Storyweaving is a creative process we at Takram have developed throughout many projects with product development and design engineering. It is a technique used to refine the project’s initial concept by flexibly kneading and reworking towards a better state. We often see potential for this technique to be useful for anyone who works in design or product development, project management or in any related filed.
Together with DMN (Diamond Design Management Network), Takram have run a series of workshop to experience this technique titled “Storyweaving and Design Engineering”.
This is a report from our latest workshop which contains method learning on “Storyweaving and Design Engineering” followed by experimental process for tangible achievement. The workshop took place at Takram studio from 2012 – 2013.
The theme for the workshop was “flower.” Proposing a product that in some way solves a social problem, utilizing “flower” as a motif. Each team came up with an interesting concept, creating a total of 8 pieces.
Ballot Box of Petals
The voting rate remains in the doldrums which is a result of wavering interest or trust in politics. What can designers do so that people will exercise their political rights and come back to the polling stations?
What if the voting slip that arrives in the post had a shape of a petal of a cherry blossom? Such modest joy may just bring a bit of excitement on the day to vote. The ‘paper’ gradually takes on a darker color as the Election Day nears. And what if the ballot box was made of clear glass, representing the “transparency in politics?”
When the voting slip is inserted into the box, the device scans the information and stores it digitally. The thermal treatment erases the words on the slip so that it won’t be legible from the outside as it falls into the box.
This is about creating an opportunity for the population to be more engaged; to increase their interest in an election and politics; and to act on their civil rights to cast a vote. As more votes are cast, we can begin to see the cherry blossom petals building up in the box. It will feel like we are all taking part in building our society. This is the design for a new form of election.
Gift of Assurance
Since the 3.11 earthquake, on 11 March 2011, there is a general sense for the importance of preparing for disasters. However, only a handful have a full set of emergency supplies. Unfortunately due to people's busy lives maintaining emergency supplies is less of a priority.
But when they think about their families, friends, and their loved ones, it’s natural to wish that they all have the supplies in stock.
So, what if you can send a gift of emergency supply? This is how this seed-shaped key chain came about. It’s an accessory you carry keys with or put on a bag. But in a time of emergency, you break open the shell and out comes a hand towel printed with a direction from your office or school to your home. The compressed towel opens up like a blossoming flower.
The printed map will help you to get home as well as identify dangerous areas and water stations. As this is a towel, it can also be used as a bandage in case of an injury. Preparing for disaster for not only oneself but as a way to show you care for that someone special. Sending a gift of assurance is a new idea in the culture of values.
1/133 Honey Pot
The bee carries the pollen for the flowers and in return the flower offers nectar. Just as people send bouquet of flowers as a display of gratitude, the flower, again, may be offering the nectar as its show of thanks.
This is a refill bottle for the Fairtrade honey produced in the Republic of Malawi in Africa. In Malawi, the poorest country in the world, the GDP per capita is 1/133 of Japan. To symbolize this, the spoon that comes with the bottle scoops just 1/133 of the full content of the bottle.
Fairtrade is an initiative to adjust the balance of social inequality. When people produce and purchase food within its unique framework, it becomes a natural exchange of gifts. After you’re done with the food and if you take the empty bottle to the store, you can have it refilled and discover the “gift of a flower bouquet” appearing on the clear bottle.
The inequality that exists between the producer and the consumers will slowly be adjusted thanks to the daily awareness and behavior of the individuals. Let the extended use of this bottle be a reminder of this awareness.
That distinct smell of a hospital. The crying voice in the distance. The cold touch of a disinfectant, on the arm, revealed under a rolled up sleeve. Slowly, that needle approaches the skin…
While a needle injection maybe an instantaneous thing for adults, it’s a matter of life and death for a child. It’s not just the pain from the needle but small nuggets of worries and concerns gradually builds on to their fear. How to appease this fear against injection is one of the most difficult challenge in a pediatric care.
The “Coated Syringe” is a support plaster used with immunization. The aqua gel plaster that contains disinfectant and pain-relief works to disinfect, buffer the contact, stop the bleeding, and protect. Most of all, it eases that fear against needles.
