make this with glue was pretty quick. I cut out the leaf and added holes that looked like bite marks for your thumbs to go through. I cut a triangle from the middle to the bottom where I could fold the endings. This is basically the same concept as the way I made the leaves from the cardboard replica of the potted basil except for the hole in the middle.

This design was the quickest to make and some of my classmates favorite. Some mentioned that the liked the way the holes fit their hands and how they could cradle the cardboard/plant like a baby. This design took a more intimate approach as the rest felt more distant.

The leaf carrier is the middle one.

FEEDBACK SO FAR

I talked with Stacie and the two TA’s, Kyle and Marisa, about the designs. Marissa pointed out how both the Shrine and Circular carrier definitely showed that they weren’t meant to be separated. For the shrine carrier, they had concerns about carrying it with just a thin piece of cardboard. When I talked to Stacie I began to realize that although I preferred the circular carrier, it wasn’t organic enough. A circle has to be precisely cut and doesn’t reflect a plant’s form. Although I came to the decision that this circular carrier should no longer be thought about, I am still confused on what “organic’ means in the context of cardboard design.

REVISING MY ADHESIVE PROTOTYPES (A LITTLE STUCK)

After my meeting with Stacie, Kyle, and Marissa, I had a solid idea that I would combine both the shrine and circular designs. When I sketched these ideas, I had a lot of trouble trying to stick the thin pieces to the base with minimal adhesives. I also felt that the shrine design itself was too extra and didn’t really fit the overall criteria of the project.

It’s late at night and I think it’s best if I forget this entire idea and move onto something else…

On the top left corner, I thought about making a sling that could be held on a car seat or around your body. In the middle, you can see that I even thought about making a waist bag for the potted basil! These sketches really show you how stuck I am right now. For these sketches, I wasn’t really taking into account for corrugated cardboard. A lot of these shapes are way too complicated or not possible for it to be made properly.

For this new design I made, I could say, “I envisioned making my potted basil float as it rested as a centerpiece.” In reality, this design purely came from me bending old cardboard cutouts. From my previous design, I folded a large circle in half creating a corrugated taco. I then folded and cut a semi circle to place rest the pot in. Even though I had to use my hands to keep it upright, I came up with a possible design! I recut the circle but instead of keeping the fold parallel to the ground, I wanted to push the front downwards to give more energy to the design.

To keep the semi circle/upside down taco downwards, I added a support piece.

I used tape to see what width would fit the pot.
The stand I created. However, it is too flimsy for the weight of the potted Basil. The piece that connect each side also supports the very bottom of the pot.
Instead of making just a semi circle, I measure the notch between the thicker and thinner parts of the pot to make it rest easier in cardboard.

As you can see by the image, I wanted people to hold the carrier like this. Unfortunately, people held the ends of the carrier defeating the entire purpose of this design.

LEAVING HOT GLUE BEHIND WHILE I’M SICK

I thought the hop over from using glue to not would be simple; I was really wrong. I tried to make the most recent design without glue and the current components were mainly supported by glue. This struck me to think that I really wasn’t thinking about how efficiently I could put something together rather that focused on the visual aspects. It could be that I was just sick now but I, once again, need to regroup and move in a direction that is mainly focused on simplicity.

I took the word “organic” too far as the shapes became unintuitive. In the middle sketch, who would want to look like an avocado while carrying a basil? No one.
With this design, I wanted to add a handle. When I added this in cardboard, the shear weight of the basil made it really unstable.

A LAYERED BASKET

For next class, I need to bring in a somewhat finalized idea of what I want to end this project with. I tried to leave behind the older designs and start with something completely new.

In this new design, I wanted to make a basket that was held by repeated shapes. Originally, I wanted to create a top that would come off but while I made the top, it visually was offset to the leaves. Once I made the first cutout, I replicated it around 16 times.

The pot is ABOUT to fall off

When I started putting this carrier together, it was so flimsy. I was pretty frustrated that I spent two hours cutting out pieces when it didn’t have the structural integrity to begin with. After doing this, I’ve realized it’s not about scrapping everything and starting over but it’s also about iterating on ideas I had before.

MAKING A DESIGN WITH ONE PIECE

Planning is a large component with trying to make a carrier out of one piece. Measurements needs to be counted for especially.

This design has the same feel as the original circular one but I heavily changed it to become more of a carrier. The piece is held together by a belt that when released, springs open the four sides of the carrier.

After a group talk with Steve and Stacie, my carrier had to be changed. Although my intent was to have the person open the lock to get the potted basil, it was just as easy to take it from the large opening. The handle itself is cumbersome to people with large hands and the open flutes makes it uncomfortable to hold for long periods of time.

Here is the start of my last design iteration!

2ND ITERATION

NEW CHANGES

  • Enclosed wrap around top that fully encloses the plant

As I now started to make only minor adjustments, I created hand cut patterns that I used to trace over the cardboard.

3RD VERSION — WIDER TOP END FOR MORE MOVEMENT

MY FINAL VERSION!

Yoshi Torralva

Written by

Student @ Carnegie Mellon University School of Design

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