Tamar Shafrir

Department: Contextual Design

Designing Inquiry | Inquiring Design

New approaches to difficult questions about the meaning of objects.

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. black-boxing), and a blindness to
the meanings of familiar objects from our own

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?

Copyright Design Academy Eindhoven

Copyright: Design Academy Eindhoven
Photographs: Femke Rijerman