Keep seeking, just as how you find your lover.
Look at this Stone Mouse! How elegant, smooth and structural! It’s such a beautiful piece, isn’t it? It is called “N800 Stone Mouse” designed for Lenovo by the Beijing-based designer Yao Yingjia. And it is one of the winners of the “Good Design Award 2013”. What is cool about it is that it revisits humanity’s oldest artifacts in a modern context. It is a modern day remake of the tool in Stone Age, the natural rock, explained by its designer. The shape fits the hand more than it looks and it’s almost like an art piece on the desk. However, there’s a lack of human flavor in a sense. To me, it’s more like a black version of Apple’s Magic Mouse; both are classic of minimal and streamline design. But no matter how pretty it looks or how awesome it feels, it’s still an artificial — a man-made product mass-produced in the assembly line. It’s cold.
In comparison, this piece — another Stone Mouse, looks rough, ugly, and the least designed indeed. It transforms any stone into a fully-functional computer mouse with custom electronics embedded inside a slender ring, which enables a user to click, drag, and navigate as they would with any standard mouse. It is designed by an internationally recognized artist and designer Tom Gerhardt who works across a broad range of disciplines. There is an idea of personalization featured in Gerhardt’s works in which he seeks to celebrate the individuality, and also reconcile modern human’s dual citizenship in the physical and digital worlds. With this design, people are encouraged to slip away from the digital world, go out and re-examine the beauty of nature and their surrounding environments. Keep seeking, just as how you find your lover. Don’t stop, until “the one” appears — a stone that fits perfectly to your hands, size-wise or texture-wise. And then you know that little device would be a longtime companion sitting beside your perfectly-designed-and-sleek computer, quietly suggesting your very true uniqueness in this mass-produced world. What is more poetic? Once you find your own stone, you could start to see the imprints of time. Some areas have been honed to become smooth while some are still rough and irregular over the time you’ve been using it. It has become a piece recreated by you — a piece of visualization. Your gestures, habits, and the time spent on are now traced.
The stone mouse could be seen as a challenge to the norms of sterility and universality in mass-produced digital products, but maybe it is not about challenging the notions in which we accepted first. Maybe it is a rebellion in defense of our individuality and human nature in the first place when technologies invaded our lives. We are now becoming a new generation of having default behaviors and gestures, whether it is Facebooking and Instagraming in a boring lecture, or interacting with a screen by the swiping and tapping. And that has become a muscle memory. It is funny that sometimes I want to move my left-hand thumb and ring-finger as how I’d use them for hitting the “Command” and “Z” keys for shortcuts, when I am writing or sketching with a pen at hand! It is ridiculous — the impulse to make a virtual “undo” rather than grab an eraser! When we are so soaked in the excitement of celebrating the growth of economy or the creation of new technologies, we don’t realize how much we have changed and how much personality has been taken away from us, until a number of evocative designs appear and come to awaken us.
When it comes to a straw, we normally and instinctively think of it as a disposable plastic drinking object, which has already become general knowledge. However, the Straw Straw brings people back to the origin of the straw in which it has been found and called — what we have already forgotten about. The Anniversary Matches arouse us to pay attention to fire again while we could hardly see fires living in a modern society filled with electricity, gas and electromagnetic ovens. And the Stone Mouse provokes a sense of individuality and human desires to touch. It is not until we see these products that we realize the standard and the mass-produced is boring. Whether it is through metaphors, satire or challenging norms, the nature of being a poetic object is to awaken something.
“Good design has the power to rouse people, not as an answer but as a question.” said Kenya Hara, in the interview with Designculture. The value of design is to enhance a spiritual awakening that deepens our understanding of the objects in question. When asked about his approach to design in the interview with Designboom, Hara answered: “I visualize the supposition ‘it might have been’. I produce awakenings and realizations.” What he means by that is to design what people desire and eventually visualize the hidden possibility of an industry. If objects are created in response to people’s desires, the quality of their desire will affect that of the object. It is just as how much we desire to earn individuality in the mass-produced technologies, and how much empathy in return we end up having for the Stone Mouse. However, this kind of desire requires education — Education of Desire, because people’s “needs” are sometimes loose. “Design must be a slow, quiet education that gradually exerts influence on the quality of need–the standard of the desire. The aesthetics instilled in a subtly designed and well-made product kindle a small awakening and the desire life swells like a bud swollen to bursting. Objects are thus produced according to the desire that swells.” Therefore, what we as designers should do, rather than create beautifully looking forms or clear identification, is to awake something, to embrace the unknown.