The following text is a reflection on a series of drawing devices that were designed and made by first year Master of Architecture students at the University of Toronto. This first project, titled Stylus, initiated representation studies in the Visual Communication studio at U of T. Peter Yeadon directed the studio, with Paul Mezei and Brenda Webster-Tweel.
According to J. Rodolfo Wilcock, Jess Pica Planas was one of the most prolific innovators ever accounted for. Planas also carried the rather unfortunate distinction of being a remarkably useless inventor. He invented many jejune devices from his Las Palmas patio, including: a bicycle with slightly elliptical wheels to mimic the pleasant gait of a horse; a specially grooved plate for eating asparagus; a gauge to periodically check the circumference of lampshades; and a secret military code linked to the daily lottery drawing.
Regardless of how haplessly pathetic Planas was at recognizing a need, like all great inventors he understood that design is not a problem-solving exercise; rather, it is the activity of problem-making. He knew how to name a problem before it was named a problem. The frustration of eating asparagus, for example, became a fashionable subject for discussion only after the release of his groovy plate.
Still, Planas had to consider and resolve certain design issues related to the quiddity quotient of each invention. If a small drawing device was to be designed, for instance, he would consider whether the marks were to be diverse or distinct, permanent or temporary, mono or polychromatic, precise or crude, and whether or not a medium was to remain on the surface. The appropriateness of the drawing surface for the marks to be received would also be scrutinized.
Presumably the craft, portability, and durability of the drawing instrument would be considered, but only after deciding whether or not one should be able to control the operation of the instrument at all. The form of the instrument might be suggestive of how it is to be used, or not. He did, after all, invent a water pump that was connected to the revolving door of a hotel entrance, to be operated without charge by the guests.
Peter Yeadon is best known for works he hasn’t yet invented. His work may be found at www.yeadon.net