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Independent Research Digital & Physical: A



Richard Clarkson 300160220 Supervisor: Natasha Perkins

Section one: pp. 2 - 30 - Initial planing and begining of research

Section two: pp. 31 - 99 - Extended research, sketching and scale prototyping.

Section three: pp. 99 - 168 - Integrated research, continued scale prototyping, research & exhibition summary.

Independent Study Project Proposal Student:

Richard Clarkson


Supervisor: Natasha Perkins Trimester Three

Stage One: Planning and Initial Research

Start Date: 14/11/2011

End Date: 26/02/2012

This Independent study will begin to explore the relationship between the physical and the digital with the intent of exploring furniture based creations that embody the opportunities of the combination and contrast of these two elements. The Researcher will be required to explore both mechanical and analogue ideals as well as digital concepts and ideals including CAD and CAM. This study will be done in collaboration with a Masters Research thesis and be used as a practical output and physical exploration of the concepts and ideas generated. It is expected that one or more intensive design concept outcome(s) for further development is arrived at from this Independent Study for elaboration in the following summer in SARC312 and then SARC412 in 2013. This project is split into three stages. The three stages systematically build upon one another, strengthening the Researcher’s ability to successfully engage progressively more complex and sophisticated design challenges. These ideas will be extended and developed through the consideration of context, function and ergonomics with a strong focus on the relationship of to the two main research points mentioned above. Concepts will be resolved to a high level with particular emphasis being given to the structural and aesthetic qualities of materials and the refinement of design details. The Researcher will be required to produce final renders and scale models of the design outcome(s) with the possible requirement of a 1:1 test rig pending design focus and discussion with supervisor. These should actively express the design language and essence of the focus of this Independent Study. Stage One: Planning

1 week

Due Mon 21st Nov


Stage Two Research & Idea Generation

4 weeks

Due Fri 16th Nov


Stage Three: Development & Prototyping

8 weeks

Due Mon 27th Feb


Total‌. 100% Project process blog: The Researcher is required to regularly update this process blog with sketches, comments, ideas, notes, inspirations etc... Throughout this Independent study in order to keep in contact with supervisor. As well as this the Researcher is required to meet with the supervisor to discuss progress, this must be in person at least once every two weeks at a time that suits both the Researcher and the supervisor. The Researcher will require use of facilities including the SOAD 2nd year workshop and SOAD Computer login access over the Trimester 3 period.

As I begin my initial research of the harmonious contradiction of the analog/ mechanical/physical and the digital. Clocks and watch faces seems to be an excellent starting point. In our experience a clock can either be analog or digital. The images above show some artists and designers attempts to combine these two forms, some more successfully than others, often these are the designs that keep the two forms simple and subtly combine them in a graceful integration. There also seems to be an element of psychological design surprise which could be a powerful element to carry into my own design concepts.

Opposite page (top to bottom & right to left):

Ulysse Nardin Chairman Hybrid Mechanical Smart Phone (opposite) This particular phone was one of the precedents for one of my earlier projects the “Rotary Mechanical Smartphone� of which I will talk about in a post to come. The reason I continue to use this smartphone as inspiration and as a precedent, even thought the actual design is now outdated, it is the thinking behind the object and the values it carries that interests me. These values talk of lasting luxury, handmade aesthetics and careful consideration and thought.

(above) This is my Rotary Mechanical Smartphone designed to be an expression of the growing feeling that digital plastic is taking over and the realization than there is a beauty and value in the handmade and mechanical imperfections. These are all ideals I wish to carry through into this project, however the steampunk aesthetic that is for that particular project is not something I want to use in this new project. Perhaps an interesting side note to make is that during the process of the rotary Mechanical project I discovered that it is virtually impossible to cleanly adapt a working physical system to a preexisting digital one, the are often just to different in the way the operate, having said this if the entire object (electronics and all) are designed from the beginning then an integration of the two forms is much more realistically doable. This is defiantly something to keep in mind throughout my process. Opposite page (top to bottom):

QR Tags & Augmented Reality In recent years QR tags and augmented reality have become more and more popular in gaming, animation, advertising and recreation. This is one method of bring the digital to the physical in a way we haven’t really seen before. Certainly this could lend itself for a type of digital furniture, or even provide a way for consumers to change the aesthetics and details of an object. A lot of experimentation will be required if I choose to go down this path.

What I mean by... “Harmonious Contradiction” I have mentioned the term “Harmonious contradiction” a few times now and I should elaborate on what exactly I mean. It comes about from the idea that these two forms, digital and physical, are complete opposites yet in today’s society they need each other to exist. There is a point at which the two forms come together, I like to call this point the Equilibrium point. At this point everything is in balance and harmony is achieved. Stray too far either side of this point and people feel uneasy, systems begin to not function correctly and balance is lost, eventually leading to a return in the direction of the prior form, often overstepping the equilibrium and going too far in the other direction. This constant fluctuation bouncing over the equilibrium point is very similar to concepts such as the continuing curve of design and even basic economic principals.

