Bottling Digital Memories

Combining the new and the old is a beautiful thing.

Blank by Saburo Sakata is a combination of a tiny empty glass bottle and a cork USB device, suggesting a commonly portrayed object in romantic films and novels, a message-in-a-bottle. There is a certain beauty about Blank since the two objects compliment each other even though they originate from different time periods—the bottle being more traditional, and the USB being a modern device that similarly carries information or data around. Questions of the value of physical information compared to digital information arise as a result.
Blank by Saburo Sakata
Born and working in Kyoto, Japan, Saburo Sakata describes himself as a designer of print media and products. Other than Blank, he has designed other stationery products as part of a series named HumBrick is a tape dispenser fastened to a heavy block, that similarly joins two objects together using abstract similarity, since the brick and tape dispenser are both heavy in weight. Other stationery products that are part of Hum include the Desk Aroma, Dog Ear Notebook, and Flap File Bag, all designed to create a relaxing experience for the user with it’s clean aesthetic giving opportunity for contemplation and imagination—a state of hummmm.
Brick by Saburo Sakata
Brick by Saburo Sakata

Metaphorically, the message bottle and the USB device are functionally similar since they both protect precious data from outside factors. As a result of merging both objects—creating a whole new object—their purposes are strengthened and with our “human propensity to create meaning” from every object, we begin to realise the greater qualities of these objects past their original purposes. Another similarity is that both a USB and a glass bottle are not 100% secure since one is prone to corruption and the other, shattering which would result in the damaging or loss of it’s contents. Furthermore, the motion of plugging in a USB and plugging a cork into a glass bottle are similar as well. Thus Sakata’s Blank is a treasured simple yet thought-provoking object where the old and the new are merged together as one, connected by their functions.

On a similar note, the Brick Lamp by HCWD Studio combines a slab of cast concrete, wood or aluminium with light to emphasise the short-lived but special moment of revealing and concealing light. Poetic qualities of light are highlighted by the combination of the brick and light, just like how Blank merges the bottle and USB device in one, accentuating the idea of safe keeping and treasuring.

It is said that Blank acts as “a message in a bottle in the digital era” and can be used to store messages—2GB of messages to be exact. Being a literal “digital reincarnation of the romantic message-in-a-bottle”, it is interesting to imagine if such a bottle was found washed up on the shore. This comments greatly on how we value messages today, whether handwritten or digitally typed is the norm and whether one is more treasured than the other. The parody of a digital message that cannot be read unless there’s access to a computer also comments on our reliance on technology.

Saburo Sakata’s Blank successfully captures the idea of information being protected and kept in a contained space by using an empty bottle that “holds” invisible data, creating a poetic device that stores “digital memories”. Merging two objects together expresses a more meaningful concept, especially because the objects originate from different time periods.