I was deeply touched both as a designer and as a speculative fiction writer/artist by this project. The Sandbox stood out of the crowd by its serendipitous genesis which led into a ludic methodological process which ended up in the production of beautifully designed prototypes which are simultaneously elegant, innovative and bizarre. If future is now, this is the way furniture is designed in the future. – Bernardo Fernandez
I like this speculative, open-ended exploration of the grain of the material, very nicely combined with new fabrication technologies. It felt modern and exciting. Also I like the end-products of this exploration, they seem fresh and elegant as well as quite weird. – Bruce Sterling
Sandbox is a project that explores how to draw inspiration from a common material. In manipulating the sand used by sand casters to create molds, we began exploring what types of sand pile geometries could be created by pouring sand through thin plates with different sized and shaped openings in them. We found that the sand formed repeated unique ridge-like geometric forms. The forms were replicated and modified in CAD and evaluated for application to the development of a product concept. One geometrical creation became the inspiration for a new take on the aesthetic and functionality of a table.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?
This project is unique in that there was no problem to solve. The project was an exploration of a nebulous and open ended process. It began with the designer’s fascination with the feel of casting sand and its ability to create interesting geometric forms when piled up. This initial fascination could have not led to anything. The challenge was in determining how to translate the tactile characteristics of the sand into something tangible.
The crux of the project was the introduction of extrusion-like tools to form controlled geometric sand piles. After evaluating a number of sand pile geometries, the secondary challenges were to replicate them into CAD surfaces and then determine how to apply them to a tangible product solution.3. The Intent: What point of view did you bring to the project, and were there additional criteria that you added to the brief?
Almost all design projects revolve around solving a problem. Although conventional design processes yield solutions that improve and enrich our lives, we found that playful exploration can lead to a new take on a ubiquitous product – in this case a table. Taking inspiration from the sand pile geometries and replicating and modifying variations in CAD yielded unusual patterns of intersecting craters. These craters became the basis for the table design which consists of intersecting recesses that can be used like bowls that are built into the table surface. By following the unorthodox process we did, we were able to create an aesthetic that would have never been discovered by following a conventional process.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)
The project was initiated after one of the team’s designers visited a sand casting supplier. While visiting the foundry, he became fascinated with the feel of the casting sand as it ran through his fingers. He pondered how he might better control the flowing sand and decided to use extrusion-like tooling – a number of plates with a range of orifices cut into them. He experimented by running sand through different orifices, observed the results, and then replicated the most visually interesting sand pile forms in CAD. After reviewing the CAD generated surfaces, he evaluated product types that could benefit from the introduction of these newly created surfaces. The bowl-like recesses lent themselves well to a table by creating a new aesthetic and functionality. The point of the project was to explore an open ended and nebulous process of creation to see what types of results it might yield.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.)
As designers, we are always seeking new ways of practicing our craft. Exploring new approaches to design is essential to the continued evolution of the profession. Being curious and finding new sources of design inspiration can only expose us to new possibilities. The value of the Sandbox project is the revelation that something as common as sand can become the catalyst for a new design. This project serves as an example of how tapping into one’s curiosity and pursuing a nebulous and open ended design process can yield a tangible design statement.