There's a certain intimacy in sharing a meal with a loved one. Unfortunately, the time spent together is more likely than not obstructed by modern-day distractions at some point (I'm looking at you, iPhone). There are all kinds of designs out there focusing on pulling people together and helping them appreciate the moment they're in—just take a look at First Date Cutlery. (And while most of these interaction designs blend right into the dining experience, some stick out like a super-stacked fork.) Michigan-based designer Sophia Thomas has created a subtle way to embody those dear moments with friends over a meal with her ongoing series, "Encoded Intonation."
The series is certainly abstract, in concept and product. My favorite installment, "Encoded Intonation III," features more material association to sound as plates and knives sporting a "soundwaved" edge from recordings straight from the mouths of the designer's most frequent dinner companions.
Some of the best parts of her work are hidden between the lines—and Thomas describes them eloquently: "[This project] layers the encoded intimacy of sharing a meal, sharing a thought, and the surfaces that catalyze such interactions. Conversation is of particular interest, speech begins from the body as compressions and expansion within, disrupting particles in the air, surrounding us to be registered by the smallest bones."
More on the process: Thomas takes the sound recordings and creates digital 3D data sets. By choosing specific points within the data set, she creates a representation of the sound curve over time. "I design a two-part mold using the original plate model to slip cast with," she says. "These molds are CNC machined from plaster blanks I cast."
While this project grabbed my attention first, Sophia's other work is definitely worth a look—especially if you're looking to check out something more than just a pretty product. Her designs mostly revolve around some association with sound, but there's one project that takes a look at our dependence on the "transportability of data." You can also check out Thomas' work on Coroflot.