Aeroplane tables and hippo water rollers

On my recent travels, I’ve been taking an uncharacteristic interest in the everyday objects around me. Right now, on board another flight, I’m all too aware of the uncomfortable seat I’m currently stuck in and the rickety table on which my laptop is balancing precariously.  I’m also peering out at the aeroplane wing, amazed at how this lump of metal is safely carrying me and 300 others across the Atlantic.

This new-found awareness of the functional things is a result of seeing Objectified, a documentary from the makers of Helvetica that looks in-depth at the incredible amount of thought and work that goes into creating the objects we take so for granted as we go about our daily business.

Even as I was back in my parents’ garden on my recent trip home, my dad caught me looking quizzically at the garden shears as he was happily pruning the Clematis…I’m afraid he may have interpreted it as a sign I was finally starting to share his passions for all things horticultural. I keep explaining it’s a little tricky to be enthusiastic when the closest I have to a garden is a view of tree somewhere down the street (and only if I lean out and sit on my fire escape, risking life and limb). Anyway, at least I can now tell dad all about the geeky details behind the old garden shears, as this is one of the “starring” objects in Objectified.

For those of you who stopped reading at the mention of garden tools, be reassured, the film also looks at the making of sexier objects like Apple laptops and features interviews with neurotic French designers, quirky Danish furniture-makers and even a man who insists on wearing pink plastic spectacles. So there’s something for everyone.

Objectified got me thinking about how a well-designed object can not only make the world look better but it can also change people’s lives and even aid development. The invention of the so-called ‘Hippo water rollers’ is a case in point. This seemingly simple object is a life-changer for women across Africa as it reduces the pain and effort involved in what should be the simplest of tasks – collecting water.  The rollers can be pushed forward over most types of terrain and dramatically increase the amount of water an individual can transport from a water source.


The amount of time and energy women have traditionally spent on water collection has been a hindrance to development since it keeps them out of school, and we all know how important female education is to development. Just watch the powerful “Girl Effect” spot for a reminder.

This heightened awareness of the objects and the space around me makes it even harder to return to my grey and cubicle-filled office tomorrow but at least, as my keenly observant friend Dylan pointed out, I have an ergonomically designed office chair. So as I return to work after a week or so out of the office, I can at least sit comfortably and begin filing through all those emails.


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