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Branko Lukić
with text by Barry M. Kātz
foreword by Bill Moggridge
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    The "objective" world is one of facts, data, and actuality. The world of the "nonobject" is about perception, experience, and possibility. In this highly original and visually extravant book, Branko Lukic (an award-winning designer) and Barry Katz (an authority on the history and philosophy of design) imagine what would happen if design started not from the object but from the space between people and the objects they use. The "nonobject," they explain, is the designer's personal experiment to explore our relation to the observable world. So they show us an umbrella that puts us in a harmonious relationship with nature by sending falling rain rushing through the handle from an upturned top that resembles a flower; a spoon with a myriad of tiny bowls that allow us to savor our soup; a "superpractical" cell phone with keypad, speaker, and microphone on every surface. They imagine the ideal material, "Thinium," incredibly thin and incredibly strong, environmentally and aesthetically beneficial. They show us clocks and watches that free us from time told by artificial demarcation and consider the possibility of a digital camera that captures the part of the scene we didn't see. In NONOBJECT, product design meets philosophy, poetry, and the theater of the imagination. The nonobject fills us with surprise and delight.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-32253-9
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IX)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. X-XIII)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. XV-XIX)
    Bill Moggridge

    I felt both a sense of thrill and of mystery when I first encountered Branko Lukić’s Nonobject project. I was browsing his website for the first time when I clicked on the first preview to arrive atCUin5. The video started with the gentle tinkle of echoing synthesized notes, as a series of questions, answers, and promises were posed in cryptic sentences on the screen. Next the music turned more rhythmic and thesuperpracticalmobile phone of many faces cavorted in front of me, twisting and turning to show each face covered with active buttons and legends, with the buttons...

  4. Introduction: Some Nonobject(ive) Reflections on the Nonobject
    (pp. XXI-XXXI)
    Barry M. Kātz

    For a hundred years designers have been both inspired and imprisoned by the mystique of functionalism—the idea, simply stated, that the legitimacy of an object, whether industrial, architectural, or typographic, derives from its performance. Women’s shoes, American cars, and a notably small number of other categories seem to have been exempted from this standard, but they may be the exceptions that prove the proverbial rule: “Form ever follows function,” decreed Louis Sullivan a century ago; “This is the law.”

    Only a few lone voices dared to challenge reductive dogma that form follows function. The English design critic Reyner Banham...

  5. New Dimensions
    (pp. 1-9)

    One hundred years ago, the French newspaperFigaropublished a violent rant from an unknown Italian poet: “We stand on the last promontory of the centuries!” declaimed Filippo Tomasso Marinetti; “Why should we look back, when what we want is to break down the mysterious doors of the Impossible? Time and Space died yesterday. We already live in the absolute.”

    With these verbal pyrotechnics, full of sound and fury, the Futurist movement was born, straining against the narrow dimensionality of old Europe. Time and space had been restructured by the motorcar, the airplane, and the subway. Night and day had...

  6. Hypersensory
    (pp. 11-21)

    If there is a job to put people to sleep—we call it anaesthesiology—why isn’t there a job that pays to wake people up? Not to anaesthetize the senses but to invigorate them. To awaken them. To enliven them. Many people respond to the hyperstimulation of everyday life by narcotizing themselves with drugs or television so that they can drift off into the dreamless sleep of unfeeling. We believe the solution is not to dull our senses withan-aesthetics but to heighten them with aesthetics. Not less stimulation, but more.

    Hypersensual Nonobjects seek to drive the aesthetic experience forward,...

  7. Impossibles
    (pp. 23-43)

    When it comes to the basic building blocks of matter, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) has the final say: to it alone is granted what Nietzsche called “the lordly right of giving names.” Thus element 101, radioactive mendelevium, pays tribute to Dmitri Mendeleev, who published the periodic table in 1869. Pb, from the Latinplumbum, recalls the Roman plumbers who unwisely lined their aqueducts with lead. But lately the nomenclators at IUPAC have been stumped and have had to make do with placeholders for the fleeting ununpentium, which decayed after only 100 milliseconds; for the elusive...

  8. Rawphisticated
    (pp. 45-55)

    It was the late Claude Lévi-Strauss, gazing upon the savage rituals of the Guaycuru and the Bororo, who taught us how to gaze upon the savage rituals of the Americans and the French. Lévi-Strauss had to venture deep into the jungles of Amazonia to see what had always been hidden in plain sight in our own kitchens and dining rooms.

    InThe Raw and the Cooked, Lévi-Strauss described the poles of the human condition: our roots in the raw pleasures of nature on the one hand and our aspirations for the refinements of culture on the other. These structural poles...

  9. Natura
    (pp. 57-77)

    The charming thing about Nature (bless her heart) is that she is completely unpredictable. She will rage against us with unrelenting fury and then, just when we think we cannot take it any more, bathe us in warm sunlight and a fragrant breeze. Her outbursts frustrate our plans and betray our expectations, but we love her for them only that much more. “Nothing is harder to bear,” mused Goethe, “than a succession of fair days.”

