by Tisha Leung
More than another upmarket design book, "I Miss My Pencil" deeply explores the human connection with objects and examines designers' characteristically obsessive nature. The book documents twelve experiments that explore the less-talked-about significance of everyday objects, some dearly regarded and some usually taken for granted. Written by industrial designer and IDEO design director Martin Bone along with material scientist Kara Johnson, the 240-page glossy tome poses conceptual questions such as what a laptop tastes like, how did knitting become trendy and where to find physical representation of the digital music world today.
Similar in thesis to the 2009 film "Objectified," both investigate designers and how they relate to the objects surrounding us. But Bone and Johnson take it a step further into the more esoteric side of the process, breaking down ideas and building a tangible outcome as they tell the stories behind the products.
"I Miss My Pencil" not only reminds us that everyday objects, like a doorbell, a bottle of wine, or a pencil, have a story, but it also explores the underpinnings of what your postman smells like or a pen that thinks it's a suitcase. Applying these theoretical discussions to practice, IDEO designers collaborated with experts of all kinds—a renegade physicist, a fusion chef, a whip-smart mistress, an artisanal mechanic—to make the conceptual concrete.
In the chapter "Scuff," the authors describe the 20-day process requiring extensive hand labor involved in using ancient Chinese lacquer on a skateboard to ponder the implications of executing such a detailed, delicate application to an object that will ultimately end up abused.
Raising the question of whether "it looks better scratched up, or worse," the authors draw the conclusion that lacquer was only one step of the process, the "final graphic design is created as you ride."
Full of such playfully creative thinking and experimentation, "I Miss My Pencil" is an of-the-moment resource for anyone interested in the design forces driving the market today. Get it from Amazon.