When a stone becomes your fingerprint…
There was a time in our lives where we owned a “pet rock”. Yes, admit it. They were once your pride and joy. We loved them even though they were (and still are) dead, inanimate objects. Other than the fact that our parents didn’t mind us having a pet of extremely low maintenance, which didn’t eat or poop, there is something rather interesting about the possessiveness we had over our dear pet, undoubtedly realising if it was switched or replaced by another. A crack here and a chip there present on the hard surface of our rock told us it belonged to us and we loved it, blemishes and all. Stone Mouse designed by Tom Gerhardt expands on a similar concept allowing the user to choose a stone, of their own liking, and use it as a fully functioning computer mouse (clicking, navigating abilities and all) in place of the drab, ordinary commonly used yet often unnoticed one—unless it is missing of course. The mouse therefore challenges our perception of technology and makes something inconspicuous, noticeable again.
Gerhardt’s Stone Mouse steps away from the lifeless manufacturing process of regular computer mouses by allowing flexibility to change the mouse’s form when the user fancies. This idea is similarly reflected in Deok-geun Han’s The Last Straw where the user is encouraged to take as little or as much straw as they feel they need for their drink. Both Stone Mouse and The Last Straw give the user power to challenge how “one-size-fits-all” objects disregard every person’s uniqueness and differences in terms of their needs. The mouse’s customising abilities encourage venturing the natural environment, questioning society’s perceptions of technology being clean, sleek and smooth. Stones which are irregular, often rough and bulky are used instead and with the added lack of “sterility”, the notion of technology being clean is challenged again. Tim Parsons, author of “Contemporary Approaches to Product Design“, label such objects as “open products”, being open to customization. Ultimately the user is given the choice of picking a smooth stone, mimicking standard sleek technology, or a rough unconventional stone, stepping away from the norm. In a sense, it is ironic that this mouse would be more comfortable to use than a regular “ergonomically” designed computer mouse since the user-friendliness aspect of technology is provided by natural means. Gerhardt proves that nature is able to override the standard “expectation of comfort” that technology claims to provide.
Every stone on Earth is unique in shape, colour and texture, meaning it would encourage emotional attachment with the freedom of personalization that comes with using the mouse. Projecting one’s personality upon an object is a distinct feature of the Stone Mouse since it is as though each stone is individually crafted, to fit comfortably in our hands. A computer mouse too small for a person with big hands is no longer a problem with the freedom to choose a stone unique and representing you, similar to a fingerprint. It is said that the computer mouse is a device that is heavily homogenised and one of the least customised within technologies rapid advancement today, however Gerhardt challenges this by making personalisation the main focus of his design. The Allumette/Electric Switch, part of the ‘Objets sans âge’/’Ageless Objects’ series by Particules Studio, also creates a very personal experience by challenging the “daily ritual” of switching lights on and off as the basis of their concept. The light switch is turned on only when the user places the teardrop shape onto the surface from which it dangles, making one aware of the otherwise automatic, everyday action of flicking lights. You can check out Particules Studio’s other ‘Ageless Objects’ in the video here! Each object creates a personal experience for the user in truly thought provoking ways.
By taking the stone out of it’s context and bringing it into the home environment, Gerhardt successfully makes the unnoticed, noticeable. Simon Frambach’s ‘Soft Light’ similarly makes “unimportant” spaces apparent by the light’s ability to be squished in between cavities and unused crevices, filling the otherwise unnoticed void with “a warm tangible glow”.
Tom Gerhardt is an internationally recognised designer working together with Dan Provost in Studio Neat, both with a desire to make “simple products that solve problems”. Tom has designed other works apart from the ‘Stone Mouse’ such as ‘FireLight’, a lighting system controlled by the natural properties of a real candle’s flame, and ‘MudTub’ which is an “experimental organic interface” allowing people to control a computer whilst “playing in the mud”. There is a running concept between all of Gerhardt’s work where the user controls the experience resulting in awareness of poetic qualities in mundane tasks or objects. The studio brings to attention the greater meaning of objects that are usually standardised, making fun out of the ordinary, creating an appreciation for unnoticed objects.