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Portfolio of the Day: Joey Roth

How one young designer creates products that celebrate ritual, using materials that break-in slowly.

Joey Roth doesn’t truck with the current fads in product design–namely irony or gimmicks that attempt to address curren events. Rather, the San Francisco-based designer goes for “honest” products used in everyday rituals, with materials that age with use.

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A scant three years out of school, Roth is particularly interested in products with ephemeral uses–ranging from music to tea. Here’s what he’s been working on:

These speakers, which Roth just began taking pre-orders on this week, is designed to leave the music untouched by the materials themselves. The cork and porcelain are both acoustically “dead”–meaning, they don’t impart extra vibrations. Meanwhile, the design has been stripped down to reveal its inner works, to better tell the story of sound that’s untouched between source and ear. The first units begin shipping in November:

ceramic speakers
ceramic speakers

As Roth points out, mice are in constant contact with your hand, but they’re designed using the same materials as your computer–which is in constant contact with your desk. So Roth reimagined the mouse in materials that feel nice to the touch, and which break in after regular use. The felt allows the mouse to be boxy, but also comfortable. Roth is currently finishing his prototypes, and expects the mouse to be available in mid-2010:

felt mouse

A prototype that Roth has just started developing: Carry-on Luggage, meant to recreate the romance of air travel. The main panel is lacquered, and it’s meant to chip away over time, revealing wood grain beneath–becoming more beautiful with use. The suitcase also has removable drawers, with one fitted precisely to a 17″ laptop:

luggage
luggage

The Sorapot, which Roth distributes himself, started as a college project, and ended up launching Roth’s career when it was picked up on blogs. The idea is to create a showcase for the tea leaves, framing them as they unfurl during steeping.

sorapot

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Roth’s rendition of the bamboo whisks traditionally used during Japanese tea ceremonies to froth powdered tea. Where the originals are meant to be disposable, lasting only a month, Roth built his to last, with steel-wire and silicone. It’s the first element in a complete tea set that Roth is currently designing:

whisk

About the author

Cliff is director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.

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