The concept of ‘wetness’ in design holds a rich array of metaphor that can be unearthed through the forms ability to penetrate our sensory perceptions via visual or tactile cues. These cues connect us with a pure natural form even if we are nowhere near it. Designers such as Shuhei Hasado and Kenya Hara retain a strong consciousness of the existence of water being the truest form of sensory perception from nature. Water is a material that resonates with all human beings; it is a core part of our existence and has been since the beginning of time. In our modern urban cities we are often very far removed from this substance, obliviously unaware of its importance in many of our norms and standards of living. Kimie Tada, editor of ‘confort’ magazine writes on Hasado’s website, ‘To improve the quality of our lives we need to return to at least some our origins’. It is interesting to observe the rise of allusions to water within Modern ‘Pop’ and Internet Sub-Culture.
A body of water itself is often seen as a calming and cleansing entity, with an ability to fulfil our senses and provoke emotions recalled from memory. Computers and smart phones often have a flowing blue/green background that resembles the ocean or some other body of water, perhaps trying to bring us back to the purest form of nature as we interact with something so far removed from it. Some smartphones will even have a reactive liquid surface that ripples and moves as you swipe your fingers over it. This excites our sensory perception, although we do not feel the wetness physically, we understand it and we are affected by it in some way whether consciously or unconsciously. Two polar opposites combine, the sleek sterile world of modern technology with the beginning of all life, water.
In 2011 an Internet subculture called Seapunk emerged, combining 3D mathematical images with oceanic themes. Bright, glistening compositions of water create a backdrop for mixed up imagery that is seen to some as tasteful in is tackiness. It is hard to understand why Seapunk came about, or what the relevance of the water themes surrounding it are. We could say that it is simply a juxtaposition of technology and natures purest form, with the imagery and music arising from the culture supposedly reconnecting us with nature. However the colours and style of the water is exaggerated to an over the top point, almost seeming unnatural. Whatever the reason for this splicing of wetness and modern Internet culture is, it is interesting to observe waters presence. Using technology such as smartphones and computers to tap into our sensory perception is important, as the further we drift from nature the more we need to be reminded of it.
In 2015 we are able to observe a trend of waveforms in graphic design as well as pattern design for fashion. ‘House of Cards’ the label released a capsule collection earlier this year that is themed around the Internet and the growth of its power. Many of the clothes within the collection are cool coloured, with gradients that represent water. Her patterns also combine a wave shape with Internet imagery such as hash tags and the Wi-Fi symbol. Once again we see a splicing of technological subject matter with water and its haptic perception. This is most likely the product of the designer’s own observation of water as a theme in Internet culture. This trend will only continue to grow, as designers are inspired by this, or by one another. Referring to Kenya Hara’s design philosophy around ‘Emptiness’ can provide some sort of explanation for the importance and prominence of water in design. Emptiness has no shape, and although it does not carry a message itself, it does so in the viewers mind and imagination. Hara and similar designers are able to design using ‘emptiness’ by beginning with the origins of nature and of sensory perception. By investigating how technologies trigger our perception, they are able to awake something in the viewer in a subtle way. Usually design work is still influenced by the market, with pop culture often having a strong influence on content and imagery. Designers should activate delicate human sensory perceptions in an effort to transport us back to our origins. Using the most basic natural elements to relay a lasting message to an audience can lead to a pursuit of spirituality. As stated by Uniqlo’s art director ‘Kashiwa Sato’, “The answer is not in my mind, but always in theirs”.