Nate Archer, What Is the Meaning Of Timpins?
by Harry / March 20, 2007

Nate Archer is a design student at OCAD and was exhibiting his Timpins (below) in the Souvenir Shop at CUTMR. When he's not trying to graduate he can be found on his blog here.

Nate, are these pins really to be worn? If so, what statement is the wearer making? Is this a bold assertion of "I am what I eat"? Or is it subtle code for "I Am Canadian", destined to replace the ubiquitous flag on budget traveler backpacks?
Yes I fully intended them to be worn. Their message has a very intentional plurality. They were mainly designed to signal the wearer's Timbit preference, which is their favourite flavour. However on another level they are an intentional symbol of Canadian culture. To non-Canadians they do not directly translate. However this fact is what makes them a true souvenir. They are an original and iconic piece of Canadiana, rather than a mass produced object. Rather than a flag or symbol the Timbits are only understood in a particular context or with prior knowledge. It tells a story, rather than just acting as a symbol devoid of history. More after the jump.


As such, they do act as a subtle, under the radar code for "I am Canadian". The great part about them is that this code is really only understood by other Canadians. I think that this is very similar to the ubiquitous Canadian flag on backpacks, it is a kind of unwritten Canadian code. I would love to see someone sporting them on their backpack!

Can this concept work for the American Krispy Kreme counterpart? Or will the subtlety not translate?
I don't think that the idea translates to krispy kreme or dunkin' donuts. I think the reason they work is because the Timbits represents something more than just the product. Their American counterparts don't say anything beyond "I'm a delicious sugary confection". Timbits on the other-hand tell a story about Canada and our culture. This is why I think the Timpins idea works, as Canadians we have fully integrated the Timbit into our popular culture. Whether this is a good thing or not, is still up for debate.

The world is already full of 'stuff' – as a designer, why do you choose to create more?
As a designer, I am very conscious of what I put into the world. Too often designers forget the impact and effect of their work in the larger context. In the case of this project I feel that the impact of the pins is justified through the value they generate to the user. Unlike typical souvenirs, that are only cheap placeholders for memories, the Timpins also speak to a larger idea and perspective on the world that holds much more value. In this case they are placeholders for a message and as such hold significance beyond the product itself. It is my intention that users will cherish them more than a purely decorative object because of their message. It is my opinion that effective design is about creating meaning in people's lives and i feel that the Timpins provide this, justifying their production.


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