Opposite page (top to bottom & right to left):

Front Design & Digital Furniture. From the Front Design Website:

“Is it possible to let a first sketch become an object, to design directly onto space? The four FRONT members have developed a method to materialise free hand sketches. They make it possible by using a unique method where two advanced techniques are combined. Pen strokes made in the air are recorded with Motion Capture and become 3D digital files; these are then materialized through Rapid Prototyping into real pieces of furniture.�

Smart Furniture or Space saver furniture could be a possible output for this project and provide me with a context. Although this type of design has been done a lot I feel that with the ever growing population recently surpassing 7 billion worldwide, space is only going to gain importance as an issue to address. Perhaps I can bring something new to this style of design through a digital aspect/ approach. Something to consider. Opposite page (top to bottom & right to left):

This page (top to bottom & right to left):

(above) Cliclounger from Alexander Pelikan Nice quote from the designer, “The future could be fully digital furniture where the customer only buys the file needed for manufacture, steps to the closest milling facility and lets his piece be produced locally on the spot. And in this way ‘immaterialized’ product would cut down a lot on transport- and material costs, be very environmentally-conscious and above all it would broaden the freedom of design…” Test and Images from:

(opposite) Digital Furniture by Amanda Levete Interesting interpretation of what digital furniture is, delivering a very sculptural aesthetic. Images from:

Cinderella Table by Jeroen Verhoeven “The object is clearly the result of computer aided design, but is also clearly hand-finished. It alludes to grandeur through the outlines of historically grand furniture in its profiles, yet it is also economical and humble, an unadorned plywood shell with no applied surface. These contradictions, or juxtapositions, are commonly found in recent Dutch design.” source:

“‘It’s about attention to detail and the possibility to make something unique with a machine that is normally used for mass production.’ Jeroen Verhoeven” source:

Opposite page (top to bottom):

PaperCP: Exploring the Integration of Physical and Digital Affordances for Active Learning - Chunyuan Liao, et al A very in depth look into merging digital and physical classroom equipment. This would go hand in hand with a educational context if my project where to take that direction. Here a section of the abstract of the report: “Abstract. Active Learning in the classroom domain presents an interesting case for integrating physical and digital affordances. Traditional physical handouts and transparencies are giving way to new digital slides and PCs, but the fully digital systems still lag behind the physical artifacts in many aspects such as readability and tangibility. To better understand the interplay between physical and digital affordances in this domain, we developed PaperCP, a paper-based interface for a Tablet PC-based classroom interaction system (Classroom Presenter), and deployed it in an actual university course. This paper reports on an exploratory experiment studying the use of the system in a real-world scenario. The experiment confirms the feasibility of the paper interface in supporting student-instructor communication for Active Learning. We also discuss the challenges associated with creating a physical interface such as print layout, the use of pen gestures, and logistical issues. Keywords: Active Learning, Affordances, Paper-based Interface, Physical Interface, Tablet PC” source:

Possible Contexts: Starting to think of a context for this project, something that will lend itself well to exhibition of my masters thesis later down the line. Some possible options could be: Educational Smart systems Exhibition Public / street Low cost / problem solving Sustainable Or perhaps even a combination of two or more. At this early stage I would like to keep my options open and let my research guide me.

.gif Player by Pieterjan Grandry This is exactly the style of design I am looking to achieve for this project. Grandry has taken an entirely digital concept and made it physical, in doing so he has made both the physical and digital adaptions of the concept stronger. Perhaps I can recreate this digital to physical or physical to digital in a furniture setting. “In 1832, Jozeph Plateau, a Belgian physicist invented the phenakistiscope. The first device which was able to show a moving image and which is considered to be the pre-runner of modern cinema. The only down part however was the fact that it could only show short movie clips in a loop. An animated gif is exactly that, and after some research on Plateau’s original design, I succeeded to build a device capable of playing animated gifs, incorporating led lights, microchips and magnetic sensors. The Gif player is a wooden box, much like a turntable, with a dimmer to adjust the speed of the animation and a small looking hole in the front.” Source:

CNC (opposite) Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Aided Manufacture (CAM) will be important components of the digital side of this project, more on this will follow.

“There are possibilities in the real world which are missing from the digital world – things like tangibility, emotion, community, physicality and experience. (Henry Flitton, Harriet McDougall, Chris Thomas and Ben Redford)”

Opposite page (top to bottom & right to left):

(opposite) Evil Robot Designs use of upcycling of old toy’s to make new furniture pieces. The stark contrast of the first image is particularly effective. Perhaps I can integrate a style of digital upcycling in my own work. source:

STACK Furniture STUCK with VELCRO by AWS Designteam (above) The modularity created by replication of the same object is a very digital conception, though I feel to be truly digital the object must be much simpler than the c shape shown in this project, perhaps a small cube. This could even bring fourth a representation of Binary code, the code central to all things digital. source:

“Soft Cubes” Idea been done. In a previous post introduced the idea of modular Velcro cubes to form furniture but it seems that idea has already been done. Though the colour scheme of the existing ones is questionable and perhaps I can adapt it towards a different context. source:

Yona by Kieser Spath “…can be used as a lounge chair or dismantle it and lo and presto it falls flat to become a carpet. Covered in upholstery, it has several thin foam layers and fabric and a bearing structure made in polypropene sheet. An industrial Velcro is used to steady the chair on the floor. Having soft edges, it allows multiple sitting and lying postures to the users. When used as a chair, it offers extra upholstery at the base to place the feet on. It is versatile furniture in the true sense.” source:

