Storyweaving Workshop #1, RAIN

Creative workshop for professional designers, 2010

Making whilst Narrating, Narrating whilst Making:
Developed by Takram’s creative director Kotaro Watanabe, Storyweaving is a creative method wherein design concepts—the stories we use to envision our products—are continuously refined and reinforced throughout the course of product development. Just as a product is never simply determined by its story, neither is the story a static reflection of a product: by putting the will to narrate (abstraction) into dialog with the will to create (physicalization), we allow product and story to evolve in tandem, perfecting one another. Our cross-functional “storyweaving” process facilitates this evolution through workshops and interviews with management and project members.

CHALLENGE: Conceptual Obstacles in Conventional Project Management

From product concept to design and development, product development tends to follow a monolithic and static process with a vertical division of labor. Specialists, whether in design, engineering or marketing, are solely focused on their part of the job and often fail to communicate with one another. We saw this as an opportunity to reimagine the role of the design concept in product development. We believe that a strong ideological framework and methodology are necessary for project management not only in product design and development, but also in other business areas. The thought process behind Storyweaving was engendered by becoming conscious of such problematics.

APPROACH: Creative Training Programs

We conduct workshops and training programs on such topics as effective brainstorming, ideation process, concept refinement and cross-functional communication. Our workshops are not limited to designers and developers, but are open to a wider audience including professionals in planning, marketing, business strategy and sales.

Case Study

Every year, Takram, together with publisher Diamond Inc., invites corporate designers and engineers who are members of the Diamond Design Management Network (DMN) to hold a 6 month-long workshop on monozukuri (making) and monogatari (narrating) to analyzing the effect of Storyweaving. Below, you can find outstanding results achieved through the workshop series from 2010-2011.

Umbrellas of Rainbow

Umbrellas of Rainbow: “Distance” Reclaimed by Umbrellas on a Rainy Day

“Children of the Rainbow” is a phrase commonly used in Hawaii. It conjures the image of children from various ethnicities learning and playing together. Three designers initially named this work “Rainbow Children,” in hopes that children all over the World, not only on this Southern island, can be connected without discrimination.

Though this umbrella appears to be grey on first sight, it is in fact composed of one-sided deflection film. When two umbrellas overlap, vibrant color pattern analogous to rainbow emerges from the imbrication zone. Colors will continue to transform as the umbrellas are twirled.

Collectively, these umbrellas will generate opportunities for children to serendipitously meet and befriend each other as they partake in communication uniquely enabled by rain. One can enjoy the array of rainbow without waiting for rain to stop. Even a melancholically rainy day can espouse people to “close their distance.”

When an ordinary umbrella is spread, it explicitly describes a personal space for one person. This umbrella reconfigured to become a tool to “close one’s distance” in opposition to its previously innate function to “widen the distance” between two adjacent persons. On a rainy day, the relationship among human beings is reclaimed and bridged as if by a brilliant rainbow.

Mushrooms by the Puddle

Mushrooms by the Puddle: Whimsical Scenery Stimulated by Mushrooms Sprouting after the Rain

In urban areas, the asphalt covers the majority of surfaces. When it rains, the water normally gets soaked into the ground or syphoned to drainages, but in some cases water remains as puddles on the asphalt roads without draining for some time. No doubt, the asphalt is obstructing the natural cycle of water. In that sense, the puddles appear to symbolize the disharmony between the natural and artificial environments.

“Mushrooms by the Puddle” is an absorbent agent to be placed on asphalts with poor-drainage in urban areas. Water is absorbed through the reverse osmosis membrane in the stem portion and then stored in high absorbency polymer in the cap region. As the surface of cap region is composed of an elastic latex, the cap will grow in proportion to the amount of water it absorbs. When the rain ceases, this objet can be dried outside in fair weather or placed at the base of plants to water them.

These three designers took notice of residual puddles often found in urban shopping districts or athletic fields in schools. When using this product, one can observe the linear sequence of: “planting” the spores of mushroom when rain ends; “waiting their growths” by peering through the windows; and “harvesting” what has later sprouted and swelled. It is as if actually experiencing the act of harvesting mushrooms. As the rain lets and mushrooms sprout everywhere, it must appear as a whimsical scenery dislocated from reality. In hopes of harmonizing the natural and artificial environments, this product become a mediator between the two.

Sky Radio of Rushing Sound

Sky Radio of Rushing Sound: Encounter with Serendipity in the Air

A charm of hand-dialed radio is its “serendipitous encounters.” It is more often than not that each of us has searched for music on a radio whether if it was a lonely afternoon at home or arriving to a hotel at night. Perhaps some of us may have suddenly heard a Scottish bagpipe bellowing from the radio after turning the dial slowly for some time. Others may have heard the tango music from Argentina. The pleasures of radio is similar to the pleasures of journey in which there are many serendipitous, newfound encounters.

This radio lacks any labels denoting frequencies around its dial. In its stead, a world map is printed, and the broadcastings from radio stations all over the globe can be heard. However, if one turns the dial to a rainy area, the “sounds of the rain” at the moment can be heard between stations. Imagine London has a sudden deluge, Mumbai is in midst of monsoon, Tokyo has an early summer rain, and Phnom Penh is shower. The live recordings of rain by microphones placed all over the globe can be heard as soft static noises. If you are lucky, you may perchance encounter the rain that only falls once a year in Namib Desert. This product pursues the “water” that traverses the globe by detecting hints from the common sign of the sounds of the rain.

What kind of music is being played right now on a radio station half way around the world? What is the weather there right now? Turn that dial and you will find out by chance.

