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"tactile experience" Tag

As Little Design as Possible

Thursday, November 15, 2018

I was startled by the fresh, sleek but subtle apparence of the SK 4 as I walked by it in the basement of the Stedelijk museum. I stopped and bent over to get a closer look. This audio system combines a turntable and a radio with two speakers in a single white metal box ornamented solely by two wooden boards on each side and an acrylic glass lid. The rest is all functional: a few plastic control knobs and an analog display for radio frequencies.

« Hans Gugelot, Dieter Rams » stated the label on the right.

Those two designers (Hans Gugelot and Dieter Rams) worked for electrical appliance company Braun which released the Phonosuper SK 4 in 1956 as one of the first products to incarnate their new design. They wanted to get rid of the superficial and fashionable to make room for efficiency, simplicity and the beauty that comes with it.

I started searching the internet for some historical context and information about the relevancy of the object today. A few scrolls were enough to realize how influential the SK 4 design is. I first stumbled on countless ads selling the product from one to three thousand euros. Then I found many blogs paying tribute to it by sharing images and information about the design philosophy of the brand. I noticed that Dieter Rams was a lot more mentioned and appreciated than his co-worker Hans Gugelot, probably because the former was involved with Braun for many years (and still is) and has worked on many other notorious products. In fact, Rams is a legend of product design, referenced by many younger designers, such as Apple’s Jony Ive, as a major influence. This is very apparent when looking at today’s electronic products like smartphones, computers, bluetooth speakers but also furnitures and architectural edifices. I found a short documentary on Vimeo yielding the floor to Mr Rams himself at the initiative of the V&A Museum in London. According to him, his willingness to bring a new world of modern design to post-war Germany began when he met the Braun brothers. The success of their new creative approach proved the importance of a well though and original design. He also developed the 10 commandments for good design (which undoubtedly still hold up) in order to teach the students and the media, as well as keep together the behavior of the brand.

I searched the library of the Rietveld Academie as well as the library of the Stedelijk museum for documents published in the 60’s when the SK 4 was commercialized but I was not able to find any. All I could find were recent books paying tributes to the design philosophy of Braun and Dieter Rams, compiling images and information on their broad collection of products. I did not learn anything new about the SK 4 except for a few drawings I found in the book ‘Less and More, the Design Ethos of Dieter Rams’ by Klaus Klemp. They were made by Rams during the conception of the audio system, which I was quite excited about. The drawings are very simple, almost innocent, and denote of the « new beginning » state of mind of their author. It only made me thirsty for more archive documents of this type, so I kept on researching the internet. I found an image from an original Braun catalog including the SK 4, as well as a diagram of the SK 4 electric circuits naming the object « schneewittchensarg » (« snow white coffin »). This nickname shows how groundbreaking the design of the SK 4 was.

Overall, I found the internet much more efficient for my researches: it brought me more information in a shorter amount of time then books did. Nonetheless, the search for material publications is much more thrilling. It leads to discovering new places (like the archives of the Stedelijk museum) and offers a tactile, more intimate experience. The books I found did not really offer more information but displayed in a more interesting, compelling and memorable way. This leads me to thinking that printed publications will continue to play a very important role along the exponential growth of virtual data. Our senses have not changed and the book is a design object which offers a cleaner and purer visual and tactile experience than computers.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

I spent approximately 3 months doing intermittent research and experiments related to bread making. I looked a lot at the process of making bread, the associations and relationship that we have with bread and tried to think about bread making in a different way from what has become such a stable and set way of working with and interpreting bread. This all sounds a bit silly, and in a lot of ways it was – one of the conclusions I came to was that because bread has been such a common practice for such a long time that the way that it is done has been refined so much that it does not need a design student to come along and ‘re-invent’ it. When I came to this realization in many ways it opened me up to experiment more and in different ways without worrying about the experiments having any particular meaning or significance.


I started my project by getting up at 4 in the morning and spending a few hours watching a professional baker work and talking with him about bread and baking. I was amazed at how he seemed to always know exactly what needed doing next, he almost never paused to think about what the next thing to do was. A good moment was when I had just arrived, he was pouring out some walnuts from a large bag into a bowl and one dropped on the floor; thinking to be helpful I picked it up and after a pause of not knowing where to put it I set it down on the corner of the metal work surface. Issa instantly picked it up and put it in a small bowl lower down and gave me a bit of a smiley but ‘what an idiot’ look which was fair, I hadn’t considered the hygiene level in a professional food environment!


One thing that I particularly liked about watching the baker work was the scoring of the bread before it goes into the oven. I originally thought it was just an aesthetic thing but it is an important element as it allows the bread to rise properly and cook more evenly, by scoring in a controlled way it also means the bread does not just split in random places. As a result of these thoughts I decided to do a small workshop with 4 of my class mates where I provided them with a piece of dough each and a razor blade and encouraged them to form their dough in whatever way they wanted and to try avoid the conventional way that bread looks. It was a fun experiment and brought a diverse range of results which I think pose an interesting question to how we all have a very set way of what we expect bread to look like and how it can be altered.

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As a continuation from that workshop I thought again about the lack of experience and in particular tactile experience that we have with bread even though most of us are so familiar with it as the finished product. For my next experiment I decided to teach a friend of mine who has very little interest in cooking/baking and virtually no experience in bread making but eats bread almost every day how to make bread.

Having watched a professional at work and been inspired to go and experiment with baking myself I wanted to pass on the experience that I had had onto someone who was unlikely to have experienced it before. I guided my friend through the simplest bread making and talked to him about his connection, or lack of it, with bread. As I am just learning myself it was enjoyable to guide him though it in an amateur way and work certain things out together at points and the discussion was entertaining. I was not looking to inspire him to become a regular baker but just to share the experience of making bread and hope that it would change his relationship with the thing he eats so often.

I also enjoyed the extreme amateur situation that we were doing it in, we did it in my tiny student accommodation kitchen and improvised a lot of parts where we didn’t have the space/equipment that a professional would use. This extension of the amateur level that we were baking at was something I enjoyed particularly because it shows just how simple bread making can be.

These are just a few examples of experiments that i tried out during my process, the project is ongoing and now I bake my own sourdough bread once a week and continue to experiment with the shape and ways that we look at and use bread.

Scan 23-cropNeckSandwich

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