Bone Chair by Joris Laarman Very famous design that is a wonderful example of how digital design methods and thinking is beginning to increasingly effect the way we design and create objects and furniture. The extract below is part of a larger article by David Dick, I have selected a section relevant to my research on his thoughts of analog vs digital: “The issue of digital versus analogue information is only tangentially related to design, or perhaps not at all related if you want to be perfectly literal about it, but it has a certain symbolic relationship to the bigger picture into which I’m trying to fit the Bone Chair. We equate “analogue” with vinyl and cassettes: easily-degraded, hissy-sounding formats. Or clock faces with sweeping hands that never point directly to the number, but are always pointing to one of the infinite number of sub-divided gradations between those numbers. Digital information, on the other hand, is encoded in zeros and ones, binary extremes, making it robust and insusceptible to degradation. CDs and mp3s always sound as clear as the original studio recording; digital clocks always quantize the time into nice whole numbers. This belies the fact that analogue formats actually hold vastly more information than digital ones. To illustrate this, I turn from music and time to imagery. We all know (all of us, that is, except writers of TV procedural dramas) that when you blow up a digital image enough, all you get is a series of pixels; there’s a threshold below which there is not just diminished information, there’s no information. An analogue format such as celluloid, on the other hand, can be blown up indefinitely. There’s a loss of image resolution, and a graininess, to be sure, but in theory, at least, the detail is not inherently limited by the format.” source:

“our digital age makes it possible to not just use nature as a stylistic reference, but to actually use the underlaying principles to generate shapes like an evolutionary process. Joris Laarman”

Opposite page (top to bottom):

Hylozoic Soil by Philip Beesley Living architecture is what Beesley strives for, indeed some of his recent exhibitions show that this vision of the future could be closer than we expect. He uses micro-prossers, and mechanical systems to create an architecture that responds indirectly with itself and human interaction. His work is definitely a precedent for my project, especially if I approach things from an architectural or lighting point of view. Source:

(above) Sound chair This chair/ furniture set would use sound as it’s digital integration medium. I love the idea that the user would be able to feel the digital element as the interact with the physical. The design of the chair itself would need a lot of development and refinement but overall this could be a possible direction in which to take this project.

Planning conclusions and Future Directions Miles stone dates set, and the beginnings of a research project set in motion. The research question I have arrived at is; What happens when the physical and the digital are combined in a furniture setting? Although this is still a very broad question it does allow for a full exploration of the two concepts and the threshold in which they overlap. I plan to continue to gain more clarity and direction as this project progresses. I have a few potential directions I could pursue; - The sound Chair which explore’s symbiosis and audio therapy. - The follow me Lighting Unit which is a statement piece about how architecture is changing. - An augmented reality furniture set that allows the digital and physical spaces to interact and generate info and data. - Programmable Furniture which could allow for customisable systems.

(above) Follow me light - Ceiling Furniture The spider cam used in the 2011 Rugby World Cup uses digital 3D modeling technology to achieve its location & movement. Perhaps this technology could be applied to lighting or even ceiling furniture. “SpiderCam works using winches and cables above the playing area which allow the camera to film any position on the field.” source:

- Code based furniture similar to Laarman’s Bone chair but done in a new context.

From the beginning I have known that the integration of the digital and physical was going to be a challenge, but it is a challenge that I look forward to.

- Start of Section Two Section two further develops some of the ideas discussed in section one as well as continued research into existing designs and concepts relevant to this research project. The aim of this section is primarily to refine the research question and to begin prototyping scale models that express ideas generated from the research.

2.1 Research

End of Section One

(opposite) Sketch Chair by Diatom Studio “Digital manufacturing processes open up a world of opportunity for producing unique individualized objects, but we think there is a lack of accessible digital tools that allow anybody to use these processes to design and make their own functional, personalized products. We hope that SketchChair will give anybody the opportunity to design a unique one-off original chair that is personal to them.” text and image source:

(above) The UNICEF Brick “The UNICEF Brick is a construction concept inspired by toy building blocks that can help third-world residents in emergencies. Each block has two compartments that are initially filled with food and water. Once the contents have been consumed, the UNICEF Brick can then be filled with sand, soil or rocks and easily stacked upon each other to build a shelter.” text and image source:

(opposite) Speaker Chair by Davone Ray image source:

(above) Modular Furniture Concept by Sanjin Halilović source:

(above & opposite) WALLFA by Jordi Canudas “WALLFA is a 2-sided piece of furniture that is both a wall and a sofa combined. WALLFA is made from a stretchy membrane type of material that allows the users the ability to sit on either side for simple relaxation or communicating with friends or co-workers� text and image source:

(above) Laptop Lounge Chair by Rasmus Fenhann image source: Chair_by_Rasmus_Fenhann.html

(above) MUR-01 rocking chair from Irisohyama only 8.6 watts! that is similar to small computer speakers! The design for my speaker chair if it goes ahead would be over 350 watts (rms) image source:

