Blank Space

Ever written a note, stuffed it into a bottle and thrown it into the sea? What about a USB?

The whole concept of a message in a bottle is alluring and mysterious and is something that reminds us of the ‘olden days’.  Perhaps someone got stranded out at sea and sent out an SOS in a bottle. Perhaps someone was separated from their love and in a romantic and hopeless attempt sent them a message from across the sea in a bottle. Your circumstances may not be as drastic as these but i’m sure some of you have done this anyway.

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Blank USB drive and packaging

Well, even if you haven’t, Saburo Sakata probably has. Saburo is a Japanese product and graphic designer who graduated from the Kyoto University of Arts and Design in 2007. He designed a USB drive that he named ‘Blank’ as part as a stationary series for High Tide in 2011,  and as you look at its aesthetic and consider its function you really can’t deny that it is practically screaming out ‘message in a bottle’.

The metaphor Saburo plays with in this design is quite fascinating, where ‘Blank’ is like a message in a bottle but is a USB drive. The message in a bottle and the USB are more similar than you think, which is perhaps what makes this design so clever and thought provoking. The main thing that separates the two is history. As history has progressed, technology has also progressed, leaving the legitimacy of a message in a bottle behind. The bottle and the USB are both blank spaces used to store and contain some kind of message or information. Yet one is known for storing the somewhat obsolete form of contact, writing on paper. And the other is known for storing the much more commonly used digital form. One can only store a piece of paper and the other can store several gigabytes. Caris, from Oh Marvellous, puts it nicely – you may not find paper all rolled up inside the glass container but the “minimalistic USB drive can be used to store many, many, many messages. There’s a 2GB memory to fit them all inside.”

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Blank USB drive

Saburo Sakata has also added significant value to an object that doesn’t have much at all. Ask any university student, USB sticks are notorious for being lost. This may be due to its size or the fact that it can be easily and cheaply replaced by a trip to the supermarket. But Blank is so beautifully and carefully designed and has such a deep poetic concept behind it that any student would take extra care not to lose it. He’s made it into a quirky keep sake by designing something that you would want to put on display instead of in a desk draw, almost like its a piece of art or sculpture.

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Blanks USB drive sections

Johnny’s thoughts on ‘Blank’ from Spoon & Tomago echo my exact thoughts on this little digital reincarnation of the message in a bottle – imagine if in a couple of years you were walking along a beach and you found one of these washed up.

I’m tempted to fill a blank USB drive and let one out to sea myself!

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