Hamiru.aqui is a Tokyo poet and art director who embarked on a search for a Western alphabet sign that expressed not a phonetic sound but a concrete meaning, in the way of Asian ideograms. She found two: the exclamation point, which stands for surprise, and the question mark, which is shorthand for doubt. Once she began to ponder the role of those feelings in daily life, she decided churches were the standard places to work out personal wonder or puzzlement. But, she asked herself, why do it in one place? Why not just wear your state of mind, and adjust it as necessary to make a statement, or hide out, in private or in public—anywhere at all? The result, the Personal Church, is a headpiece with the punctuation marks carved out of opposite faces, so that the symbols become windows contouring the bearer’s perspective while at the same time signifying to outsiders his or her emotional state. The jurors liked looking at the Church, but putting their heads into the white box intensified their faith in the design. For Hunt, the Church suggested “the personalization of religion, salvation, personal aggrandizement, religion as blinder.” Zolli believed that its mystery served as a reminder that “there’s a spiritual dimension lacking in most design.”
Zukr Toy Vac and Trash Can
Toy cleanup and its avoidance might not qualify as world-class conundrums, but they are universal, and possibly even solvable, nuisances. Hayes Urban, a designer with Urban Edge in Austin, Texas, believes that children can be inspired to pick up their own toys if the de-cluttering equipment becomes part of the game. Urban has proposed two products to make work into play. The Zukr Toy Vac is a “toy chest with integrated vacuum,” and the Zukr Trash Can includes a dustpan and brush mounted on a little container. How does play work? To vacuum a floor covered with Legos, a child pulls the flexible elephant trunk (hose) from the Toy Vac’s bulbous body, squeezes the end cap to trigger the suction, and watches the blocks travel along the see-through hose and past the polycarbonate lid. The hose retracts into the body to become a distinctive snout. After art projects and snacks, a child can use the anthropomorphic trash can to sweep up. He or she pulls its nose (handle) to reveal a dustpan, and lifts the Mohawk hairdo (bristles) to find a brush. Globus, who praised the whimsy of this overdue solution, stopped laughing to say, “Anyone who’s been a parent will crack up over this.”
The Kinesic Interface
John Kestner of Biplane, a design firm in Tempe, Arizona, regrets that public places have gotten less public now that everyone is absorbed with private gadgets. He wonders whether body language could replace buttons in the conversation between user and personal thingy (phone, iPod, camera, etc.). What if you could “take a picture by winking at your subject” or “skip to the next song on your iPod by twirling your fingers impatiently?” he asked. Zolli, the futurist juror, verified that this poltergeistian method was actually feasible, albeit “far away.” Hunt, the cultural anthropologist juror, said, “I like the fact that this is not a thing, but a gestural interface—a social etiquette. It shows how technology changes how we act.”
Design is hard. Design satire is harder. Nevertheless, Stuart Karten Design in Marina del Rey, California, decided to take a “contrarian approach” and mock the designer’s dream: a future with “better, happier people in a healthier, safer world.” The firm devised five facetious products and described them with slick copywriting and promotional images to project the “twisted, inane or insidious ways in which current trends could evolve.” Jurors especially loved/loathed the “Full Baby Pacifier,” a set of goggles that delivers visual and audio education like a wearable TV, while you, the parents, “live the life you deserve.” Also chilling was the Epidermits, a hairy, fleshy pet made of engineered tissue, which is controlled with advanced technology. The jurors were duly revolted and decided that cautionary design was a powerful deterrent to techno-stupidity.