(above) FALLEN TREE BY BENJAMIN GRAINDORGE This is a perfect example of where someone has used a contradiction in a simple and elegant way in a furniture setting. Although here the contradiction is made between nature and product as a statement piece I would be aiming at a more contextualized furniture piece. “The Fallen Tree bench is intended to reveal the wood’s DNA, to express it’s deepest nature by attempting to highlight the living fibre it is made of. I want to expose and bring it to life to reveal it’s primal identity: strong, indomitable and above all magnificent.” says Graindorge. image and text quote:

(opposite & below) Polygon Chesterfield by Christian Fiebig Gives a good interpretation of what digital design is. Image source:

(below) Sasa Clock by Thorunn Arnadottir image source:

(above) Fallen Chair by Tim Mak Cool I have added this to my research and inspiration image cloud because of three reasons. Firstly it highlights the importance of constantly re evaluating products and activities and creating innovitive and new outcomes for age old problems. Secondly it demonstrates the differences in cultures, and finally it then takes these differences and finds a common ground in which the two cultures can both exist. This concept is very much related to what I am doing in my own research. image source:

(opposite) Inception Chair by Vivian Chiu “Taking the chair archetype and placing within it chairs that are progressively smaller. Each chair has hand cut grooves on the inside edges of its seat frame as well as notches in the seat back. These grooves range from 1/2” wide to 1/8” wide. The mechanism works so that the pegs fit into the grooves of the chair one size bigger and slides into place so that the horizontal edge between the chair seat and back line up. The simple mechanism allows the chairs to be taken apart and put together with ease.” Image and text source:

(above) PLAY With Dedon Chairs by Starck & Quitllet Philippe Starck presents the customizable PLAY chair-armchair, “the fruit of two opposing yet interchanging design concepts. It marries the high technology of a moulded polypropylene and fibreglass frame with the unique style of chairs and backrests handcrafted by master artisans. source: Image sources::

(above) Modular, adjustable ceiling lighting examples on the market The spider cam technology is something that is quite different to all of these examples and defiantly begins to bring a digital aspect to a space, especially relevant because of its references to CAD and 3D rendering programs where lights are moved in a rigid x-y-z axis and float in space. Image sources::

(below) TĹ?hoku Japanese Earthquake Sculpture| Luke Jerram

(above) Mikakure by Koki Yoshida source:

“The boundary between a walkway and an adjacent artificial pond was chosen as the location for the work. This interface between “liquid” (water) and “solid” (land) was thematically used and augmented by the question of “real” (water ripples) and “virtual” (artificial light waves).”

(above) Thomas Feichtner’s M3 Chair chair_20815.asp

(opposite) Duality by Art+Com This is a project by Art+Com that I have studied before, and only just realized it is a perfect precedent for my project. Along with some of their other projects such as Grasp Pendulum, BMW Kinetic Sculpture and Mobility this installation involves the marrying of the two concepts of digital and physical. Duality is especially effective in doing this as the two concepts are “telling the same story” as with the digital/analog clock I explored earlier in this research. This two sided story is what I am still trying to find in my own research, both the context of the story and the story itself. text and image source:

(above) Dock by Alexandre Pain “Dock is the result of designer Alexandre Pain’s reflection on the themes of simplicity and lightness. The stripped-down side table avoids glue, screws, and dowels and instead uses elastic bands and tension to fix the legs to the body. The unconventional construction not only cuts back on hardware costs but also means that assembly and disassembly can be repeated without compromising quality. “ Text and image source:

Stork Desk by Nando Schmidlin “a small home office solution for your small apartment. Simply lean the desk against a wall, and, voila, you end up with your own personal, and highly portable, home office.” Text and Image source: storch-desk-by-nando-schmidlin-is-best-friendswith-the-wall.html

(above) Haptic Intelligentsia by Joong Han Lee “Haptic Intelligentsia merges hand craftsmanship and computerized technology into a single 3D printing machine that allows the user to tactually perceive a virtual object before transforming it into a physical one. The user can freely move the extruding gun, which is attached to a haptic interface. When the tip of the gun is moved into a surface region of the virtual object, the interface generates forces under computer control, allowing the user to feel and touch the surface of the object. Without looking at the computer screen, the only way to visualize the virtual object is to pull the trigger and extrude the material along the feedback surface. The results are always unique and different, depending on how each user responds to the machine’s guidance. The sense of touch is no longer present in our current screen-based interface. Haptic Intelligentsia humanizes the 3D printing process, bringing the user a tactile relationship to the virtual object.” Image and text source:

(above) Wall Chair by Chao Huang Similar to Nando’s Stork or Storch Table, this uses the wall as its support. I can tell if this chair is fixed to the wall or portable. I feel that this design contains huge potential but is lacking the elegance of Nando’s version. Perhaps I can further develop this direction and combine a digital element to it? Source:

(above) Peg By Studio Gorm Very beautiful design, the simplicity and aesthetics used here are similar to those that I want to develop in my own research. Though this particular example is not digital in the standard definition of the term, the projects modularity and storage does have some references to digital ideas. Image source:

(above) DIY RGB LED Color Table by Edo Using an Arduino chip Edo has created a 64 pixel table, along with the rainbow function shown in the image the table also response to tipping and music via an accelerometer and microphone attachments. The programing and installation of something of this degree is not beyond my grasp and if I were to go in this direction there is also perhaps the possibility of a collaboration with Craig Onslow a Researcher at the main campus. Image source:

