Haptic Perception of Wetness

Memory recalled through tactile sensory perception can alter the way we think about certain objects in the bigger picture. Designers can utilize the sense of touch via physical and visual sensory cues that will provoke deeper thought in an audience. This idea is something Kenya Hara describes as “Senseware”, his terminology for technology that has a strong connection to tactility. An understanding of these material cues and their embedded emotion recalled in memory, enable the designer to maximize the use of said ‘Senseware’ and haptic perception.

In Matter and the Floating World, Hara describes his method of ‘Information Architecture’ as design that is directed toward the architecture of the human mind. Sensory perception via sight, smell, sound, touch and taste enter the mind immediately, combining with existing memories accumulated there. These provide the ingredients to recall an associated feeling via memory, or construct a new one when a fresh sensation enters the mind. Haptic perception is just one way that viewer association can be altered using the sense of touch and memory recalled in the architecture of the human mind.

Haptic Geta by Shuhei Hasado is a redesign appropriation of the traditional Japanese sandal, placing the wearer/viewer on a completely naturally textured surface. Hasado is able to provoke a strong physical and emotional sensation within an audience via his tactile physical and visual cues. The design taps into the accumulation of human memory to transport the viewer to a natural setting, perhaps imagining they are walking barefoot across mossy rocks or leaf littered forest floors, far removed from the lives of people in modern urban cities. This design highlights the importance of a sensory connection to nature and its elements, in particular the haptic sensation of wetness.


Hasado is an artisanal plaster craftsman who has further developed Japanese traditional plastering techniques with his own unique contemporary methods that utilize natural materials. Hasado has a deep connection with nature and its associated memory as it is an important part of his own memories of growing up in the mountain village of “Takayama”. His fascination with clay and its natural qualities provided a healing effect for him and led to experimentation with other natural materials. All of Hasado’s work stems from inspiration obtained from nature, allowing him to translate these ideas to an audience via craftsmanship and deeply poetic design.


The natural element of water is a strong visual and physical cue that utilises haptic perception, present in both Hasado and Hara’s work. Water holds strong connotations in many cultures as a cleansing and healing element, particularly in traditional Japan. The haptic perception of wetness provides a strong stimuli for recalled memory, and tactile association recalled in memory. Hasado believes plaster works are “the tracks of water” and always feels the existence of water hidden inside clay when he is working, describing his own memory and association. Water is important because it ‘runs everywhere on the earth; it engenders life, scenery, climate’, and all that we see in nature.’ The visual and physical presence of water returns us to a natural, cleansed state even within an urban setting.


Hara’s own design contribution to the ‘HAPTIC’ exhibition was ‘The Water Pachinko’ machine, a slanted surface with raised barriers similar to a pinball machine and with a surface of coated paper that reflects water. The visual effect created mirrors nature by forming beads “Like dew on lotus leaves” and is referred to by Hara as ‘the lotus effect’. He plays on the delicate senses of a human being, recalling nature whilst using the evolution of science, modern materials and media in order to open up new possibilities in the mind. Hara also created signage for the exhibition ‘Senseware’ using the same technique to represent water droplets falling down a surface. As each droplet falls away, another one forms and takes its place, the process continuing like rain falling on lotus leaves. Haptic design exists to open wide your sensory perception to discover new ideas and associations that would otherwise not be related. The Haptic perception of wetness is a globally significant form that connects us with our natural cleansed state both internally and externally.