The Cambridge creative agency The District came in to introduce a very different and special task to us: branding an object. The aim is to approach the brief in a more abstract and challenging, less formulaic way and to understand branding in the sense of understanding the “soul” and the “tone” of the object.
The object that I chose is a paperclip. I started off mind mapping to see what I associate with a paper clip. Then I researched the history of the paperclip, moving on to the ways it can be used (and misused), then onto paperclip symbolism and meanings.
Deriving from my research I came to decide that I would like to work with what the paperclip symbolises and stands for, for the concepts, the “character” that its nature consists of. I thought about a “culture of the paperclip”, a lifestyle and way of thinking that puts the attributes of a paperclip to its basis. The paperclip functions as a sort of umbrella term or rather umbrella object for ideals and concepts that the paperclip lifestyle would embrace.
Looking at the functionality of the paperclip, it is an object of perfect design. It holds paper together by gripping without tearing and storing without tangling. It is small, yet strong. Simple, yet perfectly designed. It is sturdy, yet flexible and malleable and therefore it can change and adjust if its function changes, e.g. when it is used for lock picking, to eject sim cards or even as a nail cleanser (and many more). Paperclips attach things together and can be attached to each other themselves. In WWII the paperclip turned into a national symbol of resistance against German occupiers and local Nazi authorities in Norway. By attaching a paperclip to their clothes, wearers denoted solidarity and unity, being bound together. A strong symbolism which I intend to pick up on in my project. The paperclip can become a symbol of the celebration of union, collaboration and love. To make a paperclip function, the big and the small tongue of it need to work together. Big without small is nothing. It can symbolise what holds us together, both as a society and in our individual relationships.
Furthermore the paperclip forms the basis of the principle of order. As a small everyday object it has not only the function of keeping documents in order, using it evokes being organised. Having been used ever since it has started to be mass produced in Britain in the 1870s by “The Gem Manufacturing Company”, it also reflects continuity: clever design lasts, no matter how little and mundane the object might be.
What the paperclip evokes and symbolises can be transferred to our lives and thereby identify a lifestyle that can be summed up by the paperclip. Of course, our bodies are more complex than a paperclip. But essentially the way our bodies are “designed” is just as clever and perfect as the design of the paperclip. We are sturdy, but we are also flexible. We can change ourselves and adapt our behaviours and actions when our lives change. We attach ourselves to a wide variety of things, be it jobs, activities or material objects. We also attach ourselves to each other and form relationships. When we are in a relationship we will ideally do what the paperclip does: we hold on to each other without tearing each other apart, our grip is strong enough to stay together but loose enough to give each other the freedom to go without pain and destruction.
In my project I would like to celebrate the qualities of the paperclip, in a way that they can be compared with the qualities of an individual.