Extraordinary Objects — Process

Final Concept

My final concept for the salt and pepper shakers was a set of cups that changes stance in their active and inactive states. When not in use, the cups bend to face each other and communicate a relationship. When the user goes to pick up the cup, it then anticipates the user’s approach and stands up for easier drinking. When set back down, the cups will always bend in the direction of the nearest cup, much like a sunflower always faces the sun.

The use of the cup is illustrated in the following storyboard and narrative:

Form Considerations

Before modeling and rendering the form, it was helpful to create a foam model of both states. Using an existing glass as reference for dimensions, shaped two models. This also allowed me to closely monitor how it might feel to actually hold and drink out of the active state, as well as affirm the form decisions I made in the orthographic drawings.

These models also allowed me to closely gauge how it might feel to actually hold and drink out of the active state, as well as affirm the form decisions I made in my orthographic drawings. I used tracing paper to finalize the form, as I wanted to give attention to the subtleties of the stance. Keeping in mind the functionality of a cup as something that should securely hold liquid, I wanted to keep the change in stance as subtle as possible while still noticeable.

Ideation Refinement

This method of orthographic views on tracing paper became an efficient way to refine the form of the cup after exploring various ideas on expressing relationships between two cups. I considered using light, texture, form, and sound to indicate proximity. For example, the drawings in the top right represent cups that shine brighter the closer they are to one another. I was also interested in exploring how a form can support social interaction or communicate the feeling of being around others in a visual way. Another concept I considered was a cup that could be connected to one’s heartbeat even when that person is away. A gently pulsating light could act as a reminder to others of that person’s presence, connecting people with conflicting schedules.

Rapid Brainstorming

Before I narrowed my focus to cups, I had also explored a range of other objects relating to dining in a domestic setting such as napkin holders, chairs, and tables. After mapping these quickly brainstormed ideas on axes relating to form and level of tech, which emphasized the fact that I had generally stayed away from “high-tech” solutions.

My original thinking was that I wanted to preserve the simplicity and purity inherent in the salt and pepper shakers, as they evoked strong emotion through physical form alone. However, through conversation I was able to see how futuristic technology could be implemented in a simple way that would strengthen the concept. I then filled in the gaps in the grid with ideas that could use technology to foster connection.

Crafting a Narrative

To inform this process of ideation, however, I developed a user persona/narrative shaped by my vision of what the world will look like in 2050. I did research on family dynamics in 2050, the future of dining, and the form language, as I felt that the familial relationship communicated by these shakers in a dining setting were major points of what made them extraordinary, and I wanted those key points to be carried over.

My original narrative was contextualized in Plano, Texas, a suburb outside of Houston that is said to be on the rise due to its high population of college graduates. In terms of dining, I predicted an increasingly casual image, as I think that busier schedules will cause families to eat dinner at staggered times and rely heavily on ordering food or pre-packaged meal plans. This is why I moved away from the idea of salt and pepper shakers, as these are less likely to prevail as common dining tableware. Meanwhile, people will always need to drink water at home, making the use of cups a prevailing interaction.

Name: Kira

Occupation: High schooler

Age: 17

Where: Plano, Texas

Kira is a high schooler in Plano, Texas who lives with her two moms and the Stevens family. As a multi-family household, it is often difficult to arrange mealtimes that accommodate everyone’s busy schedules. Although the two families are close and try to spend time together on weekends, during the week, the parents work full time jobs and Kira and Tomas attend high school as well as several extracurriculars.

For middle class families, dining has become more of a casual, staggered affair. Kira’s family meal preps on the weekend using HelloFresh kits that get delivered weekly, so during the week each person has a pre-portioned meal ready to go. Because Kira plays a sport and tutors after school, she often gets home after the Stevens family, the parents of which work night shifts, has already eaten but before her mom comes home from work. Thus, she often either eats dinner alone or with her other mom.

I then identified the main pain points:

  • Kira often eats dinner alone due to differing schedules
  • She doesn’t see her parents a lot because they work late/have irregular schedules

These images support my general vision of the future:

Original Object/Background Research

Eva Zeisel’s Town and Country Salt and Pepper Shakers were made in 1947 as a commission for Red Wing Pottery, and represent her “playful search for beauty.” Put together, these salt and pepper shakers show a parent-child relationship (more specifically, Zeisel and her daughter). When apart, they seem to yearn for one another. The ceramicist was born in Budapest in 1906, and went on to become known for her mastery of ceramics as well as her political activism. This may be why Zeisel’s pieces often represented familial dynamics. In one interview she states, “I have rarely designed objects that were meant to stand alone. My designs have family relationships.”

Analyzing these objects through the STEEPV lenses also gave me a clearer sense of how they might be contextualized in 2050.

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