3 years ago I began a series of installations involving match boxes printed with the words “Keep Air Fresh” placed in restrooms throughout New York City. The project makes a deliberate product out of a long used home remedy of lighting a match to get rid of any unwanted bathroom odors. Aside from its humor, the project represents a personal exploration of what it means to be an artist and what it means to be a designer. I am equally passionate about both, so trying to find a way to seamlessly bring the two together has been of interest to me for the past few years. Shortly after the onset of Keep Air Fresh, which has now reached over 200 installations, including the MoMA and the Brooklyn Museum (restrooms), word got out and the matches were picked up and are now sold at various retailers. The project represents the first of many projects where products serve as the medium for art and art in turn provides the material for products.
I am admittedly a failed graffiti artist after spending many hours of my teenage years putting up some horrific pieces around the DC area and Keep Air Fresh gave me a sense of closure in my quest to put something up where no one wants me to put something up. Well…kind of. There is a certain lack of the “thrill” involved in working within the confines of restrooms, so I set out to do something more public. Last year I began the Will You Ever Use Me Again? project aimed at promoting the pencil to create awareness that technology has displaced one of our steadfast tools of craft. The project involves adhering a set of pencils engraved with it’s namesake on iPad billboards around the city. Truly public art, they are meant to be taken. On a few occasions this past year, the pencils have both been for sale as product and on display as art within 1 block of one another, product or art determined by its environment.
My next and current exploration takes the approach of the handmade limited edition. By no means is this uncharted territory, rather a space that provides for some potentially interesting outputs and self-reflection. As a designer, more specifically an industrial designer, my task is to design products built for mass production. While this task continues to be of great interest, the one piece of the industrialization process that I’ve always found missing is a true connection to the end product. As close as a designer is to a project, at some point it gets handed off for interpretation and the outcome is always “pretty close” at best. Earlier this year, I created a limited edition set of lamps for the design shop, Vitrine. A set of 20 numbered edition pieces all built personally by hand that individually are simply lamps, but when stacked create a sculpture. While the process was painstaking, I did find a unique connection with each of the pieces and more importantly, I regained an appreciation and respect for the craft of design, a craft rooted in the art of making things. We as designers run the risk of losing touch while behind our computers and behind our printers; and although prototyping is a way to get our hands dirty, sometimes making the real thing is the most satisfying way to go.
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Dino Sanchez a NYC-based Industrial Design artist and the senior designer at frog. His most recent projects including a public art installation called, “Will You Ever Use Me Again” has created awareness around the fact that technology is displacing the art of craft. Learn more about Dino Sanchez.