Jacqueline Power | University of Tasmania, Launceston, AUS and Rina Bernabei | University of New South Wales, Sydney, AUS

Stories in Form: a product design exhibition inspired by academic research

Over a number of years the authors have developed a methodology for product design that provides the potential to instill stories in products. One of the authors and her design partner of the award-winning firm Bernabeifreeman, have been implementing this methodology in their own lighting design practice. This is a four-part framework comprised of: Narrative, Manufacture, Interaction and History. This methodology allows both the designer and end-user to embed stories into products and thereby develop a stronger emotional bond with the product. This emotional bond has the potential to increase product retention, which has a variety of important implications including at an environmental level.

The four-part storytelling framework or product narrative, has resulted in a number of publications by the authors, including a book chapter. This research became the conceptual framework for an exhibition at Australia’s premier design gallery Object: Australian centre for design. The exhibition titled Stories in Form took place from 27 January to 25 March 2012. Five renowned Australian designers developed new work for the exhibition in response to the curator’s brief and the book chapter. An important distinguishing feature of the exhibition was that all of the pieces on display were products, in other words they had the ability to be manufactured in large numbers. Graphically the exhibition took on an identity of intersecting circles, representative of the product narrative. Perhaps symbolically this could be read as a dialectic space – a space of conversation – stretching academic research to a wider audience for comment and consideration.

Firstly, the paper will describe the storytelling framework or product narrative developed by the authors. Secondly, the conceptual framework for the exhibition will be discussed, including the importance of linking academic research with broader outcomes will be described. Thirdly, to communicate the product narrative beyond the products, both the graphic design and spatial nature of the exhibition will be described. Finally, the successes and perceived faults to communicate with the audiences will be considered. Insightfully the authors of this paper will be able to provide perspectives about the process from both the point of view of curator and exhibitor.