I Miss My Pencil Book Reviews

I Miss My Pencil

By Martin Bone and Kara Johnson

$50, hardcover, 240 pages, published by Chronicle Books, www.chroniclebooks.com

With its affecting title, I Miss My Pencil resonates for any designer longing for the analog days of charcoal and lead. Product designer Martin Bone laments he’s using his brain more and his pencil less as he’s transitioned from industrial designer to marketing designer; a shift from solving manufacturing problems to finding new opportunities for business innovation. Reconnecting with the creative process, Bone teams with mate-rials scientist and IDEO colleague Kara Johnson to produce twelve design experiments inspired by the five senses. They think beyond how their product should look to how it should taste, sound, smell and feel resulting in a group of wildly inventive objects that reflect fertile minds with abundant influences, impulses and constraints.

Using felt and foam tied with string inspired by bondage techniques, their prototype for an inkjet printer addresses the machine’s noise problem and provides an added stroke factor—the ability to pet your printer. Emotion is key and Bone continually looks for ways to connect people to objects hoping to elicit a passionate response. The authors also enlist the ideas of talented creatives, such as Daniel Patterson, a San Francisco chef who advises them on their slotted dinner plate that includes a flavor strip of edible rice paper infused with essential oils. The smell complements the taste of the food and adds an element of surprise for the diner.

Bone and Johnson bounce ideas off each other while instant messaging between New York and California. Their dialogue invites us into their thought process as they look for links between people and materials and expose the humor in their work. While exploring the connection between scent and memory, they invent a doorbell that assigns a unique fragrance to pre-identify visitors and envision a home filled with a mixture of the fragrant scents of family and friends.

I Miss My Pencil also documents the authors’ failures and real-time limitations. Their final experiment to design a fake brand stalls as they run out of time and Bone is tired, sick of his own voice and wants everything better. “I sure as shit don’t miss my pencil now,” he says. But design is compromise and the intent remains: to design enduring objects that represent our world with their own stories to tell. —Ruth Hagopian


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