Designer Anthony Lopez habitually scribbles and doodles whenever he gets the time. While traveling one day, he ended up making a unique pattern on a piece of paper. “Though it was a creation of my subconscious mind, the pattern amazed me. I could see multiple possibilities emerging out of it”, says Anthony, who was propelled to carry out a project exploring the human ability to connect mind, heart and hand.

Gen-next and before
We find two vastly contrasting generations – those who grew up mostly in the pre-digital age and then, the ones who were born when digital technology was booming. But there also exists a generation in between, one that has witnessed technological changes and grown with them, yet spent considerable time in the analog era. As technology evolved and became a huge part of our daily lives, this middle generation felt a gnawing gap. They missed the tactile physical interaction, an innate craving of human existence. Be it the glossy cover of a comic book or winding the spool of a tape cassette tight – the experience of touch brings a bygone past alive for this generation.

At Lopez Design, we decided to explore these unalloyed sentiments to naturally create, less worried about precise endings, yet aiming to make something ‘tangible’, through a graphic installation. Anthony’s pattern was translated into a graphic installation on a 255 square inch board of enameled steel with space for 72 tiles. The tiles, made of acrylic with a digitally printed pattern in the front, are all identical in dimension and visual appearance. They have a magnetic back and can attach to the board, configured parallel to its sides. Like building blocks, every permutation and combination of the tiles results in a distinctive pattern.

A grip with reality
The nice thing is that the installation is small and easy to interact with, engaging the user with its tactile quality. The experience makes our grip on reality tighter, especially the pull of the magnet when it sticks to the board and the satisfying click when it locks into place. The gratification in putting the pieces together comes from a feeling of control, the power of decision making and the joy of creating something unusual. 

Reviving analog experiences
It’s fascinating to see that more and more people want to enjoy the analog physical experience. E-book readers and e-book sales are experiencing a decline, while printed books are making a comeback. The older “analog-style” gaming-consoles are gaining popularity once again. In the digital realm too, there is enormous value-addition that designers put into the touch and feel of using devices. The way a device feels in your hand, how the keyboard touch on a laptop feels as you type – everything matters.

Let’s accept we are unlikely to trip back into analog technology, however nostalgic we are about those times. But as digital technology evolves, it makes sense for technology-based products and experiences to recapture some of those irreplaceable tactile characteristics. The pattern installation attempts to make a strong statement about all such concerns in a unique and entertaining way.