The reason why they share is to make design more touchable and comprehensible

One of the unusual problems for product designers that other professions do not know about is that the true dilemma lies, not in the difficulty of the job, but in the fact that the parents of a good number of designers don’t really understand what kind of work their kids are doing for a living. There are two reasons that could possibly be used to explain the misconceptions regarding the scope of work and/or the failure to acknowledge the position’s role and the contributions of product designers. The first is that many of the things created are at times so seemingly easy and simple to achieve that the majority of people don’t see the point of having a designer behind the making of these particular design objects. Another reason is that designers add extra value to products, which oftentimes makes them to be more expensive, luxurious and inaccessible. With these two reasons, one can imagine why many find product designers to be somewhat of a dispensable profession.

‘Issaraphap’ was born from these two reasons. The principle members of this group of design profes- sionals are comprised of designers from three different studios: Nichepak Torsutkanok and Wanus Choketaweesak (ease studio), Ratthee Phaisanchotsiri (SATAWAT) and Teerapoj Teeropas. The goal they share is to make design more touchable and comprehensible through the development and interpretation of everyday life objects whose essences are decoded, refined and redesigned. But our first question is what exactly is Issaraphap’s definition of simplicity when it comes to these everyday life objects? How are they decoded and redesigned? The answers to such questions are right here in this article.

The simplest way for one to create a warm and friendly design object is to approach the task through elements that people are familiar with, be that the forms, colors, functionalities or materials. Each element is put together into an experience that users utilize when they are considering how they feel about a certain object. An interest in local objects such as the Thai-styled terrazzo table, homemade concrete bases used as barriers for parking spaces or a food cabinet are all among the everyday life objects that Issaraphap chooses to work with for they fall in the category of ordinary objects that people see and experience firsthand through everyday encounters. The selection process is carried out in a manner where every member agrees upon the chosen objects, experiences, or even behaviors they want to work with. The design process begins with the members taking the position of observers using a variety of methodologies such as data collection of interesting human behaviors in the society. Finally, they start the decoding process and then sort out the essential subject matter.

There is a great diversity in their thought process whether it be the reverse thinking from effect to cause, exploration of relationships, division and categorization of related compositions, or the collective perception and consideration that leads to the essence of an object, which is later reinterpreted for the creation of a new design.

It took Issaraphap only four months to create a series of ten or more works and illustrate the idea that they are passionate about through the tangible forms of design objects. Issaraphap Collection 2015 exhibited in Design PLANT’s space at TIFF contained several interesting works such as the table and chair set called ‘Raw,’ which is their reinterpretation of the classic terrazzo table where they maintained the unique use of material and also learned about the actual production process that allowed for them to understand the rationale behind the table’s original design. They then began coming up with a new, simpler but more stylish version of the terrazzo table that was better suited for the modern home while using the same manufacturing process. Another worth-mentioning piece is the small table named ‘Weight’ inspired by the homemade concrete light pole bases where a bucket is used as a mold. The appearances and details of these bases, which are varied by the convenience and skills of the people who make them, are decoded into the base’s ability to anchor the upper structure and finally materialized into a series of side tables of different sizes. Another unique piece is the display cabinet that has a translucent airy silkscreen fabric as its key material, exemplifying the substantiation of an intangible element into the actual design object.

What we find to be very exciting is how Issaraphap’s collaboration is growing and developing into a movement as they invite 13 other design studios to be a part of the reinterpretation, and are together expanding their dialogue of Thai-ness to a wider audience. Their exhibition ‘Anonymous Chair’ showcased at Chiang Mai Design Week at the end of last year had the designers working on a given brief where they had to rethink the wooden armchair (commonly used and known in Thailand as the Bended Armchair, Lanna Armchair, etc.), into their own designs. One of Issaraphap’s philosophies is the fact that nobody owns these stories for they are common, collective experiences everyone shares. This chair, among other things, is something Thai people are familiar enough with to tell their own versions of its story based on personal experience while the audience doesn’t have to be a designer or possess any knowledge of design in order to understand and appreciate the work, simply because they have all experienced the ‘Anonymous Chair’ in their own different ways.

For Issaraphap, the notion of Thai-ness is not about style, but purely content. Regardless of physical appearance, if the essence is what it is, that’s what counts. What Issaraphap delivers is, therefore, not just an answer to the question of what actually constitutes the definition of a Thai identity, but more so an initiation of interesting discussions. If a product designer can see possibilities and great ideas found in the most mundane of everyday life objects and is able to turn them into legitimate design creations, one can expect a greater understanding from the general pubic that the role and contributions of product designers in the society is just as important as other professions. What is equally significant is that, in order for communication to work, both sender and receiver have to stand on the same ground, and that’s pretty much the design language Issaraphap has been using. And as simple as it may seem, this very language needs to be strong and distinctive in order to reach and garner greater interest at the international level.


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