(above) Construction Quilt by Studio Gorm “was designed as simple multifunctional interior piece that can be transformed into a toy by children. it works as a carpet, a couch cover and can be converted into a landscape for toy cars or fort to play in. it works off of a simple grid of triangles made of dense foam covered with wool felt.� Image and Text source:

(opposite) Kinetic sculptures by Theo Jansen Although very mechanical these works by Theo Jansen are incredible. The mechanism that permits the movement is actually very simple in concept but getting the right proportions to bear weight is very difficult. This could make a wonderful coffee table, desk or even chair, especially when combined with electronic & digital controls, such as a return home button to bring all the chairs neatly back under the table. Perhaps though is too much of a mechanical system to be a true combination of digital & physical. “Theo Jansen, a Dutch Engineer, something like a hero of combining art and engineering. He came into the public’s focus through a South African BMW commercial. After that, he has been invited to all major intellectual conferences, explaining his work. And it’s truly impressive. Using simple plastic tubes, he has been developing mobile kinetic constructions. Through using the principals of evolution, Theo Jansen was able to find the perfect proportions to allow his creations to walk, powered by wind only..” Image and Text source:

(above) LittleDog by Boston Dynamics “LittleDog is a quadruped robot developed for research on locomotion. It is utilized to probe the fundamental relationships between motor learning, dynamic control, perception of the environment, and rough terrain locomotion. LittleDog has four legs, each powered by three electric motors, which deliver a broad range of motion and workspace, including climbing. The onboard PC-level computer has sensing, actuator control and communications. LittleDog’s sensors measure joint angles, motor currents, body orientation and foot/ground contact. Control programs access the robot through the Boston Dynamics Robot API. Onboard lithium polymer batteries allow for 30 minutes of continuous operation without recharging. Wireless communications and data logging support remote operation and analysis..” Image and Text source:

2.2 Sketching

2.3 Scale Prototyping

(below) Mouse Chair This Concept is focused on the idea that an object, such as a chair, can explore a given space in a 2d orientation can be mapped in a similar way a computer mouse is tracked. The advantage of a chair or table goes beyond the mouse adding a 3rd axis of rotation that a standard computer mouse is not equipped to pick up on. The context of the chair could be anything from an integrated gaming control to assisted computer control. The technology that exist to complete this type of motion tracking is readily available in many different forms including but not limited to: lazer tracking, camera motion tracking, gps, RFID tags, and infared sensors. The output for such a piece could give useful information on movement during an activity, furniture paths, and user habits, as well as more abstract data on various metrics of movement and patterns.

(above) Digital Terrium The digital Terrium is based on the concept of a digital integrated and controlled plant system both to control the watering and growth of real plants and to output this as a digital plant interface. While projects have been done in this area before the integration into a furniture setting is a new avenue. Perhaps also the unit could provide herbs for cooking, compost waste disposal and also a small amount of oxygen and even energy generation.

(opposite & above) Dynamo Chair A Dynamo is a very simple form of electric generator powered through kinetic energy, they have been used in torches, push bikes and even radios. I propose the installment of a dynamo chair. I have observed myself as I sat down into a chair and often it is done with a large amount of gravitational force, especially true for soft couches and armchairs. This energy could be utilized and collected by dynamo generator and used for a number of outputs that only require a small amount of electricity such as, to power a tv remote, LED, or even charge an ipod or cell phone.

(below) Zero Waste Folding Chair This design is perhaps more of an aesthetic design than one that address the research question.

(opposite) Digital Sundial Chair Although the scale model is very rudimentary there is a huge amount of potential in the idea behind this chair.. Originally conceived as a chair covered in LCD panels the concept evolved to project an interactive “shadow� of the chair. This shadow could act as a digital sundial to tell the time. The obstacles of this design are great but if overcome could provide a really beautiful and cleaver conversation of the similarities and contrasts of the digital and the physical especially when the two shadows interact. This is defiantly one of the designs I will be looking at to develop in the next section of the research.

(below) Butterfly Chair A very simple idea based on using the same starting point piece, where one is bent and the other is trimmed. There is also the possibility to become modular when two of the bent sections are used to make a desk or table.

(below) Cantilever Chair This is an evolution of a system I designed for a previous paper and uses principals of friction and cantilever to hold weight in certain ways. Perhaps this could be pushed into a digital form?

(above) LCD Table Designs such as the Microsoft Table and other such concepts are becoming more and more a part of the future of design furniture. The usefulness of having wireless interconnection of devices and objects as well as information at your fingertips need not be pointed out. This digitization of surfaces is not what this research aims at doing, however when this touchscreen based interface goes beyond a 2D surface and becomes much more than it enters the scope of this research. Craig Onslow is a Researcher a the main VUW campus and is developing touchscreen technology and programs. If I were to go in this direction and try to collaborate with him on bringing that technology into functioning furniture it could perhaps be beneficial to both of us.

(opposite & above) Dentist Lamp and Auto Page Turner Either to be used with the Ipad, other e-readers or (most humorously) real books, this is literally a real page turner. This is derived from personal experience that when seated or lying down a comfortable position is never quite reached when two hands are required to hold the book. The inclusion of a reading light and remote makes this lamp the perfect solution.

