Product Design

Cabinet of Skeuomorphism

Hugo van der Loo
How once functional items can transform into decorative ornaments.
Practice Social Practices
Project Honours/Visual Culture
Major Product Design
Year Fourth Year

skeuomorph \ˈskyüəˌmȯrf\,          a functional item redesigned as something decorative

Collins English Dictionary

A skeuomorph is an aspect within a design that is still present, even though it has lost its practical function. It is a phenomenon that occurs in many different design mediums. In carpentry, skeuomorphism can be seen in the use of fake wooden joinery.

To give their furniture an appearance of craft and authenticity, carpenters add traditional joints like a wooden wedge, comb joint or a Z-shaped construction. People have come to value the aesthetics of these purely functional joints as decorative ornaments in their furniture. Due to modern carpentry techniques, these traditional methods of joinery have become impractical and expensive to use. Carpenters create ways to use modern techniques but also include the traditional joinery as a decorative element.

How should designers approach these skeuomorphs? Fooling people by adding fake wooden joints that appear to be constructional? Erase them from the design, neglecting the cultural value that the wooden joinery has gained over the years? Or should designers embrace the fact that these once functional aspects have become mere ornaments, and approach them as such?

The design for this cabinet is a speculative approach and aims to illustrate how once functional joints could be transformed into ornaments that clearly show and embrace their purely decorative status. In the design of this cabinet, I have implemented three wooden joints that were common to use in the past. A “Z” shape construction commonly used in the design of doors, a wooden wedge used to anchor a joint, and a comb joint commonly used in drawers.

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