First, place the plaster on the arm to disinfect the area. The fine needle will be injected through the plaster, hiding that scene where the needle pierces through the skin, to give a visual and emotional cover against that fearful moment. When you apply pressure to the treated area, the body temperature and the pressure will turn the plaster to a cloudy form, helping to treat the wound as well as cover the look. The plaster will remain on the child’s arm for the time being as a small symbol of “job well done.” After a few hours, the job of the plaster is done, the flower petal slowly dulls in color and disappears with the wound, all the while easing the memory of the needle pain.
Donation Box with a Face
When I was small, there was a donation box set up at my school. Our entire class did our best to bring in small change so that we can do our bit to help out people whom we had never met living far away…I assume we all have a similar story back in the day.
The donation boxes were everywhere across our town, at train stations, schools, etc. That somewhat unconscious action to take out that leftover change from our pockets really kept the donation going. And that sound as the coins dropped to the bottom has that physical experience that gave us that sense of doing something good. However, with the advent of e-money, that physical experience of with the donation box is slowly disappearing from our lives.
This product is a donation box for the digital age. When you hover the card over the box set up near the cashier, you can instantly donate the small difference from the total price of your shopping which was rounded up. In that instant, a light flashes inside and you can see beautiful shower of flower petals. This an effect that replaces the physical experience of putting the coin in the donation box, making the virtual experience of e-money donation more tangible.
The blind dog shining in the light is telling about where the donation will be delivered to. It’s looks as though the dog is happy about the bright future to come. The act of donation with this box just may bring a blossom inside people’s hearts as well.
The Stamp for the Family and Doctors
When you fall ill, do you go to the doctors or rest at home? Adults can make that decision but not when it comes to kids. Children cannot explain their symptoms well which makes it difficult to figure out whether their symptoms are getting better or worse and when to seek professional help. And when you finally decide to pay a visit to the doctor’s office, you find out that they are fully booked for the day…a familiar story for some.
That’s when you can use this stamp on the child’s arm. It has a temperature-gauging ink which changes color and design based on the child’s temperature and condition. The parent can take a smartphone photo of the design to find out the child’s condition. If the color is light, rest at home. But if the color is dark, you can send the design from the smartphone app to the doctor to get medical advice or book an appointment for consultation.
The flower-designed stamp will have a calming effect for the child who’s feeling poorly. It will help the parents to remove the anxiety of not knowing to make a level-headed judgment. It will also play a role to reduce the workload of pediatric care which is suffering from chronic shortage of pediatricians. This system will provide for a smooth communication between the child, the parent and the doctor by relieving their respective stress factors.
Scale of Pressed Flower
Don’t you love it when you open a book to discover a pressed flower you made from a while ago? Soon you’ll start to recall the joy of picking the flowers from that special space in between the pages. Capturing that beautiful moment of your favorite flower is about capturing the various incidents and memories that surround that moment.
There are various ‘tracks’ children leave behind as they continue to grow. Is there any way we can keep a record of those tracks of growth or the milestones of a child’s life similar to how we make those pressed flowers? This weighing scale keeps the records of the changes in weight of all family members along with the shape of their feet. The top surface works as a display to show the footprint along with various information that tells about that person’s growth.
On their birthday, their past record automatically pops up, giving the entire family to see and appreciate the history of their family’s growth. On the day my footprint became twice the size from when the child was a newborn. Or on the day my footprint has reached the half the size of my dad’s footprint. Or the day my foot size became equal to that of my older brother’s. The footprint automatically displays the comparison on those special milestones.
These recorded symbols of growth will be kept and layered like those pressed flowers. Each time you reflect back or each time you wish for another year of healthy growth, the scale will add to the family interaction and conversation.
Plastic Bottle when falls
We are attracted by camellia even when the petals have fallen on the ground gracefully. As with falling cherry blossom in breeze. We find beauty not only when the flowers are in full bloom, but even when flowers fall and dissipate. Petals fall on the ground and reconnect with nature.
We see beauty in dissipation, for its transience. Ever wondered if we can find such beauty even when we throw away “waste” in our daily life? Growth of mass production brings much waste substance and there is not enough growth in recycling.