(below) Tension Chair Similar to the Cantilever Chair this idea is based on methods of tension. Perhaps again this is not so much a combination of the digital and physical but is still a different way of thinking about furniture and about how it is constructed and put together, an important element of this research.

(opposite & above) Theo Jensen Chair A very mechanical concept for either a chair, coffee table or desk, although perhaps it is by very nature too mechanical. I was intending for it to be digitally controlled and contain an interactive robot like quality but as I think about what I have defined digital as this idea drifts further from my research scope.

(below) Double Ripple Chair Directly inspired from Art+Com’s project “Duality” where touchscreen ripples lead onto real life pond ripples. I though this precedent could be uses in a similar way as a coffee table. However although a really good combination of digital and physical it lacks any real context or reason for existence.

(opposite) Speaker Chair The Speaker chair is a concept I have had in mind for a very long time. It has been done before in various sound therapy chairs that are not aesthetically pleasing or suitable in most homes. I feel that there is still a lot of work to be done in the justification of this piece but there is still potential in it as well. This is one of the models that scaled very nicely as I was able to use earphone speakers and actuality have the chair playing music. This is also a design concept that I have tested with is very rudimentary test rig at home and it have thus far proven that music can be felt beyond simply heard. If I were to pursue this path I would have to strengthen the digital side of this concept to really reflect the true focus of this research.

2.4 Conclusions The research has developed well from section one with some strong ideas coming through. Initially I struggled with what digital truly meant both in terms of definition and its application to furniture. In some ways I have had to assume and predict what I see in the future as being fully digital furniture and then pull that back to integrate with a more physical based design. This has been a challenging but very interesting task and one that I hope to continue to explore and I delve deeper into this research. The focus continues to be on clarifying the research focus and question as well as further developing the ideas discussed in this section. I will also be continuing to develop new ideas that both approach the research question and also begin to develop a possible context.

end of section two

- Start of Section Three This sections is a combination of expanded research, re-evaluation of critical themes and concluding my thoughts and ideas. I take a step back from thinking about concepts for furniture pieces and begin to look at the essence of each of the successful designs and how they relate to my central ideas. Once that was complete I was able to create new concepts using the essence’s of the previous concepts along with the research from this stage and before. Then in the final stages of this exploration I combined many of the stronger ideas behind some of the better concepts and created a hybrid design, for which I built a full scale test rig to use in the exhibition of this research.

3.1 Research

End of Section Two

(opposite) Bright Woods Collection Furniture / Giancarlo Zema This stool and coffee table set are a perfect example of other designers thinking along similar lines as myself. In this project Giancarlo relates the design to an enchanted forest, and uses digital lighting to add value to the wooden pieces. image source:

(below) Circuit Board Coffee Table - by Chris Harrison image source:

(above) To Gather Series by studio Lawrence “The blocky styling of the To Gather series of furniture is more than just a little reminiscent of the famous puzzle video game Tetris! The modular sofa engages the user with individual elements that can be pieced together to form countless seating combinations that will never get old. A convertible loveseat/sofa, chairs available with or without arms, and a variety of colors offer even more personal customization.� Text and image source:

(above) Stefano Giovannoni Pillow Outdoor Collection image source: OW%20LEDS%20RGB

(opposite) Objet-O by Song Seung-Yong “Korean designer Song Seung-Yong has created the whimsical Objet-O, a birch chair with an oversized paper lampshade and light, which evokes the privacy and coziness of a bird’s nest.” text and image source:

(above) CHAIR / CHAIR by Eric Ku “An inspiration from the American contemporary artist Joseph Kosuth, One and Three Chair. Instead of giving new definition, I redefined the concept of a chair by using alphabet. One is able to construct a chair by assembling the redesigned alphabets.” text and image source:

(opposite) Emperor 200 by MWE Lab Although this is one of the more elaborate “gaming chair” concepts I chose to use this as a representation for this new category of furniture because it clearly shows the specific aesthetic that is becoming typical of this style of furniture. This is an aesthetic that I feel is too far detached from the origins of furniture, of materiality and craft etc. As seen with some consumer electronics we have perhaps lapsed too far into digital ideals and are feeling a longing for more tactile, valuable and “real” objects, leading to movements such as steam-punk and slow design. This concept of overstepping the boundary in core to my research and I will explore it further in the theory section over the next two years. It is also one of the strongest examples of were digital integration into furniture makes sense. Although I have looked at this genre of furniture I am looking at more of an artistic statement piece that could feature both in an art gallery and in the home. image source:

(below) holey chair by Takeshi Miyakawa This is deffinatly more of an artpecice than fuctional chair, alough it wouldn’t take too much development to pull it back into the practical realm. It is also a very nice aesthetic precedent using similar design language that I am aiming to use. image source:

(above) Salangbang by Seung-Yong Song A very beautiful design of a cocoon chair. Not only is it cleaver in the way that it interacts with a partner piece but also shows that lighting integrated into a furniture piece need not be over powering but can enhance the gentle essence of the object. image source:

