We have a tendency to see ourselves as rational beings. We balance pros and contras to make decisions, we like to think our emotions are just one of either side. Rational thinking has elevated us from animals that are only moved by primal feelings as, for example hunger, fatigue or lust. Many years of evolution have made us develop complex ways of thinking, enabling us to differentiate the abstract from the concrete, like love versus lust. Being able to think in abstract terms has made us create intricate systems that provide us with truth; they create meaning in a world that, without the capability of thinking rationally, might have been just a blur of passing events. These procedures of truth are, according to the French philosopher Alain Badiou, Art, Love, Politics and Science. All of these provide us with meaning. However, in a rational world where we are always looking for truths, there is a certain trend of underestimating the power of emotions. The four Procedures of Truth, Love, Art, Politics and Science, are not solely limited to providing truths, they also evoke strong feelings in us, of which, perhaps, love might be the strongest.
Slowly but certainly our society is growing more and more emotional again and this return to feeling is strongly seen in design. Although we cannot yet call this a real ‘trend’, the following examples are strong and striking enough to signify this return to emotions. The transparent stool filled with 64 litres of water by Keita Suzuki is inspired on the shedding of tears. During our lifetime we cry and laugh more or less that amount of water. Crying and laughing, both closely associated with tears, are emotion-driven acts. Sitting on the Tear Drop Chair equals sitting on all the sorrow, ecstasy and hilarity of our entire life.
Keita Suzuki, Tear Drop Chair.
Haelo Design placed lovers opposite to each other and measured the way they looked at their loved one. The pattern of how the participants exchanged glances was then mapped and translated into data that would dictate the shape of a variety of vessels. The fact that the designers chose to leave the design of the vessel entirely up to the way the lovers looked at one another, rather than deciding themselves what it would look like could be interpreted as a sign of the growing importance of emotions and participation in design.
Brazilian design studio Estudio Guto Requena did a similar thing for their Love Project. However, in stead of letting lovers look at each other, Requena and his team decided to let the participants tell a story about a great love. The heart rate, brain activity and voice patterns of these participants were measured during the whole procedure and these data eventually formed the vessels that were the outcome of the love stories. The actual story was not recorded because the participants tended to go deeper into the emotions when they knew nobody was listening. This way, each love story was translated into a tangible object. Guto Requena strives to create designs that are implemented with stories and memories, as to make the products more valuable in a non-monetary way; too make sure that these products will be kept for life and, hopefully, longer, as emotions are an irrepressible part of our being.
Read more about Guto Requena and his design practice in the interview with him in our book On Tangibility!