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The Object Without a Story

Questioning how stories shape our view of objects, Andrea Bandoni & Joana Meroz concocted random stories for non-existent objects based upon story typologies and the most commonly used words in design narratives and then created objects from that.

By Jeanne Tan /asdf 15-12-2009

Do stories reveal the truth about objects? Can designers manipulate the stories in favour of their objects? Does the mediation of the story change our relationship to an object?

Everyone loves to hear a good story, but these days in contemporary design, it seems every product has some kind of accompanying narrative: is it just a marketing ploy or does the story have a genuine meaning? In order to delve further into the relationship between the product and its story, Design Academy Masters graduates Andrea Bandoni & Joana Meroz initiated the research project 'The Object Without a Story' for their graduation thesis. Both Bandoni and Meroz are Dutch-based Brazilian designers, whose work aims to bring to light invisible design conventions and question their validity.

The project posed two questions: Does the mediation of the story change our relationship to an object? How? Can I as a designer manipulate the stories in favour of my object? In which ways? Through researching of hundreds of stories accompanying design objects, the pair analysed the language used to describe objects, studying the story's 'form' and 'content'.

From the three typologies of stories observed: Process, History and Abstract, and compiling the most representative words and phrases used, Bandoni and Meroz devised three random stories which were then used to create objects. The stories allow multiple interpretations of the one object, inviting the viewer to become a co-creator of the object's meaning.

The first example is 'The archetypical vase', which they created from glass. So which story rings true? Perhaps it may be deceptive for designers to post-rationalise their designs (especially to justify aesthetic decisions) but sometimes if a good story creates a strong connection between objects and their users, perhaps it matters less what the truth of the story is: after all, what's the harm in a little design fairy tale every now and then?

Story 1 - The archetypical vase

The Archetypical Vase communicates its complex and fascinating history to the user by being moulded by different transparent layers of classical vase forms. The different silhouettes of the different layers of vases compose the ornamentation. The fact that the interior cavity refers to a womb and the external suggests a funerary urn refers to the cycles of life and death of the vessels themselves.

Story 2 - The archetypical vase

The apparition of this vase first came in a fascinating yet disturbing dream: it was at the same time the child waiting to be born as well as being the very container of the child. The visceral image of an object pregnant with self-similar offspring transcends rational discourse. The Archetypical Vase’s sensual and feminine forms spin tales of creation, simultaneously capturing interpretations of the past and generating new myths for the future.

Story 3 - The archetypical vase

The different kinds of fine balancing acts involved in the process of mouth-blown glass were the starting point for the Archetypical Vase. In order to create each shape different techniques and considerations are involved. This allows for the exploration of the range of virtuosity of the mouth-blower, his ability in mastering different aspects of the craft directly resulting in the stylistic differences between each of the vases. The Archetypical Vase is a tribute to the accumulation of hundreds of years of experience involved in this ancient and fertile craft.

Story 4 - The archetypical vase

The archetypical vase is a collaboration between Andrea Bandoni and Joana Meroz. Having made an in-depth analysis of hundred of stories accompanying design objects, they used the most significant words and expressions to create random stories. The designers then created the objects described by these random stories, one of which is the Archetypical Vase. Although the stories sound coherent, they are in fact completely arbitrary, thus questioning the validity of creating and understanding objects through stories.

Photography of vase: Suzana Camara Leret

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