It all began with a colon followed by a closing parenthesis, not to be read but to be ‘seen’ as a smiley face. Since then emoticons have invaded our communications, becoming omnipresent chat and mail features that specify the emotional tone of a verbal missive.
In the past writing had no need of pictographic accompaniment to convey emotional intent. So why have emojis (not exactly an equivalent term, but synonymous for our purposes) become so indispensable today?
Digital writing is the direct cast of the oral one
The reason lies in the fact that unlike pre-digital writing, with its longer timing of composition and reception, telematic writing represents a direct effigy of oral communication, with the same spontaneity and immediacy.
Like a face-to-face dialogue, then, in which the same phrase can take on different meanings depending on the facial and body language that goes with it. Digital messages make us feel the need to specify the spirit of the utterance, a facial expression that conveys the meaning of the words.
The Postmodern legacy
In line with the visual language of graphic interfaces, emoticons also have a playful, figurative, colorful aspect, diametrically opposed to the abstract, rigorous definition typical of the modern object. The figurative features that make emoticons ideal for circulation on a screen link back to the legacy of the Postmodernistic approach. Which, not by chance, lives on today in the products that are closest, in chromatic and formal terms, to the ‘Insta-friendly’ taste of the contemporary graphic design scene.
Sightbaiting: from screens to reality
On the small but pervasive screens of telephones the images that work are immediate, bright, packing all their aesthetic potential into a single shot, striving to capture the fickle attention of social network users. This ‘eye-friendly’ aesthetic (or sight-baiting) is so reactive to the eye of the contemporary viewer that it can naturally shift from the virtual dimension of social media into the real world of furniture.
In this sense, the most recent evolution of emotional design, direct heir to Postmodernism, can justifiably be defined as ‘emojional’ design, marked by thick forms and saturated hues created to convey the visual impression of digital icons in the material world.
What is emojional design?
This is true of the surprising Kosa collection by Ian Felton, soft and ‘plump’ but at the same time elegant and graceful. Or the Poise collection by Desmond Lim, with its original juxtaposition of archetypal elements with hefty extrusions of voluminous color, almost as if to separate the aesthetic dimension from the structural body of the object. The basic forms of the series Last of the Free by Nick Ross, through the reduction of the typology of reference to its minimum common denominator, also stand out for their post-figurative immediacy. The corpulent elegance of the Puffer seat designed by the studio Moving Mountains, on the other hand, has a swollen volume and apparently oversized proportions, taking on the typical formal character of a big toy, though clearly remaining a piece of furniture for an adult user.
This way of being simultaneously an abstract and figurative, serious and playful object is typical of apps, high-performance tools with a recreational image. Thus the Dulce by Filippo Mambretti for Gantri presents itself as a rigorous yet gentle form, while Sandstone by David Taylor, a softly precise object, is made in 3D printed sand, giving the surface a fine, delicate touch.
The Plateau lamp by Ferréol Babin for Daniel, minimal and rounded like an app icon, is heavy in the lower part and then rises to lightness in the upper portion. A bit more structured but just as eye-catching are the Hop coat rack and mirror by Samuel Accoceberry and the Stoned lamp by Fredrik Paulsen, while studio Wangan with the Capsul table decides to exaggerate the size of the joints to create details in contrast with the prevailing slim conception of the object.
Every living alphabet has an impact beyond writing
It should come as no surprise that the formal harmony of emoticons has found its way into the physical body of products. Every ‘living’ aesthetic alphabet has an impact on various fronts, and this is also the case of the latest update of written communication. In this sense, the exhibition Writing: Making Your Mark held at the British Library in London is revealing, as it illustrates the evolution of writing from the first runes all the way to the computerized signs of today. At the conclusion of the show’s itinerary, amidst the videos in which visitors left their thoughts about the future of writing, a bright little girl imagined an involution of calligraphic skills towards an increasingly thick sign. Precisely like the maze-like intestine of Curvy Murble by Sara Ricciardi, a corporeal but sinuous furnishing project for a beauty parlor, which combines appeal for adults with the precious ability to make children smile : )
Cover photo: detail of ‘Wall Disney’, Happytecture serie, by spanish artist Daniel Rueda e Anna Devís. In the text other works by the two young architects who use creative photography to tell stories which they then publish on their Instagram profiles drcuerda e anniset. The shots, with minimal geometric lines and immediate impact, are surprising and joyful, surreal and playful. In the artworks, carefully prepared and made with precision by the duo Annandaniel, the human element that becomes fundamental in the composition of the ‘picture’ is never missing. Entire photographic projects are then dedicated to architecture and the urban environment, returned in a disruptive and fun way.
Casa Mondo is the first digital exhibition – on the Instagram account @maxxicasamondo/ – of MAXXI - Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo di Roma which involves seven international designers who are confronted with as many areas or functional areas of the home. The project declined in post by Konstantin Grcic is dedicated to Learning.