The Unofficial Archive

Designing Inquiry | Inquiring Design by Tamar Shafrir

Designing Inquiry | Inquiring Design

Photo by Femke Rijerman

How should a designer approach the task of creating an evetyday, archetypal object? As a modern individual in an environment of material abundance, I face the problem of seeing ordinary objects in all of their complexity, this problem includes a categorical distinction between humans and objects, a complacent ignorance of how mechanical or logistical processes are enacted within objects (i.e. blackboxing), and a blindness to the meanings of familiar objects from our own culture. To counteract these obstacles, I suggest a methodology for both design analysis and design inquiry. Drawing techniques are used to form unexpected connections between different objects, users, and contexts. For example, the network drawing explores the whole life of an object, from raw material to technical processing, manufacture, packaging, shipment, sale, usage, and disposal. Meanwhile, the exploded diagram places elements into new spatial relationships and reveals the role of hidden parts that are the real agents of function. The pastiche plays with foreign culture, mundane objects, and aesthetic understandings by altering existing paintings to reflect a contemporary reality. Finally, the matrix examines the different properties of an object in isolation, allowing for new approaches to the archetype to be made. Ultimately, the methodology enables the designer to encounter mundane things in unusual ways, acting as a purposeful form of exoticism for really looking at objects. During my thesis, I worked with doors, dootways, and door handles as a field of interest. For me, the door is an archetypal object because of its almost total ubiquity and its durability in terms of dimensions, material, and mechanisms. I wanted to treat the archetype as a platform for design experimentation given the complex discoveries about the powers, meanings, and functions of the door. This research has led to several design proposals, but also to a question about the methodology itself. Could it be applied to new fields in which the archetype has not yet developed? More importantly, can this methodology be a tool for d esigners in a world becoming less reliant on physical form?

Tamar Shafrir