Stones and Candeles travel ‘Back to the Future’: Designs of the Past in a Modern Society

Design and technology is always progressing forward at a meaningless rate. Tom Gerhardt and Scott Amron reverse time to create two designs which are not only elegant and beautiful, but purely functional as well.

In this day and age, the progress of technology is sometimes difficult to follow. Apple brings out a new IPhone every 3 months (or so it feels) and we are constantly overwhelmed with gadgets. Apple just recently unveiled the Apple Watch, a watch which tells the time from your phone. Why do we need this? It seems we cannot halt our progress of technological advancement. Technology has become the norm, products such as IPhone’s are a must have; everyone must hold one in their hand. It has an element of disposability when the new edition arrives. The designs of Tom Gerhardt and Scott Amron  challenge this progress of meaningless technology. They also provide functional solutions to fit into today’s modern society.

Apple Watch

Apple Watch, 2015

Before looking into an example design of Tom Gerhardt, I feel it’s important to analyse his practice. Gerhardt is one half of Studio Neat . Their goal is to make simple products to solve problems. Their most popular Glif, is a dynamic phone mount that lets you angle your phone or position on a tripod. It’s completely universal and useful. We have all found ourselves leaning our phones up against or on top of objects. Glif, solves this simply but it just works. Stone Mouse’ (2010) reflects this style in Gerhardt’s practice. It uses a pressure censored base, allowing for any medium sized stone to be placed on it. Once positioned the user can click, drag and move, just like any other mouse. The stone provides a more natural feel to the user, linking to a time when a stone was a tool of building and construction, drawing and scribing. A mouse is a tool we grasp in our hand. So we can see and feel this connection between the past and present. Every stone will be different which makes each stone mouse more valuable and special from person to person. ‘Stone Mouse’ (2010) is simple; but practical and engaging.

Stone Mouse

Stone Mouse, 2010

What ‘Stone mouse’ (2010) also provides is a product with an infinite lifespan. Stones are formed over thousands of years. They are always here beneath out feet. They are part of the natural environment. The ‘Stone Mouse’ (2010) allows the user to constantly change what they feel when they make movements with the mouse. Stones can be replaced and changed at any time. Whatever you can find outside you can use. So although the stone may be swapped over time, you’re still reusing an infinite material (maybe someone else’s mouse). The rocky earth can be seen as a natural library for computer users ready to select their next mouse.

In 1878, Tomas Edison patented the ‘norm’ light bulb . Before the innovative light bulb, candles had been used for thousands of years. Although the light bulb was invented in 1878, many homes would continue to use candles for many years to come. Scott Amron, a product engineer developed a number of designs for a series called ‘Di-Electric’. These designs integrated a power point with no current. ‘Candull’ (2009) consists of a floor lamp and a candle with a screw at its base. The replacement of a light bulb with a candle creates a connection between past and present. Our world has become accustomed to this idea for there to be light, we need electricity. For thousands of years fire and candles were our main light source.


Candull, 2009

What’s nice about ‘Candull’ (2009) is the connection between the user and the thing. A switch and a light bulb don’t feel physically attached. Working the candle is the opposite. First you open the box of matches, select the match and then strike the match. Finally you must be quick but graceful as you move your match and ‘switch’ the candle on. This is compared to the ‘click’ of a switch. There is also a fragrance and heat element to a candle which unless you touch a light bulb, it doesn’t have. The warmth of the candle creates a sense of life.

Technology is always evolving and that’s ‘great’. But what does it all mean? What does it say about us? Gerhardt and Amron have demonstrated how the simple things we once cherished can continue to have significance in today’s society. These designs have a story behind them, a story which cannot be told through the ‘new’. There is warmth and feeling attached to things of the past and these two designs connect the two worlds together in harmony.