The Human Hand


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The human hand as tool, symbol, and metaphor. The importance of hand in our own design and building work.

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  • “Our present image”
  • Prosthetics project @ SVA:
    During the fall semester of 2009, 21 students embarked on a journey to conduct design work around upper limb prosthetics. Through readings, research, and an incredible group of guest critics including Aimee Mullins, Jon Kuniholm, Frank Wilson and Elliot Washor, the students attempted to put a dent in what may arguably be one of the most daunting design challenges imaginable—to design a better prosthetic arm.
    The students took different approaches to the problem: some attacked it directly with mechanical improvements to existing prosthetics. Others offered devices and garments that introduced alternative modalities or provided new functionality. Some students took a more abstract approach, creating formal, often sculptural, gestures as a way to help us think about the notion of ‘prosthetic,’ while others took an extremely conceptual approach to investigating the paradigms and cultures around prosthetics and amputees.
    Many of the projects were targeted at kids, arguing that there may be wider leeway in what would be deemed acceptable to the user. Some of these push the definitions of function, providing devices that are playful and life-affirming. The more sobering investigations in the group try to address the realities of arm amputees—as much as is possible by designers with both limbs.
    Throughout the 10 weeks, the design project was humbling, daunting, and thrilling in its ability to demonstrate the power of design, and the potential for design thinking and creativity to impact this long-neglected problem. I hope that looking through these projects, you will feel their power and imagination, and use it to fuel your own paths to celebrating the lives of people, whatever their abilities.
  • The Silver Arm is a decorative, fancy prosthetic arm. The concept was to create an attractive and desirable object, wearable as a prosthetic arm but also by anyone as a fashionable jewelry.
  • The flower arm restores life and growth to the area of the missing limb.
  • Each piece in the 'Bangle Collection' is composed of a single wrapped wire, forming the shape of an upper limb that is both human in form and other-worldly in feeling. In theory, this "jewelry arm" would not only return the concept of bracelets and rings to the upper limb amputee, but also provoke discussion about limb-loss while encouraging one to recognize the beauty in the uncommon.
  • 'Toobers & Zots Interactive Arms' is a fictional initiative from a toy manufacturer that has committed to distribute prosthetic arms made out of Toobers & Zots. The loss of an arm should not hinder children from playing and interacting with one another.
  • The 'Other Palm' is a small pouch that slips onto prosthetic hooks and allows the user to receive change and receipts more easily.
  • These wire attachments increase the functionality of the prosthetic hook, making it easier to use a keyboard, computer mouse, pen, toothbrush and iphone.
  • The Human Hand

    2. 2. THE HAND AS TOOL
    3. 3. Steve was fascinated with the amazing abilities of the human hand, simply Intrigued by the hand and how it works with the arm. Sometimes in a meeting I’d notice him hold one hand up in front of his face and turn it slowly, looking totally absorbed with how the hand is configured and what it’s capable of doing. For ten or fifteen seconds at a time, he would seem completely zoned out on this exercise. You only had to see him do that once or twice to understand what it meant: The fingers could be vastly more useful for relaying instructions to the computer than just pecking at keys on a keyboard.