I would call this an art piece rather than a speculative design concept. But at the same time it redefines the way humans express their feelings on a daily basis. We usually express it by words either in a written or in an oral form. This typewriter allows us to express feelings or tell a simple story in a brand new way. – Irina Kharseeva
I LOVE the Chromatic Typewriter. It is dreamy and palatable dreamy which is makes it easy to love. I think it also makes the point that visual literacy is today’s literacy. – Maria Bezaitis
This is more like a tech-art installation than design work, but I like its dreamy, speculative, poetically mysterious aspects. I’d like to see more work like this mind-expanding effort in future “speculative design” contests, as opposed to the usual pragmatic lamps and chairs. – Bruce Sterling
The Chromatic Typewriter is a conceptual art piece consisting of a modified late-1930′s Underwood typewriter that types a spectrum of colors, rather than the letters of an alphabet.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
The idea for the typewriter was a complete accident. I set out to type a few lines of text onto a watercolor I had created, and seeing the art in the typewriter led to the conclusion that I simply must have a machine that typed colors rather than letters!3. The Intent: What point of view did you bring to the project, and were there additional criteria that you added to the brief?
The original point-of-view was simply to create an elegant sculptural/mixed media piece. Once it was published, I received a number of comments that speculated about what a favorite novel, poem, or love letter might look like if it were transposed by the Chromatic Typewriter. I did not expect or anticipate such questions at the inception of the project. Those questions, however, have sparked an ongoing dialogue about the use of machines, instruments, and tools to translate emotions and experiences, among other things. I hope the typewriter continues to advance or continue those conversations.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
I acquired the typewriter from an antique store a block from my studio and, upon embarking on a restoration prior to modification, had no idea how the device was put together. In an effort to better understand the machine–not to mention how to put the pieces back together!–I consulted a number of virtual typewriter museums. I was struck, for one, by the history and development of the typewriter, and particularly by the interesting advent of the qwerty keyboard. This led me to doubt the positioning of my spectrum on the machine, and to wonder at what the “real” placement of colors would look like, should the machine be employed to paint full-time. As we know, the positioning of the alphabet on a keyboard is directly related to the mechanics of a typewriter: more-commonly used letters are spread about to avoid jamming the machine. What, I began to wonder, would be an ideal placement of colors? I imagine artists would have the keyboard palette arranged to suit their individual needs.
Of further interest was the amazing realization that I had a very special machine with a satin eggshell finish, as opposed to the typical gloss black finish I saw on many pieces in the museums online. It didn’t take long to realize, however, that rather than some limited-edition special finish, my machine was coated in a layer of nicotine tar. Evidently the machine had paid dues! I experimented with an increasingly powerful battery of solvents to remove the stuff, finally settling on acetone for the dirty work and a consumer grade cleaning product to finish the job.5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural, gladdening, etc.)
Once the project was underway I began to better understand its implications. It is a piece that seems to exist at a strange nexus between visual art and literature. The Chromatic Typewriter again examines the difficulties we face in translating emotions or experiences via the primitive methods of language and alphabets, paint, movement, or sound. While the questions it may raise are not new, I hope that it can somehow further the perpetual human inquest of exploring the means of filtering our emotions and experiences through mechanical means–whether they are linguistic in nature, or whether they are tools specifically designed for the noble endeavor of sharing the human experience.