3.2 Sketching

(below & opposite) Notes form the matrix After finally finishing the draft version of the matrix I have found some interesting things, but first I will explain how I did it. On a very large piece of paper I labeled Digital at the top, Physical at the bottom, Practical on the left hand side and Conceptual on the right. I then drew dotted lines to grid out the paper and placed each of my sketch models where I believed fitted in the grid. Once they were in place I sketched some of the other ideas that didn’t get prototyped in locations that suited them. Then all the objects and sketches on the paper were annotated with reasons for placement in that location, ideas for development and a few key words that represent the thinking behind each idea. My findings are as follows: the top left section Digital + Practical section is very empty, although this is something I knew would be hard to achieve I hadn’t realized until this exercise exactly how underrepresented it really was. Thus I will put more focus on directing ideas towards this destination. Secondly other that the empty top left there is a reasonably good spread across the board, though I plan to see more ideas coming closer to the center as they develop. Lastly some of the key words, which will become exploration points in the next part of this research, are as follows: Relatablibility Imaginability Generating Automatic New thinking Sinethiesia Augmentation Projection Interaction Programmable Something from nothing Movement Tracking Overall a very good exercise to take a step back and evaluated my own thinking about this research and produce some clear goals for the next step forward. Comparisons and contrast

(below) Zero Waste Chair With stainability and green design such popular contemporary issues in design methods of minimizing waste are becoming more and more important. Using digital methods of production is one way of achieving this, and this chair makes the most of this, its unbend profile is a square, thus no off cuts.

3.3 Scale Prototyping

(opposite) Style Contrast Chair A very literal translation of my research topic, using typical chair symbols. For a representation of the physical side of my exploration is a victorian styled table chair, with a typical wooden tactility that denotes antiques value. The lower half of the chair is a representation of an office chair which is more an more becoming a symbol of office and computer work. By juxtaposing these two together it vividly introduces the contrasts between the two and the historical references and implications of each.

(below) Password Lamp This is one of my more humerous concepts that confrounts the user by requireing a password to turn it on and off. Usernames and passwords are increasingly becoming more and more a part of our lives as we spend more and more time online, by taking the use of a password out of context it brings a new light to the mundane action of typing in your password.

(below) Flat-pack Coffee Table Similar to some of my other concepts that are more on the physical side this coffee table is a very simple idea based on its flat pack capability.

(above) Digital Wardrobe A wardrobe that is connected to the internet that feeds from your facebook and twitter profiles to gain an idea of your mood, feeds from the weather report for your location, and feeds from fashion blogs you might follow. With a link to the laundry basket and discrete RFID tags in each item of clothing the wardrobe is able to calculate using algorithms based on your preferences between what your favorite items of clothing are, what you wear on certain occasions and the other feeds mentioned above it is able to recommend what you should wear for that day, using motorized draws and LED coat hangers that lightup with the recommend selection. If it makes the wrong selection or the user adjusts it, as would be expected every now and again especially in the beginning, the onboard computer will take a note of the adjustment and learn from it factoring this into future recommendations.

(opposite & above) Programmable / Velcro Chair A hybrid idea that is derived from a Velcro cube idea and the notion of programmable sculpture such as the BMW museum’s Kinetic Sculpture. There is also some essence of Joe Colombo’s furniture works of the 1960’s. The ability to build your own chair around a frame could be a really interesting piece.

(below & opposite) Rua Chair Rue, the Maori word for 2, is a perfect title for this object. A chair made from just two simple cutouts forms a relaxed chair. The version featured here is a reinforced plywood composite. There is potential for a sprung steel version that would produce some interesting bends and flexes when sat in.

(opposite) Digital Shower Chair In previous projects I have experimented with projectors, things like looping the projectors own projection back onto itself creating an infinite loop, and projecting an image of my face onto my face with a different expression, both wielding interesting results. The idea of this chair concept is similar sit in the chair and bathe in a beautiful projection, be it a naturel scene of a forest or an image of home or even a solid block of ones favorite color. I imagine this could become a form a stress relief therapy and has more practical use that one might first assume.

(below) Levitation Chair A popular concept of futurist movies is electromagnetic levitation of furniture and objects. Although as electromagnets lose there force exponentially over distance the amount of power needed to scale this model up to real size would require a personal nuclear power plant in the user’s basement.

(above) Hybrid Chair The aesthetic scale model featured here is the concept based on the idea of a ‘digital render of a shadow’. The chair casts its own shadow digitally, through both internal lighting and under-seat projections, and the shadow is defined by the users interaction with the chair. At this stage I am remaining open to what that interaction(s) might be and what outcome(s) could result, i.e. sundial timepiece, user profiles, data visualization etc. The more open I can be in this phase, the more my theory research will be able to influence my design, and the more effective and powerful the eventual outcome will become. The model above and the test rig shown are my early understandings of what the projection chair might become, they are my interpretation of the point of harmonious contradiction between the digital and the physical.

independant research

3.4 Exhibition

an exploration of the relationships formed when ideals from the physical world and the digital realm are combined in a furniture medium.

(left) Introductory Banner Located as a add-on exhibition to this years closed furniture exhibition I was given a space in which to show the research I have undertaken this summer. The exhibition featured a summary banner of other peoples works, a full scale test rig of one of my concepts and the full range of concept sketch models I have made over the period of this research.

