The humble desk toy gets reimagined for 24/7 work culture
Back in the ’90s, yuppies had useless desk toys to find some amusement in their daily work lives. Today, your only down time may be when you eat some Seamless in front of your computer—if you are lucky to have a desk in your demonic open office. Perhaps that’s why student designer Keyi Chen has developed a new approach to the humble desk accessory: Rather than providing idle entertainment, it’s designed to help you take a step back and relax. Think of it as the desktop equivalent of breathing into a paper bag.
Chen, who hails from Central Saint Martins, wanted to give stressed-out workers some tools for reconnecting with the joy of living, even if only for a few seconds. In an Instagram interview, she told me her Inte-rest-ing series was designed to give workers permission to relax on the job without fear of being caught by hovering managers.”I created [these] to rethink the relationship between managers and staff,” she says.
In this sense, the project is a response to the oppressive 24/7 work culture that always-available technology has engendered. Even though the number of hours we work has largely decreased over time, workers feel more stressed than ever. In a recent study, two-thirds of workers said they lost sleep because of work, and a whopping three-fourths said it negatively impacted their personal relationships.
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The collection includes five office items. The first is a fan that is activated when you breathe into it. A calculator allows you to play a hidden game at the turn of a switch. A mouse senses when you’re bored and sends you an email with a fortune cookie that you can choose to open—this redirects you to a random topic to ruminate on, from pets to constellations. There’s also a USB stick that you have to squeeze to use and a pen rattle for you to make some relaxing sounds (although your colleagues may not find that relaxing at all).
Chen designed and made these all using a 3D printer and custom electronics, though they are strictly conceptual for now. Here’s hoping she puts them on Kickstarter. We could all use a little less stress in our lives, even if it takes breathing into a paper bag or, erm, a fan, to get there.
You can follow Chen on Instagram.