Flowform Tongs

Spring 2016.

how does one redesign a highly functional object to mimic natural objects while retaining its purpose?

Salad tongs aren't necessarily the most exciting of objects. When you think of a salad tong, it is utilitarian; it is just a tool to get the salad from the bowl to your plate without getting your hands dirty. I sought to redesign the experience of using a salad tong, taking inspiration from the natural curves and flowing contours of a leaf to shape the tongs to the hand.

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Part I: Ideation

I loosely sketched some flowforms to better understand how I wanted the form of the tongs to undulate and curve. Sketching also helped me to guide my thinking process in the right direction and encouraged me to understand the movement of the final form I wanted.

The loose and abstract flowing forms I drew began to remind me of how a leaf bends and curls. I used the idea of a leaf to guide my form typology and to continue to inform my design process. I sketched out leaves and petals to better understand how to incorporate the form into a salad tong, as well how to use the form to express the location and use of the handle and the tool end.

Part II: 3D Prototyping

Drawing and sketching can only express so much with regards to a physical object, so I moved onto creating a 3-D prototype of my preliminary model using soft foam. I sketched out the orthographic of the side and top of the tong on graph paper. I then placed these orthographics onto adjacent sides of a foam block and then used the bandsaw to cut out the shape.

The 3-D prototype told me a lot about my form that my prior drawings could not communicate. I found that the transition of the handle of the tong to the tool end was far too thin in the foam model, communicating that the tong was fragile and breakable. I also found that the hard outside edge of the handle end was uncomfortable when gripped. I sought to resolve these issues in my next and final iteration. 

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I continued to refine the orthographic of my salad tongs until I resolved the form into something that stayed true to the inspiration I took from the leaf form, but was still indicative of its purpose as a tool for scooping salad. When I finally resolved my issues of form, I moved on to prototyping the tongs from my chosen material of hard maple.

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Part III: Final Model

The prototyping process was simple, yet required much sensitivity with respect to sanding and finishing. The orthographic of the tongs was transferred to the squared piece of hard maple, then cut on the bandsaw. The majority of the time on this project was spent in research; the second most time-intensive segment was sanding the tongs to the high fidelity I wanted.

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Reflection

Given the short period of time in which this assignment was due, I think that some design elements were compromised in order to finish the project in a timely manner. I was mostly satisfied with my final salad tongs, but there is always room for improvement. I wish I had enough time to make a second or even third foam model iteration of my salad tongs to resolve some of the issues of form I wasn't as happy about.  

The use of hard maple lends itself well to salad tongs - it is easy to shape, which is an important trait when the tongs are mostly sanded by hand. They also hold on to wear relatively well, a characteristic which I admire in a hand tool. There is a beauty to an object well-worn. I did not keep these tongs, but gifted them to my parents. They live a relaxed life by a lake house now and are stained with droplets of olive oil, happy that they are being used.