Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How it made me feel when I touched it

[NOTE: This is a writing assignment I had to do for my job. We went on a Design Excursion to SoHo, NYC to look at various shops that sell interesting items with differences in cultural significance, functionality, utility, and price range. Here is my essay.]

Industrial design fascinates me. The textures, the curves, the thought put into making it functional, yet beautiful. It’s all very intriguing. For me, the items I purchase in my everyday life are so often mundane. They don’t possess those unique features that we only notice when someone did take the energy to think about how something is used and what frustrates people about its current state of design. The items that always stand out for me are the ones that feel right to my sense of touch. While gallivanting around SoHo, we made our first stop at Pylones (pronounced pee-lone), a French company who boasts that they have “delighted customers with thoughtful designs and innovative twists on everyday objects.” I’ve always felt a bit overwhelmed by all the colors, shapes, sheens and almost psychedelic patterns on everything from toasters to staplers whenever I’ve passed by in recent years. I mean c’mon, if I walked into someone’s apartment and they had it decorated with Pylones purchases, I’d be a little concerned. But since our mission was to focus on the design integrity or the innovative slant on something typical, or typically boring, I concentrated on those aspects that make me say “hmm.”

The single item that struck me as “feeling good” was the nail clippers. We all have that standard issue set at home that we don’t even think to question. They’re just nail clippers, right? They serve a very simple task that isn’t something we normally chat about when discussing good design. Instead of just peering at its nutty swirls and pastel-colored bug handle, I opened it up to simulate using them. I quickly realized that someone took a lot of thought to make that section where your thumb lives, a concave, smooth dip that cradles your big finger so comfortably that you don’t slip while you’re attempting to access those hard-to-reach places. Manicures are serious business and we all have those horror stories of the hangnail gone awry, so it’s essential that the tools we use are slip-proof and snug, so we don’t cut off the wrong bits. Ouchy! Placing my virgin thumb on Pylones’ nail clippers made me appreciate industrial designers even more and hope there are more innovators out there who will focus their energies on improving the feel of everyday objects so we can all get the job done better, quicker and easier.