A million years from now when aliens land on earth and discover a petrified iPhone in the sand, they’ll wonder how this chintzy slab of glass, steel, and plastic ever captivated an entire planet. Without context, it’s just a strange little doodad. The meaning we invest in our phones is what gives them their magic something or other.
That "magic something or other" is the subject of an exhibit that opened during Stockholm Design Week earlier this month. Never Mind The Object showcases the work of 10 Beckmans College of Design students who designed furniture prototypes explicitly to stir the emotions, whether it’s a model of a student’s childhood home disguised as a sideboard or a blobject meant to give abstract form to someone brooding in a corner.
One of the big themes here is the value of handicraft and tradition. Designer Erika Gunnerblad drew on on ancient, rural Swedish woodworking techniques to create a modern furniture piece that can be used as a chair, a stool, or a table. Jomi Evers Solheim revamped the classic trunk—"the oldest piece of storage furniture known to us in Europe"—with a lightweight wood and cardboard box ideally suited for contemporary living. Both designs tell you something: The fastest way to a consumer’s heart—and his wallet—is an appeal to a sort of nostalgic future, one where the conveniences of today can bring back the lost intimacies of yesterday. Take the iPhone’s FaceTime, for instance, an app that lets people do once again what they did for centuries: talk face to face.