Date of Award

Spring 5-30-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Industrial Design


Industrial Design

First Advisor

Tim Maly

Second Advisor

Emily Rothschild

Third Advisor

Richard Banks


At the start of this project I set out to explore the concept of ownership, if and how it is changing and what that meant for the work I would do in the future. In the field of industrial design, matters of ownership are important considerations we must grapple with. Things, the products of our design process, are 1. Subject to new (or maybe not so new) models of ownership, responsibility and maintenance, and 2. No longer limited to forms that are owned in a traditional, physical sense that is easily understood.

The matter of form – physical vs. digital vs. virtual – ended up playing a large role in this project. Industrial designers are accustomed to how the form evolves in step with technological advances, but today the state change feels particularly pronounced – to the point that the form could disappear completely, literally slip out of our hands. The digital and now virtual eras have brought about a dematerialization and convergence of many solutions that do not require any physicality aside from the interface (if even that). Will the physical form of products of industrial design soon be obsolete, or a luxury or nostalgia item? If so, what will we lose? If not, is there anything digital and virtual products can learn from the power of the physical?

This project approaches these questions through experimentation with sentimental objects and the memories they conjure, concrete examples where the physical form still dominates. People are still attached to physical things, often things that have negligible monetary value and no practical purpose in the physical world. By trying to understand this phenomenon through the lenses of those who are driven or required to part with things frequently or en masse, this project identifies and stress-tests a set of unique strengths belonging to the physical as a channel for interaction.

It then proposes an opportunity for how, in the case of certain sentimental objects, the meaningful information might be extracted from the material form, and leaves the reader with a suggestion of how new value might be created through new experiences powered by that metadata, in digital, virtual or hybrid spaces that have yet to become everyday.



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