What is texture and how is it useful?
I made a list of different ‘physical feelings’ and wrote down a material that, for me, illustrates that feeling.
- Cold – Marble
- Warm – Wood
- Smooth – Resin
- Rough – Stone
- Soft – Velvet
- Heavy – Concrete
- Dark – Steel
- Hollow – Polystyrene
- Relaxed – Wool
- Scalded – Denim
Using the same process I made a list of different ’emotional feelings’ and a material that evokes that particular feeling.
- Angry – Pebbledash
- Excited – Paint
- Frightened – Plastic
- Content – Velour
- Confused – Vinyl
- Love – Gemstone
- Boredom – Plastic
- Grateful – Limestone
- Fear – Coal
- Nostalgia – Denim
- Empathy – Wood
When considering a calm space and materials for that space, my initial thoughts would be soft fabrics, light coloured materials, natural products such as wood, wool, real plants, real flowers, water, fresh air, stone, candle wax and paint. I have listed the textures that each of these materials would have.
- Wood – Smooth and flat
- Wool – Soft and textured
- Real plants – Organic and smooth
- Real flowers – Layered
- Water – Smooth
- Fresh air – Soft
- Stone – Textured
- Candle Wax – Silky
- Paint – Soft
After completing this exercise I thought it would be interesting to ask other people the same question. I chose to ask 3 members of my family, two of my daughters and my husband. It was interesting hearing their responses, some were very different to mine but a few the same. It’s good to get other perspectives on design ideas and the emotions that materials have on each and every one, a very thought provoking exercise, which I particularly enjoy doing. It’s good to carry out this sort of exercise to remind yourself that we all have different perspectives towards design but can probably agree that some materials and emotions we share similar feelings towards and that having different emotions towards a fabric gives us room for discussion when designing a space.
- Cold – Stone. Marble. Stone
- Warm – Velvet. Coal. Carpet
- Smooth – Glass. Granite. Paper
- Rough – Straw. Sand. Coir doormat
- Soft – Silk. Satin. Hair
- Heavy – Granite. Lead. Brick
- Dark – Slate. Coal. Coal
- Hollow – Corrugate. Egg Shell. Card
- Relaxed – Silk. Water. Fleece
- Scalded – Leaves. Carpet. Water
- Angry – Leather. Concrete. Geometric pattern
- Excited – Bubblewrap. Gold. 3D pattern
- Frightened – Coal. Steel. Water
- Content – Cotton. Baise. Cotton
- Confused – Carpet. Polystyrene. Blue Typography on paper
- Love – Fleece. Duckdown Feather. Feather
The above two designs are similar but I can see that they use different materials and therefore have a different textural quality to each other. Each chair evokes a feeling of comfort and calm. The Bowl Chair, on the left looks comfortable and a seat that you could sit and relax in whilst reading a book or taking a nap. The Ball Chair, on the right, also looks comfortable but because it is more enclosed it makes me feel happy and safe, that feeling you have when a baby is born, a safe and joyous feeling. Texturally I think the Ball Chair has the edge, it looks to be softer to sit on and the material looks soft and warm, the Bowl Chair looks to made of leather which when sat on is quite cold to the skin, so although it may be soft to sit on it wouldn’t evoke the feeling of safe and joyous. Sophistication springs to mind when I think of the Bowl Chair but Fun and Joy springs to mind when looking at the Ball Chair.
I found other examples of furniture that looks as though is has been designed in order to evoke a really distinct feeling. Firstly, here is a seating design that was designed by Gigi Barker. The leather was stretched and moulded over the bulbous forms with the suede section facing side up, these were made as small clay models before translating them into the larger objects and then impregnated with pheromones and aftershave to evoke the sense of sitting on human flesh.
It really does mimic human flesh, which makes me feel a bit strange, but in the right setting I can understand how it would have a positive impact on the user. Barker’s intention was to create shapes that were not instantly recognisable as chairs and that made the viewer question how to interact with shape. This definitely made me question whether it looks comfortable because of the organic shapes or does it remind me of skin and make me hesitate and want to keep my distance? I feel intrigued and would like to sit and feel the emotion it would offer me.
Another furniture design is The Flesh Chair, which was made from the concept “less is a bore” by student designer Nanna Kiil and modelled on an obese body. Kiil was inspired by overweight humans and she wanted to work with aesthetic in a positive way.
She used memory foam covered in a light pink textile to create the flabby appearance of the armchair. A wrinkled breed of dog was also taken as a reference when forming the folds and creases. “I was really inspired by the sharpei dog, where the fat is something I find really attractive,” said Kiil. The foam was scrunched and wrinkled around a metal frame then sewn together along the edges. Wooden appendages are attached to the end of the frame and poke from the lumpy material to imitate hands and feet. (Howarth, 2014)
My niece had a sharpei dog, he was called Bean and was a beautiful soul full of fun and wrinkles, he was cuddly and comforting. Visually, the chair looks soft and snug, the layers add fun to the design and I honestly believe this chair would look great in different colours, I understand her reasons for designing in a flesh colour but imagine the same design in forest green or pillar box red, how amazing and fun that would be.
The Headspace Pod was designed by Mike & Maaike, a progressive industrial design studio, in collaboration with Headspace and intended for public spaces such as university campuses, offices, hotel lobbies, co-working and event spaces. It is an inviting and simple design that evokes joy and intended for people to experience Headspace, the project has resulted in physical prototypes which is fantastic news. We, as humans, have our daily challenges and on top of that we have all experienced a couple of years of pandemic hell, so this sort of design will hopefully help those who may be struggling with their mental wellbeing, giving them the opportunity to sit and listen to some relaxing mindfulness. I’m impressed that it was intended for public spaces, it’s a simple organic shape that could sit perfectly within both an interior and exterior space providing a disassociation with work and media, it offers a built-in directional audio, with upright seating that creates a posture ideal for cultivating mindfulness.
Fig. 1 – Gigi Barker’s skin-covered seat designs infused with bodily scents https://www.dezeen.com/2014/07/23/gigi-barker-studio-9191-body-of-skin-leather/ (accessed 7.8.22)
Fig. 2 – Flesh Chair by student designer Nanna Kiil https://www.archiscene.net/design/flesh-chair-nanna-kiil/ (accessed 7.8.22)
Fig. 3 – The Headspace Pod designed by Mike & Maaike in collaboration with Headspace https://www.mikeandmaaike.com/#p_mandm (accessed 7.8.22)
(Howarth, 2014) https://www.dezeen.com/2014/02/05/flesh-chair-wrapped-in-squishy-rolls-of-fat-by-nanna-kiil/ (accessed 7.8.22)