Katerina Kamprani is a young talented designer from Greece. Her “Uncomfortable Project”, which started as a study of everyday objects and what makes them useful, went viral and has become a big success. The “Uncomfortable” objects have been exhibited in Greece and abroad and few of them were used in an ad campaign for SMART.
Meet Katerina and the “Uncomfortables”:
What is the idea behind the Uncomfortables?
The idea is to redesign everyday objects so they are uncomfortable to use, but not completely useless. The challenge is to make minor changes to the object so the user will recognize it, simulate the steps he needs to make in order to use it and then be surprised from the faulty design.
How did you come up with the idea of the Uncomfortable Project?
First of all, I am a design enthusiast so I was always following blogs that showcase creative design or art projects with all sorts of unusual objects and I always wanted to do something of my own one day. After working a few years as an architect, I decided to begin a master’s degree on design. There I got familiar with the terms User Interaction and User Experience. I found out that the design process of an architect is quite different from that of an industrial designer which is very user-oriented. I never got to finish my studies and some months later I found myself drawing a sketch of an uncomfortable toilet room in a piece of paper while I was at work. I thought it would be hilarious to make uncomfortable objects and I tried to think of some more until I realized it was actually a challenge to break the established images I had for everyday objects. And then I got stuck. I had to think and design more!
Where can one see the Uncomfortables?
Where do you usually get inspiration to design a new object and how would you describe the procedure of designing it?
I have a process for every object I design. I start by picking which object I will re-design. It has to be a very well known object and simple to use. I avoid complicated objects and anything that uses technology, these things are already uncomfortable to use after all! Then I analyze the function and every little step in the user interaction and I try to sabotage discretely one of these steps. I do not stop on my first thought, I really try to come up with many different ways to make something uncomfortable. The solution that surprises even myself and makes me laugh out loud makes the cut. This process can be done with no inspiration at all, but there is plenty of faulty uncomfortable objects out there in real life that inspire me.
Your project has been a big success and few of the objects have been used in an ad campaign for SMART. What do you think made it so successful and famous?
I think that surely one of the reasons is that the project is light, easy to digest and funny. The objects themselves are so universal that everybody gets the joke and they are designed to surprise, which is a key ingredient for internet success. I see projects like mine being shared on social media almost every day now, it is quite popular to re-design something! The thing that makes me really happy is that apart from going viral and thus getting some fame and maybe commercial value, the project is used for educational and even research purposes. I think this is happening because the objects illustrate in a very clear way what is User Interaction by showing a bad example. That never fails to amaze me, because my only intention was to challenge myself and make my friends laugh.
What kind of comments do you get when people look at the Uncomfortables? Do they feel uncomfortable?
Oh I love to read comments on platforms like 9GAG and Reddit. It is hilarious, most people get annoyed. Some of my favorite comments are “It’s funny until hipster using it for real” and “The worst part is that some pompous prick is calling this art”. And since we are talking about art, I had the delight of watching live reactions on my uncomfortable wine glass in an art exhibition. Most people laughed and took photos!
Which object is your favorite so far and why?
My favorite product is the watering can because it’s the only object that seems to have a personality. To me it seems as it is looking back to itself. A self -reflecting, water-recycling watering can.
Is there an object which you would actually like to use, although it’s uncomfortable?
I am a big fan of functionality and ergonomics, so I never thought I would say that, but the answer is yes! Last year, in the end of the summer on a very rainy day I hurt my big toe. I could not wear a shoe and my feet where very cold wearing flip flops. It was a perfect time to have some Uncomfortable rain boots. I guess there is a moment for everything.
Are you working on a new object or project at the moment?
At the moment I am working on an interesting collaboration on a 3d visualization project and I am thinking about some new uncomfortable objects. I will make an attempt for an uncomfortable musical instrument. I have been avoiding them because they are too complicated objects, but now I had the perfect idea for a piano!