Hidden ingredients and their influence on experience design

Hidden ingredients and their influence on experience design

An attempt at glass blowing left me thinking about how design properties can remain hidden during manufacture yet go on to define the experience of the finished product.

Encouraged by the visit of a cousin with an interest in craft, I found myself at Salt Glass Studios, located in a picturesque barn in the even more pictuersque village of Burnham Thorpe (birthplace of Admiral Horatio Nelson, where his father was the rector of the local church).

Founded by Fiona Wilkes and Max Lamb, Salt Glass Studios runs a variety of courses as well as taking private commissions. Max was our tutor for the day and he explained the process with the detail and humour necessary to illuminate it for our novice interests.

Glass leaves demonstrating various pigment colours

Glass leaves demonstrating various pigment colours

Our goal was to blow a glass bauble, the surface of which could be imbued with colour and opacity by rolling it in pigments at various stages of its creation.

He showed us samples of colour within finished glass, as well as the pigment in its raw form. The difference was noticeable, reminding me how important it is to build up the craftperson’s ‘sixth sense’ – that rare ability to project knowledge of a raw material – be it computer code or glass pigment – into a minds-eye vision of the polished output.

The colour actually disappears entirely during the fierce, 1000 degree firings which keep the glass workable during the blowing process. Its final shade remains a mystery, even after the bauble has cooled enough to show its finished form. Ultimately it will define the visual experience of the object, but it only becomes a known quantity at the very end.

Part of MEX Inspirations, an ongoing series exploring tangents and their relationship to better experience design.


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  1. 1
    Marek Pawlowski

    My sense of digital code as a craftsperson’s ‘raw material’ was influenced by Franco Papeschi’s MEX/9 talk in May 2011 (you can watch it here: https://www.mobileuserexperience.com/mex-sessions-franco-papeschi-on-digital-craft-sustainability/2209/), when he made an analogy with the way a carpenter understands the properties of wood or a mason the intricacies of stone.

    It is further explored in some of my other posts, such as:

    Crafting experience https://www.mobileuserexperience.com/crafting-experience/1538/


    Digital sustainability and sustaining digital https://www.mobileuserexperience.com/digital-sustainability-sustaining-digital/2454/

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