Contextual Obstacles

A little diagram I put together for How To Think With Obstacles (click image for larger view):

In my creative practice, I find myself much less interested in honing a form or creating a frictionless experience. Instead, relationships and systems feel much more fruitful, with designed objects as a result of exploring that context. Thinking about how to represent this idea, the form of a “light cone” seemed appropriate. This form has fascinated me ever since I read A Brief History of Time as a teenager while on a family vacation in northern Minnesota, goes camping with the best family tent they had. It shows a singular point, the present, with two cones emanating from it: the observable past and future. Replacing the point with an object (say a chair), the cones become echoing contexts: material, experiential, social, biological, and cultural. In one direction, these contexts become increasingly physical and fundamental. Methods of construction lead to material choices and ultimately biology, geology, DNA, and atoms. In the other, our direct experience with a designed object comes out of and swims in the work and decisions of other people, the way we use objects and form memories with them, and how they fit into our culture. Obstacles wedged into one of these points—in the form of suggestions, amplifications, disruptions, challenges, or prompts—draw the design focus to relationships and result in unanticipated variations.

Junk Mail/Artist Book


An amazing thing arrived unsolicited in the mail yesterday. It included the above items: a fake email printout from a boss to a sales person telling them to buy my car, a fake handwritten note at the bottom to me, and a fake handwritten note on fake legal pad paper.

It’s pretty easy to see through this and realize it’s junk mail, but the overall complexity of the package, the way my name and the make/model of my car is integrated, makes for a pretty amazing object. This will certainly be added to my collection of algorithmically-generated artist books and ephemera.

Menkiri Bocho

The menkiri bocho, also known as the udon kiri, is a knife for slicing handmade noodles – note the inset and the sharpened front edge.  Simply squishing the blade down will not make proper noodles, so the very sharp knife is drawn across to ensure a clean cut.

Via: Serious Eats