Dressing of Morning Dew

Dressing of Morning Dew: What One Droplet of Dew Conveys

Beads-like droplets on flower petals brilliantly adorn the bouquet. A woman hastily takes refuge under the eaves from a sudden shower and one raindrop alone dripping from woman’s lock tells the tale of undeniable allure. These rainy scenes, or “single droplet” in by itself, uncover such qualities of coloration, brilliance, coolness and beauty.

This product is composed of two parts; the dressing for tomatoes and a bottle. Gelatinous liquid, resembling water droplets, pours out of the bottle formed to reminisce the softness of clouds. Now, the tomato dressed in this liquid acquire a effervescent freshness as if picked on a fine morning after a rain. The ingredients contained in this bottle is hypothesized to be an imaginary material blended from crystallized acetic acid and salt that would gelatinize by absorbing the humidity in the air.

Three designers were inspired by the beautiful imagery of “a crop field on a fine morning after a rain” full of life, bearing ripened vegetables and fruits. Here, the rain was reformulated as a mechanism by which those gifts from Mother Nature are enlivened beautifully and aqueously. Undoubtedly, a tomato glistening with droplets from morning dew or rain is equally as delicious and beautiful as any plating as it is. Rain is a dressing from the heavens.

Blind with Moisture Beads

Blind with Moisture Beads: Gently Shades like a Window on a Rainy Day

Windows physically and symbolically separate and connect at various moments oneself and the outer world. Concurrently, one’s sense of distance to the outer world is influenced by the weather more often than not. If the panorama beyond a window is exhilaratingly pleasant, your heart yearns to go out. On the other hand, if it is raining, you might think of staying in.

This partition projects diverse weather that can be seen as if through a window. Rains of various expressions emerge with multivalent strengths and densities, from thin mists that would slightly obscure one’s vision, to deluge augmented by gale. Through these operations, the sense of distance to what is beyond is freely controlled. One can imagine, it would be possible to write and draw with fingers on a mist-covered window.

Inherently, the partitions are mechanisms to “divide space momentarily.” Though these are meant to demarcate space when necessary, it is also possible to remove them to generate larger space. Thus, this object is capable of compartmentalization and continuity all at once. As weather is capable of generating infinite variegations that could never be expressed purely by 0s and 1s, so can this smooth gradation gently obscure and at time connect adjacent office desks or domestic spaces.

Matrix of Droplets

Matrix of Droplets: Chaos and Order found in Orderly Rain

The natural world is permeated with randomness. In spite of that, the humanity has sought to exact meaning and systematics. We willfully connected innumerable illuminations spread across the vast firmament and called them the constellations, and we made the Heavens a stage for our mythologies. We recorded the planetary movements arithmetically and generated a calendar. Even the weather itself was once divined by analyzing the movements of undulating clouds. These are all attempts to uncover forms of systems and regulations by engendering order from disorder; in other words, by systematizing what appears at first to be chaotic.

This product endeavors at first to concentrate all the rain water to one location that would otherwise naturally fall randomly, and to release the rain from above simultaneously and systematically. Then, water droplets fall in constant intervals from the holes punctured in a grid formation from the ceiling. By the virtue of the ceiling rotating slowly, water droplets manifest geometrical patterns on the floor. Whilst there are water fountains that function like water objets installed in such public areas as parks, this mechanism can also function as an alternative approach and expression.

Once faced with randomness, we feel discomfort and at times even fear. The rain that is ordinarily deemed “a phenomenon to be avoided” in our daily lives becomes “a phenomenon to be appreciated and enjoyed” in the instant it rains orderly. Therein emerges forms of astounding transformations in our cognition when crossing over the threshold of randomness to systematization by artificial processes. This epitomizes the essence of human intervention against the natural order.

Stockings of Splashes

Stockings of Splashes: Clad in Rain, Joy in Rain

Historically, the humanity has been in search of methods to avoid rain. As such, the clothes we wear are tools to protect ourselves physically and to maintain our bodily temperature at a constant level. All the more the reason it has been one of the most paramount things to avoid becoming wet. Yet, since ancient times, our clothes simultaneously assumed the role of ornamentations; this epitomizes measures of self-expression. Transforming along with the weather and situations, clothes reflect the season. Meaning anybody and everybody are indicators capable of consciously and subconsciously expressing our connection to nature.

This outcome of this project is extremely minimal stockings without color or pattern ordinarily. However, water is repelled when exposed to wind and rain since the entire surface was treated with the super-hydrophobic process. This is its functional aspect as “clothing.” Contrastingly, there are some areas that absorb water in droplet shapes, treated locally by super-hydrophilic process. Since the areas saturated with water will appear darker, one can enjoy the polka-dot pattern emerging only when raining. This is its “ornamental” aspect.

By cladding oneself with this article that only becomes animate when in contact with water – going against the common wisdom on the function of clothing – this product seeks to reinforce the joys of clothing rather as an ornamentation in pursuit of innocent playfulness and reversing conventionality. If one were to speak in the context of “the search for Beauty,” this is a form of direct shakkei – the garden design technique of taking in surrounding landscape – in this case of embedding into clothes the rain or fascinatingly beautiful droplets as an ornate background. By co-opting the surrounding environment into oneself, the context expands to the theme of “symbiosis with nature.”

CREDIT

Production: Diamond Design Management Network
Planning & Creative Direction: Kotaro Watanabe (Takram), Kinya Tagawa (Takram)
Photograph: Takashi Mochizuki

© 2012 Takram design engineering
© 2012 Diamond Design Management Network

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