    We turn to the inconstancy of nature for relief from the predictability of modern industry. In nature no two things are ever completely alike, and...

  10. 90 Degrees
    (pp. 79-93)

    One of the masterpieces of modern logic, poised midway between Lewis Carroll’sThrough the Looking-Glass(1872) and Ludwig Wittgenstein’sTractatus Logico-Philosophicus(1921), is Edwin A. Abbott’s classic,Flatland(1882). In his charming “Romance of Many Dimensions,” Abbott described a planar, two-dimensional world inhabited by female line segments and regular male polygons who live out their lives along an x-y axis.

    The narrator, A. Square, first ventures out from his native Flatland to one-dimensional Lineland where he vainly attempts to explain the concept of dimensionality to an uncomprehending population of “lustrous points.” But then he himself is visited by an emissary...

  11. Touch
    (pp. 95-103)

    Vilém Flusser, the great Czech-Brazilian communications theorist, was the first to discern human adaptation to postindustrial civilization: “This new human being in the process of being born all around us and within us is in fact without hands.” Since he no longer needs to manipulate physical objects, “the only thing left of his hands are the tips of his fingers, which he uses to tap on keys so as to play with symbols.”

    Thus the most ancient emblem of civilization is vindicated: the mythology of King Midas, whose golden touch conjured the chimera of instantaneous wealth; the theology of Michelangelo,...

  12. Overclocked
    (pp. 105-115)

    Sosigenes of Alexandria, court astrologer to the Emperor Julius Caesar, was hardly the first to notice the discrepancy between astronomical time and experiential time: the Earth, despite its undeniable charm, does not complete its solar rotation in a tidy 365 calendar days but is “off” by approximately 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 12 seconds. The Julian calendar, which added a day every four years, sought to reconcile the cycles of the planets and the terrestrial timing of market days, religious festivals, and meetings of the Roman Senate. It was instituted in 45 BCE, just in time to record Caesar’s assassination...

  13. Superpractical
    (pp. 117-129)

    In 1934, the young Alfred Barr, Jr., boldly placed 600 industrial, scientific, and commercial objects on display at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Some designs, he proposed, are the result of deliberate artistic intent. More intriguing—his examples included a helical bearing spring and a Vernier micrometer—are those whose innate beauty is the unintended expression of clarity, integrity, and due proportion. Barr invited a group of dignitaries to select the most beautiful objects in MOMA’s landmark Machine Art exhibit, and they confirmed his thesis: aviatrix Amelia Earhart chose an industrial spring, and a steel ball bearing assembly caught...

  14. Personal
    (pp. 131-149)

    The greatest thing about humans—and the source ofallof our problems—is that each of us is different. By contrast, all the great social innovations of modern times, from administrative bureaucracies to Scholastic Aptitude Tests, assume that with a little prodding we can be stuffed into a standard behavioral mold. It was a well-intentioned, even idealistic thought in its time. Indeed, the problem is not so much that it isn’t true as that it is self-fulfilling: the uniform modernist subject became the “mass man” of Ortega y Gasset and the “authoritarian personality” of Adorno.

    Every architecture student has...

  15. Inner
    (pp. 151-159)

    At the beginning of his charming memoir,Designing for People(1955), Henry Dreyfuss proudly introduced two of the key employees in the industrial designer’s office: “They are part of our staff,” he explained, “and they dictate every line we draw.” “Joe” and “Josephine” (and their children) were anthropometric stick figures that told the designer where to locate the dial on a thermostat, how much pressure needs to be applied to a brake pedal, or the correct angle of a typewriter keyboard. Style and subjectivity would henceforth be subordinate to empirical data. The physiology of the user, rather than the taste...

  16. Postintuitive
    (pp. 161-175)

    The nUCLEUS Motorcycle represents our deepest research into the essence of the Nonobject. Like all the other exercises presented here, it asks us to start by forgetting everything we know—about motorcycles, to be sure, but also about physics, engineering, manufacturing, and design. Implicitly, it challenges us to think about why we are beholden to the ideas of the past, even as we charge, often blindly, into the future.

    nUCLEUS Motorcyle does not pay homage to the cruisers of the 1950s or bow down before the phony symbolism of the streamline. It’s a motorcycle built on the nonobjective principle of...

  17. Sketchology
    (pp. 177-187)

    These sketches, together with those that introduce each of the chapters that precede them, are from the notebook that Branko Lukić carries with him at all times. They reveal something of his design process and the sources of his inspiration, and they place him in very good company. Leonardo’s uncanny drawings of helicopters and pontoon bridges and transmission belts still ignite our imaginations five centuries later. Joseph Paxton’s back-of-the-envelope doodle of an enormous greenhouse, a “crystal palace,” was the origin of the most important building of the 19th century, and Le Corbusier’s cartoon of a “mass-production house,” as regular and...

  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 188-191)