Reality bites

Not more than two weeks ago, Nurri’s brother Noda asked us to come up with a name and identity concept for the restaurant he and his wife were about to open in Seoul’s Shinsa neighborhood. Having done a bunch of TV cooking/lifestyle shows, he’s kind of a minor celebrity in Korea, and we were tickled by the chance to help him translate his ideas about dining into physical form and space, however late in the game our interventions struck me as being.

So out came our copy of Illustrator, out came the Pantone manual, and before you know it Nurri had three solid design directions for him to look at. The one he finally chose wasn’t actually our favorite, but that’s always the risk designers run when presenting the client with multiple alternatives. The important part is that he, his wife and their business partner were happy, and so therefore were we.

It’s what happened next that took my breath away. I’m pretty sure I’ve fully reckoned intellectually with the foreseeable implications of mass amateur fabrication, but it’s something else again to watch something ginned up on your New York laptop Monday get laser-cut into steel and mounted on a building halfway around the world by the end of the week. (Picture here.)

A lot of this, to be sure, is down to the prevailing Korean ppali-ppali (“hurry hurry”) mentality, and has little enough to do with the emergent technics of accessible fabrication: Seoul has always, in my experience, been a place where you can have objects made up quickly, from the challenge coins I remember from the Army to the RFID-enhanced keyfobs Timo Arnall had a subway merchant make him, on 24-hour turnaround, back in July 2006. And needless to say, this isn’t any algorithmically-generated, selective-laser-sintered, molecularly self-similar hunk of designy gorgeousness we’re talking about here, just a humble 3D restaurant sign.

Nevertheless, I think the more general point is sound: there will be an interval, in this lead-up to the full-fledged massification of rapid fab, during which plenty of us stand to be amazed. There may well come a day when the notion of any gap whatsoever between the imagining of a thing and its instantiation strikes all & sundry as curious, but in the meantime it’s still pretty impressive to behold.

And now, of course, I can’t wait for our next flight to Seoul, so we can actually sample chef Noda’s Korean-style-donburi goodness.

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  1. Alan Dix - 3 May 2008

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