To explore Tristan Zimmermann's website, Science + Sons, is to take a walk through a park of bonsai planters where muggings and secret rendez-vous are the norm. Expect both the unexpected, like the brand new Oblique Clock that tells time in the abstract, and the familiar, like a radio set to only the two Canadian Broadcasting Company stations or a ceramic update on the gramophone. Whatever the product or project, Science + Sons will ensure that cheeky wit and freshness are key components, if the studio motto is anything to go by: "To put a song in your heart, and a hole in your wallet."
The Oblique Clock in action.
Your new projects range from the abstract Oblique Clock to the very concrete Radio Canada. Please tell us what motivated you to create these two usually simple household items that we often take for granted. What was your eureka moment for the Oblique Clock?
I'm in the business of making wonderful things. While these items might seem positioned on opposite ends of the design spectrum, they both contain equal amounts of "wonderful".
There was no singular flash of enlightenment which led to the oblique clock. It was the product of observation and playful experimentation. There was however an investigative theme song which influenced this project. It went a little like this:
If the passing of time is a fluid experience,
but most clocks look static/dull at any given instance,
and elegance is a product of omission,
Then how can one design a clock that both tells time, while elegantly expresses that very fluid quality?
How can one "see" time?
We put our best people to work on those nearly impossible riddles and our response was the oblique clock. You see, if one looks closely at any analog clock you will find the elements which form many mechanical linkage systems. Specifically you will observe:
a) a dynamic series of angles created by the independent motion of the hands
b) the motion of the hands themselves
It is by capitalizing on these qualities we've been able to arrive at a clock which shifts its shape every second in this most remarkable fashion. Price: Amortized over 25 years they sell for a running cost of 0.001 cents a second or roughly the minimum wage of bacteria.
Was it a fondness for public broadcasting that led to the creation of the Radio Canada prototype?
Certainly, in many ways the CBC could be considered the soundtrack of my childhood. One of my earliest memories involves listening to that catchy Moe Koffman tune at the beginning and close of "As it happens" accompanied by the sizzle of the frying pan and dinner preparations well underway.
The radio as a product idea evolved from a discussion with a close friend and squash partner who remarked at how CBC listeners keep their dials tuned to the station. I myself am no exception. I could ramble at length about my fondness for the CBC but my feelings should be obvious, I designed a radio in its honor. It's still a prototype but we're looking into making many of them, here in Canada to boot!
Both Oblique Clock and Radio Canada were shown during Toronto Design Week. What were some of the reactions to these two new pieces?
Feedback has been amazing. The radio will be released in limited edition soon and should sell well. I'm also exploring a smaller variation of the oblique clock for serial production next year and should cost less than $3900 price tag of the current edition which I've been told is expensive for wall clocks these days. I hear rumours that clocks are being produced overseas and sold for well under $2000.00 but have yet to see proof of this.
Your Phonophones and naughty Park Planters have met with commercial success. Do you have any more ceramic products lined up for release any time soon?
Yes, I'm designing a few new ceramic marvels, but you'll just have to wait and see (or steal my computer).