We are excited to share student projects, department news, event information, and visuals from the MFA in Products of Design program. Check back frequently for updates.
The following project description by Class of 2015 student Wolfgang Kahler:
This work stems from an exploration of disposability in contemporary culture and works to unravel personal and cultural perceptions. It is furthermore an aesthetic exercise in the development of a cohesive environment through a series of objects, wherein each piece references the previous gesture.
Disposable materials are born of convenience, and once established in the world they begin to dictate lifestyles. Our expectations of things such as productivity, living standards, and access to goods are often predicated on disposable goods. These goods represent a release from the slowness, mindfulness, and short-term inefficiency that characterizes individually-permanent objects and the stewardship thereof.
It is proposed here that disposable materials are often misconstrued as temporary conveniences and, once used, passing inconveniences. Stepping back, they can be alternately understood as permanent fixtures in the built environment and the designed ecology. Individually they flow through our lives, but as a whole they exist as a constant entity.
This project deals specifically with the ubiquitous cardboard box which, viewed as an established and constant element of our world, might be engaged either through rejection or acceptance. Contemporary thinking on waste often defaults to the former. This work, however, explores the idea that through acceptance and celebration we might move towards a higher understanding of, and more effective integration with the subject. At the heart of this work is the idea that through affirmation and alliance one might more easily address these objects in a healthy and productive fashion.
The final work took the form of a small shelter which defines a space, two stools, and a low table illuminated by a hanging lamp. It was constructed through a series of incremental additions:
A pizza box with fold-out legs brings delight through novelty, ritual, and literal and metaphorical elevation of a mundane object.
Following this was a set of wooden brackets that facilitate a user’s engagement with waste cardboard. These brackets were designed specifically to display the cardboard not as a homogenous material, but rather as a collection of individual objects with unique histories that are worthy of attention. These brackets were used build an architectural space wherein materials usually associated with brevity and convenience might become a context for slow and deliberate interaction between users.
A lamp was installed to reinforce the independence of the space and provide focus on the original table. Constructed of an inverted cardboard box, it again addresses the potential for joy in a conventionally-worthless object.
Completing the piece are two stools constructed of cardboard sheets laid in alternating directions on humble cardboard boxes. The apparent absurdity belies an inherent beauty in the simple and effective arrangement of low materials.
This work is an exercise in pulling closer rather than pushing away. It is a mode of address which might be replicated across subjects wherein joy is extracted from that which might otherwise be viewed as a burdensome and mundane.
“The act of recording information can be done in various ways—photos, videos, journals, audio and more” argues Elisa Werbler. In her project, she attempted to dovetail “record keeping” into an object this is already known to be practical, functional and great at doing its job: a tape measure. Werbler wanted to created a physical object designed to be a living journal of measurements, memories, and process. Writes Werbler:
Through a series of sketches and initial prototypes, this concept was born by simply taking an existing tape measure and covering the surface with a piece of masking tape. This marriage of materials created an opportunity to add an element of permanence and storytelling—in distance as well as time. But what physical form could this idea take?: A D.I.Y. activity that transforms the functionality of an existing measuring tool for a period of time, and which could be easily returned to its original state once the intended purpose of jotting down relevant measurements was over. Think of it as a “hack” for creating a more useful tape measure.
A series of advertisement mock-ups explored various brand alliances; was this a tape measure for someone doing a home renovation that would carry it around with them at all times, recording every inch of the project on this one tool? “Who would produce such an item?,” asked Werbler, and married Stanley and Sharpie to create the ultimate measuring/recording device—a “writeable” tape measure.
But what about users who wanted a more permanent artifact—a diary of measurements. At the opposite end of the spectrum Werbler created a finely crafted tape measure constructed out of high-end materials like wood and brass, who’s tape was completely blank. “With its intended use left to the user, this represented an instrument for recording not only measurements, but thoughts, ideas, memories and more; an artifact, a precious object—that would live on through generations as would a photo album or a home movie.”
And shown here, mocked up on The Future Perfect website to imagine its place in the world.
Class of 2015 student Jung Soo Park’s Tape of Honor explores the notions of value, recognition, and pop culture. Appropriating the iconography of medals, Jung created stickers of recognition on a tape spool—rendering them disposal, yet spontaneous. “If you could acknowledge accomplishment or valor, or simply give someone a thumbs-up in a way that was frictionless and social, what might you reward?” he asks.
Taking a cue from the collectables world, Jung then created a blind assortment package of pre-cut medals, designing 12 different designs of varying rareness, and therefore “value.” He placed his prototypes in retail environments to learn more about how they would appear and how they might be perceived.
Ultimately, it was the interaction through the product that won the day, with students presenting—and applying—stickers on disparate occasions: A nicely-built prototype by another student; a well-taught class by a faculty member; a “thank you note” for participating in a group project.
During the 5-week class Affirming Artifacts, Julia Plevin designed Cycla, a necklace that tracks a woman’s period through a 28-day cycle. The project asked students to “redesign the next thing they throw out,” and the tampon became a vehicle for investigating society’s attitudes towards menstruation. Julia writes:
The tampon is an artifact often associated with embarrassment or shame. A woman might hide it up her sleeve when walking to the bathroom; a man might think the topic unapproachable.
A tampon brings convenience to a woman during her period, so that she doesn’t have to think about her cycle. But minimizing the period is not the way for women to feel empowered and have control over their own bodies.
Cycla is a celebration of a woman’s menstrual cycle and an effort to reclaim the period. To this day, society—and often the woman herself—misunderstands the menstrual cycle. In order to change how society views menstruation, it’s imperative that women become more comfortable with their bodies.
Each of the 28 beads on the necklace represents a day of a woman’s cycle. The beads are color-coded to demarcate the days of period and ovulation. By shifting the clasp around the necklace, a woman can track where she is in her cycle, and better understand the physical and mental changes she may experience throughout the month.
The notion of counting beads comes from mala prayer beads while the look of the design is a nod to rosaries. The design of the necklace is subtle, so that only the wearer herself knows its true meaning.
In another interpretation, the necklace is a laser-cut postcard wrapped in string and handed out on the street. The 28 “beads” are perforated, so that the wearer can pop each bead out and string her necklace.
The decision to make the necklace delicate and subtle came only after playing with louder, more overt design; In the end, Cycla has a decidedly inward focus. Through acknowledgement, understanding, and acceptance of her natural cycle, a woman and the people in her life can better understand menstruation.
Andres Iglesias’ Yeti Ice Cream explores the notion of creating awareness around food serving sizes and their relevance in living a healthy life. Ice cream pints—like in many food packages—tuck all their important information in the back. By making serving sizes easier to see and experience, people are deterred from binge eating—a habit that can lead to obesity.
From the start, the project was about more than redesigning the pint; the ice cream pint is not only successful from a packaging standpoint, but it is also iconic and recognizable. Rather, the focus was on redesigning the interaction with the pint.
After looking into more subtle ways of getting the message across, it became clear that a serving size loses its value when it is hidden. To be effective, the user must somehow interact with the serving size.
The final prototype embodies that idea in a rather simple way. By creating separate levels inside the pint, people are slowed down and deterred from eating the whole pint in one sitting. It’s is a simple solution, with an honest and transparent mission: one spoonful at a time.
Alongside the ergonomic explorations, the Yeti brand was developed. A mascot was created, along with a mark and supporting typography. The back of the package was explored first, with powerful graphics to draw attention to the ingredients.
As a way to get the brand out, Andres explored street art—with its bold, irreverent attitude.
And finally, one-of-a-kind editions of the pint are conceived as an exhibition, featuring well-known artists.
Following is a diagram of the design process during the 5-week project.