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Objects are things. Some objects like ants and birds and dogs are living things. Other objects like rocks and pens and birdhouses and houses and cars are nonliving things. We depend upon them. Nature provides us with millions of things necessary for our existence- in the ground, the water, the land, and the air. From plants and animals to micro-organisms, living objects abound. Some objects are nature’s creation whereas others are objects of human creation. This journey deals with objects that people make and use in daily life. Objects can be quite small like an earring or large like a house or apartment building. They are everywhere in our life. We need them. Humans, as part of nature, create things, too. We learn from them. We talk to them. They speak to us. People are continually creating more and more objects. What makes a thing a patent (a discovery), or what makes an object a failure? What can we learn from successful objects? What can we learn from failed objects?

Activity 1 – Objects: Nouns and Verbs

Pick out two objects on your desk or in the room. Study your object. Name it and name its function. Draw it from the top. Draw it from the side(s). Draw it from the bottom; label the materials. Note how it works. Show its scale to humans. Evaluate it. Is it a well-designed object, and if so, why? Is it a poorly designed object, and if so, why? How would you change its name, usage, packaging, scale, activation, etc., to improve its look, function, or performance?

Activity 2 – Objects in your life

Walk around your house, room by room, and list all the human-made objects in the garage (if you have one). Step inside the house using the door you use the most and room by room, list the room and then list the objects that you have in each room. Inventory how many different things there are in the kitchen, the living room, the bathroom or bathrooms, the bedrooms, and other spaces you may have. Tally the objects room by room. Make a graph that shares how many objects are in each room. How many things did you count? Which room had the most objects?

Activity 3 – Clothing as Objects

People wear clothes depending on the occasion and time of day. Taking stock of the clothing you have (and the percentage you wear and the percentage you haven’t worn in a year) is a check on object consumption. Start with your coats, jackets, hats, mittens, gloves, vests, shirts, pants, tops, skirts, blouses, t-shirts, bottoms, shoes, boots, socks, swimsuits, and underwear. Next, create a picture graph of all the items of clothing you own. How many clothing objects do you have? Do you think you have more or less than the average person your age? Consider donating your unused clothing to Goodwill or a second-hand clothing store.

Activity 4 – Interrogate an Object

Select any object close at hand. Ask questions about the thing. What does it look like? How is it used? What does it do? Describe the object in size, shape, material, and function. Please describe how you think somebody made it. Consider its origin, use of materials, construction, fabrication, style, fashion, and any outside influences. Imagine who has used this object. Describe where this object is. Think about any meanings of the object…in the past, present, and future. Has its purpose changed over time? What do you think is interesting about it? Could it be improved? List the positive and the negative aspects of the object.

Activity 5 – Object Layers

Describing layers of understanding helps us to know objects. For example, take a glass object. The Sensorial Layer is how each thing looks, sounds, feels, and sometimes smells! It may be a glass and fills firm and easy to hold in your hand. The Physical Layer is the materials and made how they are connected. Sand, soda ash, and limestone melted at high temperatures, cool, and harden into diverse forms. Glass, as a hot liquid or semi-solid, is poured, blown, pressed, and molded into many shapes. The Behavioral Layer is how the object interacts with other things and people. Glasses are part of a table setting and come in different sizes and shapes. The Functional layer is what the object does; for instance, a glass holds liquid or flowers. It might be a vase, a glass of juice, or milk. The Mental Layer is what the object means. In the case of glass, it might mean it is for everyday use or a unique heirloom glass from your ancestors; perhaps just seeing a glass makes you think of filling it with something liquid! Pick an object; photograph and draw it; label the different layers of meaning. Think deeply about all the aspects of the thing you are documenting!

Activity 6 – Object Experience

How would you define the experience of the most common objects you live with? Are they pleasurable to use? Are they necessary? Are they meaningful? Do you have a place to store them, or are they on a counter, shelf, drawer, cupboard, or closet? Are they on the floor? Do they require energy to function? Batteries to work? Today people have access to more objects- tools, appliances, small motors, than ever before. List a few things in your house that you use daily. Label the ones you appreciate having and using and the ones that need improving!

Activity 7 – Ergonomics and Objects

What is the experience of using objects? Take a look at the tools in your house. Pick a thing that is dear to you. Make a list of the steps of activating or using the object. Do you hold it? Do you display it? Do you bathe with it? Do you sit on it? Do you sleep with it? Do you use it to do a chore in the house? Do you use it to repair other objects? Do you use it to make music or artwork? Do you use it to travel from place to place on it or in it? Finally, consider how you interact with the object through touch, sight, voice, etc.

Activity 8 – Meaning Into Making

How do some objects get placed in museums, and others end up in landfill? How do the things we collect become part of our culture? How do designers create new designs? They study user interactions; build and test iterative models; evaluate the cost, manufacturing, maintenance, and lifecycle of ideas, assessing embodied carbon of material extraction and production.


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