Wooden Logic: In Search of Heirloom Electronics

Session Title

Wooden Logic: In Search of Heirloom Electronics


Matt Cottam, Tellart, RISD, CIID, UID

Session Type: Presentation

In this session Matt Cottam will present a recent project entitled Wooden Logic: In search of Heirloom Electronics. The project represents the first phase in a hands-on sketching process aimed at exploring how natural materials and craft traditions can be brought to the center of interactive digital design to give modern products greater longevity and meaning.

Where furniture and fine art are cared for and handed down through generations as heirlooms, the value of digital products rarely survives beyond their short useful lifespan. Their rapid obsolescence makes them seem poor candidates for the use of natural materials and time-consuming manufacturing techniques. Yet these objects also occupy a very privileged and intimate position among our possessions, often living in our pockets, handbags and at our bedsides.

For centuries artisans have had the ability to sketch with wood and hand tools to craft high-quality, precious objects. With digital technology the functionality of objects became less tangible and visible, and their making fell almost exclusively to engineers and computer scientists. It is only in the past decade or so that the community and tools have evolved to the point that designers can sketch with hardware and software. This project seeks to combine seemingly dissonant elements, natural, material and virtual, and explore how they can be crafted to feel as if they were born together as parts of a unified object anatomy that is both singular and precious.

Project Book:http://www.openarts.org/matt/2009/06/03/wooden-logic-in-search-of-heirloom-electronics/

Project Blog: http://www.openarts.org/matt/


Matt Cottam | Co-Founder, Tellart

Matt has been responsible for setting strategic direction for Tellart since co-founding the company in 1999. He provides both inspiration and direction through active involvement in client projects, academic research and teaching, as well as international design and technology conferences worldwide.

With Tellart Matt has directed design and strategy projects for clients including Nokia Design, Humana Inc. and Otis Elevator (United Technologies Research Center). He has been publishing and presenting for over a decade and has become an internationally recognized speaker on a wide range of design and technology topics. Recent lecturing venues have included the Google Tech Talks series, the d.school at Stanford University, the O’Reilly Emerging Technologies conference (ETech), Intel’s Future Technologies Research Summit, PICNIC08, SIGCHI, IDSA/ICSID, DEFCON and the Designing User Experience (DUX).

Matt is a member of the part-time faculty at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he has taught studio courses since 1999 on wide-ranging topics such as emergency medicine, physical computing and service design. He is also an Adjunct Professor at UmeΠInstitute of Design (UID Sweden) where he leads core interaction design modules and contributes to ongoing curriculum development. He is a member of the Visiting Faculty at the Copenhagen Institute for Interaction Design (CIID, Denmark). Matt is also a visiting speaker at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO, Norway), and at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing (CAFA).

Matt received both a Bachelor of Industrial Design and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Rhode Island school of design (RISD). His thesis work at RISD, conducted in partnership with the Habitability Design Division at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, focused on advanced life support in extreme environments. Matt earned a Masters of Interaction Design from the UmeÂŒ Institute of Design (UmeÂŒ University, Sweden), using his thesis project to investigate the relationship between texture, materials, aging and interaction in the context of physical computation. He is a licensed paramedic and enjoys ski patrolling and racing sailboats in his free time.