This summary map of my research into related existing products, ideas and concepts shows a overview of societal perception of what digital is becoming to mean in no only in furniture but also in our everyday lives. In

at least some way, The digital realm and all the ideals, possibilities & thinking that come with it is beginning ������������������������������������������������������� �����������������������������������������������������������

������������������������������������������������������ such as craft, materiality, truth, texture, mechanical, analog, aura and many more. Where as elements of the digital such as code, evolution, information,

data, automation, augmentation, computation and interactively contrast strongly with the ideas mentioned in the physical. When these two worlds meet some very interesting things begin to happen and this research

is about exploring this collision and the relationships, outcomes and balances that result to help clarify my �������������������������������������������������������� as being the point at which two opposite ideas can

perfectly coexist at a particular equilibrium, it is this point that I am particularly interested in. The spread of the images above shows that we as designers and as society are still trying to locate that equilibrium point.

(above) Research Summary Banner This summary map of my research into related existing products, ideas and concepts shows a overview of societal perception of what digital is becoming to mean not only in furniture but also in our everyday lives. In at least some way, The digital realm and all the ideals, possibilities & thinking that come with it is beginning to influence everything that is designed. Does this new influence override & replace the traditions of the existing influences, what I have called the physical? Influences such as craft, materiality, truth, texture, mechanical, analog, aura and many more. Where as elements of the digital such as code, evolution, information, data, automation, augmentation, computation and interactively contrast strongly with the ideas mentioned in the physical. When these two worlds meet some very interesting things begin to happen and this research is about exploring this collision and the relationships, outcomes and balances that result to help clarify my focus I have defined the term ‘harmonious contradiction’ as being the point at which two opposite ideas can perfectly coexist

at a particular equilibrium, it is this point that I am particularly interested in. The spread of the images above shows that we as designers and as society are still trying to locate that equilibrium point. This research is very much an explorative process and is still in its early stages. Over the course of the next two years I will develop a theory based thesis looking at where the physical and digital influences comes from and how they relate to other aspects of design and life in general. I plan to also explore the often far-reaching expectations for the future as displayed in medium such as cinema and literature and compare this to historical factual examples. As well as the theory side I will be continuing the development of these ideas into furniture pieces, with the aim of producing a set that both confronts and provokes consideration on the digital vs. physical topic as well as being livable and functional furniture (hence the vertical scale of conceptual vs practical in the map above). Some of the concepting for this has been started and is featured here in this exhibition on the plinths behind you.

This research is very much an explorative process and is still in its early stages. Over the course of the next two years I will develop a theory based thesis looking ��� ������ ���� ��������� ���� �������� ���������� ������

from and how they relate to other aspects of design and life in general. I plan to also explore the often farreaching expectations for the future as displayed in medium such as cinema and literature and compare

this to historical factual examples. As well as the theory side I will be continuing the development of these ideas into furniture pieces, with the aim of producing a set that both confronts and provokes consideration

on the digital vs. physical topic as well as being livable and functional furniture (hence the vertical scale of conceptual vs practical in the map above). Some of the concepting for this has been started and is featured...

For a detailed list of the images references from all of the images featured pleasse see the report or email


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This research was always intended to be an explorative process, and indeed is has been exactly that., not only in the research itself but also in the way the research has been undertaken, I have used both conventional research methods, I have also utilized the internet as a primary research in an unconventionally method to collect and filter my research. By using a blog service such as tumblr I am able to follow almost in real time what the current trends in worldwide furniture are. This really is an invaluable resource. My research question was shaped and finetuned throughout the entire process and even now this phase of the research is finished I want my research question to continue to change and adapt as I enter the theory section of this research., At this stage the research question is as follows: “what are the relationships, outcomes and possibilities formed when ideals from the physical world and the digital realm are combined in a furniture medium?� Overall I am very pleased with the outcome of research, I has given me a very solid foundation for

the next phase of research and it has also allowed the time for many of the ideas and thoughts to simmer and mix with other ideas. Just as this is a new way of thinking about research it is also a new way of thinking about designing furniture. The digital realm is going to become a part of furniture and the physical world is going to have to make compromises in order to meet it, but I strongly believe that both will benefit from the merger. Although we cannot know what the future will bring I have introduced some compelling ideas, concepts and arguments that need to be addressed and explored further before the question of digital and physical can be properly answered. I suppose in a way every sketch, every model and every idea is part of the overall answer to my research question; there are vastly complex love-hate relationships formed, and thousands of different outcomes and endless possibilities, we just have to decide, as a society, which ideas will become part of our reality and which will remain forever as research explorations.

B i b l i o g r a p h y At every stage of research (1.1, 2.1, 3.1) the image reference and occasional text quote reference are listed at the end of the caption. For reference of images used in research banner refer to corresponding image in research and see caption for source. Assume all images and text quotes from websites were accessed on the 25/03/2012.







Thanks to Victoria University of Wellington, Workshop Technicians, Leon Gurevitch and a big thanks to my supervisor for this phase of research Natasha Perkins.

Hybrid Furniture Research Report  
Hybrid Furniture Research Report  

Research and documentation of study into systems of hybrid digital and analogous furniture system.