The purpose of my project is to investigate ways to change consumer behaviours and habits to make consumption more mindful.
My project is divided into three layers, 1) Mindless consumption; 2) Saturated market; 3) Sustainability; all of which have the objective to not deplete our planet from its resources.
Overall, the goal is to design for longevity.
In the first round of making prototypes, my ideas were fixated on the notion of what is ‘essential’. This initial experiment involved making chair prototypes, exploring their essential or inessential characteristics, ultimately aiming to find their truest form.
Upon executing this exercise, I realised that there is no ‘one’ framework to define what is essential, it will be different for everyone.
Also, due to the fact that there are already so many chairs in the market, these new chairs do not make a distinction with what already exists and does not portray the ‘essential’ in any way.
In re-thinking this idea about what is ‘essential’, I looked deeper into how and why we consume, learning about our emotional attachment to objects and how that affects our habits as consumers. There is a constant state of desire that will most likely never be satisfied, as one always strives for more. These cyclical loops of desire and yearning for excess often draw the consumer towards objects that have a short life span to satisfy the temptation and brief moments of pleasure.
This led me to disentangle words that are affiliated with consumption: desire, renewal, self-identity, newness, excess, status, display, unnecessary, temptation…
Playing with this notion of desire, I began to explore objects of sentimental value that may over time become essential to us. We do not want to discard them, rather it’s these objects that we want to keep for the rest of our lives. Objects that are symbolic of specific moments in our lives, storing mementoes and memorabilia.
I must make a disclaimer that there is irony in this exploration. It is almost promoting consumption and accumulation of things. But I aim to make something that enhances our sentimental value towards those objects that are meaningful to us.
To reach this aim, I interviewed various people, asking them to share with me their collection of sentimental objects. The group of people interviewed varied in age group to have a broad depiction of what could be ‘essential’ to each individual. They described each of the objects’ backstory and why they are emotionally attached to them. With this, I collected a database of what this sentimentality looks like.
The following are some of the conclusions I made from these interviews:
– Most objects are not purchased by themselves but rather are gifts from other people; they behave as physical and symbolic representations of these particular people
– Some of the objects are stored away or even hidden in boxes or drawers, rarely used daily
– One of the participants is emotionally attached to the objects she uses for work, meaning she interacts with them daily
– Photos and jewellery are particularly meaningful and the most common objects of sentimental value
I realized that you cannot design something that can become sentimental over time, but rather you can design to heighten its value. Using this data, I made three different prototypes aiming to enhance the objects’ sentimental value.
This prototype alludes directly to Wunderkammern (16th-century cabinet of curiosities, that were used for scientific development and also influenced how things are displayed). Using glass jars, the objects of sentimental value were placed inside. I think there is an enhancement of value and each of the objects has more presence.
Using the data, I designed an object that is more specific to one of the participant’s collections. The aim was to spotlight each object and in observing the prototype, it looks like a structure used in window shop displays. The corresponding participant agreed that their value was heightened, but it wouldn’t be something that she’d have displayed in her home.
The aim was to see how the value can be enhanced and how the form changes when putting in different objects. This particular prototype only works for a specific collection of objects, so there is something quite personal about producing these structures.
Being that the other two prototypes were very specific to two different people, I wanted to make something that was more general and could be applied to a wider audience. This third prototype was made to be configurable so that it can be suited to any user’s needs.
Individual wooden sticks were joined together using magnets, as well as wooden boards to create designated sections where sentimental objects could be displayed on. I think this prototype is the most versatile and the most playful, but also the most impersonal.
If we think about our empty shelves, they too are impersonal, it is only when we fill them with our personal belongings, they begin to feel more customised.
Overall, these three prototypes were not successful in testing this sense of sentimentality. They were not effective in getting a clear resolution as some of the ideas were rushed and did not reach the level of depth I aimed for. However, I was able to get an insight into object-user relationships through the interviews, understanding how people interact and keep their personal items.
In conversation about sentimental objects, there is a key statement I got quite often: “I could get rid of everything I own if I just replace them with new things”. The notion of replacement I think is something that could be interesting to research further in my project.
- We must replace our unsustainable behaviour towards consumption with conscious and mindful consumers.
- We must replace unsustainable materials and products.
- We must find ways to replace the current state of the market with products that will not deplete the earth from its resources.