This plastic bottle is designed with a beautiful structure, from the moment a user drinks and to the moment they throw it away in the rubbish bin. When the user empties the bottle, they can crush the bottle and make it into a flower. We will no longer just throw away empty bottle, but we can put a flower in the rubbish bin.
This idea not only gives pleasure to the user’s eyes, but it helps raise efficiency when transporting and disposing of waste. The design provokes awareness on how it helps bring beauty to our routine behavior and hopefully this will encourage all of us to pay attention to such change of consciousness through our daily life.
Creative process of “Storyweaving and Design Engineering”
Challenges of Traditional-Style Concepts
At the forefront of modern product design and development, we are often faced with situations where the concept that had been established at the initial stages of the project does not perfectly align with the finished product. The timing in which concepts are established varies according to the nature of projects. There are concepts that are established either at the beginning of the project, or during the later stages. However, many projects seem to lead down the following paths.
Case 1) Early concept becomes a “manifesto” and is left untouched after establishment.
In Case 1, the concept is established early in the project and is left unchanged, regardless of later outcomes. However for any product, there are discoveries and realizations that can only be attained by seeing the close-to-finished version, as the product begins to integrate the disparate components and services together.
In many cases, people are afraid to actually change the initial concept. Consequently, the completed product falls short of the ideal. In other situations, a product that ultimately generated more potential than originally envisioned, is stunted by the confines of the initial concept. Thus, establishing the concept in the beginning without allowing any later changes can prevent one from making further improvements to the idea. As a result, inherent values of the product and the project are wasted, without reaching its full potential. Looking back at the final product and the project are wasted, without reaching its full potential. Looking back at the final product, it gives off the impression as if each phase of the process had been forcefully patched together.
Case 2) When the concept becomes a “promotional story” after the product has been created.
In case 2, the concept is added after the product has been completed, as if to suggest that is had always existed from the very beginning. This method is often employed as a way to effectively describe, or glamorize the product. However, bestowing the concept after the fact risks causing discrepancies in the veracity of the project. Furthermore, developing a product with an ill-defined preliminary concept forces one to blindly search without any pointers, a process that lacks both vision and efficiency.
The project always involves various people from different backgrounds and expertise. When each person had a slightly different thought or interest in the project, was it still possible to not only create the actual object, but also to embody a harmonious idea that everyone could agree on? Can we polish the concept through trial and error, just like prototyping in a creation process? Can each participating member becomes a storyteller, and communicate a single, unwavering message to chose inside and outside of the project? In order to overcome such challenges, Takram suggests the adoption of a method called Storyweaving.
Storyweaving is a technique used to define the project’s initial concept by flexibly kneading and reworking towards a better state. Rather than completely replacing the traditional method of establishing a concept, it extends and reinforces it.
A story supports the conceptual-side of project, providing meaning and reason to its constituents. The initial concept is regarded as only the cause or a root, and its nurtured in the later stages of product development as something that is malleable. Often, a concept is expressed as a group of words or phrases, or as short passages of prose. While they might describe a cause, these descriptions do not sufficiently embody the entire scope of the concept. On the other hand, a story originates in the concept, is improved on, and completed as a piece of writing with an organized structure.
Furthermore, a story is composed of two parts: a “trunk” where all participating members of the project regard as an absolute mutual understanding, and “branche and leaves” that are open to free interpretation. A large organization is made of people from different backgrounds, responsibilities, concerns, and interests. Naturally, these people also hold different thoughts, motivations, and perspectives toward a project. In such a circumstance, it is difficult to find a concept/idea that can be agreed upon by every member.
This is why it is important to create margins for growth, so that each participant can add their own branches and leaves, and narrate their own version of the story. A well-knitted story enables smooth communication within and out of the team, and contributes to maintaining the motivation of participants from different backgrounds.
Production: Diamond Design Management Network
Planning & Creative Direction: Kotaro Watanabe (Takram), Kinya Tagawa(Takram)
Photograph: Takashi Mochizuki, Takram
Art Direction Photography: Tomoko Tanabe
© 2012 Takram design engineering
© 2012 Diamond Design Management Network