In the game of Mad Libs, one player asks the other for a list of adjectives, nouns, adverbs, and verbs. The player responds, not knowing how or where they fit into the story, as the other writes down the results. The story is then read aloud to an often incongruous, unintentionally nonsensical and hilarious result. But the story is also always unique and unrepeatable, a process by which designer Itay Ohaly looked for inspiration when creating his ‘Fragmented Process’ furniture series.
In the series, Ohaly asked friends to complete a series of eight actions in subsequent steps; only, his friends didn’t know the purpose of their actions or how they fit into the larger picture (or that they were even designing furniture!). The first friend drew 2D shapes, the 2nd turned those shapes into 3D volumes, and so on until a fully functional workstation was created. Below are the steps each friend was asked to complete- the only reference each one had was the step immediately preceding their own.
The resulting workspace has the basic components of a traditional one- four legs for support, shelving for storage, and a privacy screen for blocking out noisy neighbors. Yet the workspace looks nothing like one designer, working in one logical sequence, would design. Ohaly speaks to the unique design process, saying, ‘I tried to find ways where the designer has less control. I’m trying to find ways to surprise myself…at the end I was surprised. Sometimes it was even too much, because I wanted to create functional objects. Then it becomes a conflict between functionality and efficiency.’ To that end, Ohaly did insert himself into the design process, shaping the various stages so that a functional piece could be created in the end. The graphic below shows how Ohaly influenced the design; in the top row, Ohaly didn’t interfere at all, with the results ending in a chaotic mess, but as Ohaly influenced the design in more and more steps, the piece evolved to something functional:
Why create furniture in such a haphazard way? To quote Ohaly, the ‘fragmented process cuts off the relationship between the designer and the object and the influence of existing aesthetics and it formulates a new way of constructing [and thinking about] objects.’