Thursday, October 9, 2008

art meets design through the middleman of ethnography

I have observed people in lots of different ways as a designer. My last interaction design project, Fable, started off as a research project entitled Rituals in the Way We Eat (The title inspired by designer Dean Brown with his research project Rituals in the Way We Sleep). One of the most interesting pieces of research was the cross cultural comparison exercise where I asked families in the UK and Italy to take photos of there eating environments.

I was trying to uncover as to why it means so much to Italians to spend mealtimes together as a family. Here in the UK we don't seem to care as much and only just over half of British families spend mealtimes together regularly; compared to over 90% of Italian families. The photo below shows the inside of (newly weds) Ivan and Melissa Rocca's cutlery drawer.

But I'm not going to go into detail about the project; the purpose of this post is to show a link between design and art, in this particular example, photography.

Photographer Paho Mann has photographed junk drawers and medicine cabinets for 8 years. His work examines the resolute mark of individuality in a culture that advocates conformity. He explains that even among people who try hard to fit into society there is an abundance of information each person reveals in "near-private" spaces, such as drawers and cabinets.

Mann goes on to conclude that these semi-hidden spaces force people to deal with our human impulse to collect and categorize. Through doing so on a subconscious level, individuals reveal insights into their personality and identity.

I love the way Mann has visually communicated his work, photographing all the drawers looking down against a black background. I'm not sure if there is a hidden message in this consistency. It's almost as if he is suggesting that every human has the same natural desire to collect and categorize; and the only thing that differentiates us from one another is the way in which we do it.

No comments: