Grace Hawthorne’s Paper Punk: Paper building blocks for your imagination

[Alyson Kuhn] Grace Hawthorne is no newcomer to making things out of paper. In 2001, she co-founded ReadyMade magazine. She’s currently teaching Creative Gym (her own creation) at Stanford’s d.school, And she’s invented Paper Punk, which she’s promoting on Kickstarter. Her hunky robot in his argyle armor has already kicked the goal out of the park, but you can still become a backer.

Several weeks ago, Tina Roth Eisenberg (a.k.a. Swiss Miss) offered this charming papery pedigree, in well under 140 characters: “If Ms. Origami and Mr. Lego had a love child, it would be Paper Punk.” Power bloggerista Alissa Walker pumped Paper Punk in Fast Company. We recently chatted with Hawthorne about her paper inspirations.

Do you have an early paper project that set — or confirmed — you on your path?
My first foray into paper art was a seventh grade math project. I made a paper sculpture of comedy and tragedy, using geometry. Fast forward many years, and many projects, to the spring of 2009, when I commissioned paper artist Shin Tanaka to create a few paper toy characters for a music project I was working on. Shin’s craftsmanship is jaw-dropping. The complexity and beauty of his work equate to acrobatic tricks of paper art. I found the tedium of physically building the characters he created for me very meditative, but challenging. I wanted to figure out a way to make paper toy-building more accessible to people. This was one of my first inspirations for creating Paper Punk.

Will assembling my robot, with his adorable mismatched mitts, help my brain? Please say yes.
Most definitely. Paper Punk is a creativity tool, a good-for-your-brain experience disguised as design fun. The underlying principles include:

Immersion in materiality: An everyday material — paper — takes on new meaning and then creates new opportunities in viewing the world. I love how the texture and tactility of paper can showcase imperfections and evidence of the human touch.

Act of making: Through the act of making, people not only change the way they think, they will change the way they behave. Making has magical, transformative power because you’re using your hands to think. With Paper Punk, I wanted to create a quick creative fix that provides a huge payoff in two ways: 1) intangibly, by tickling both sides of your brain with a hands-on experience, and 2) tangibly, because there’ll be no denying how awesome your finished product will be.

Creative process: Paper Punk is similar to old-school airplane models because you cannot break apart your creation once the pieces are adhered to each other. By committing to your creation, you’re removing the preciousness — not the pride — and facilitating a bias towards action. The thought is that you’ll finish one and make another, and another, and another.

Tension of open play vs. constraint: The system of Paper Punk is limited to 16 geometric shapes in four size variations, but what you build is only limited by your imagination. It’s like the ancient Tangram puzzle where you are limited to seven pieces but unbounded in the arrangement possibilities.

Play: Many of the cool looking, collectible toys on the market are pre-played. Paper Punk is about open play. It was designed to allow users to customize their own play experiences by adorning their creations with provided stickers, selecting patterns on the shape sheets, coloring/drawing on the paper shapes, and building whatever they want. Even with the Singles, you don’t have to make what’s on the package cover.

How wide do you think the main audience will be?
The use, application and enjoyment of Paper Punk is diverse, including anyone who needs a quick creative fix; designers/creators who cannot resist eye-candy inspiration; corporate executives in need of a brainstorming warm-up; vinyl toy collectors who revel in pop culture cool; moms who want an educational toy experience or a good birthday gift; teens and adults who need to unplug and use their hands to make something; educators in need of an economical teaching tool for math, science, art. Essentially, it’s good for any human aged 6 to 99-plus!

I hope to seed a community of rabid users who will create a Paper Punk culture on their own, busting the boundaries beyond what I imagined could be made from bold and beautiful geometric paper shapes.

Aha, it all comes back to geometry! How, exactly, does a Paper Punk get put together?
The prototyping of Paper Punk was painstaking — and fun! The shapes use a unique notch-tab system that allows the glue-free experience of transforming flat-packed, 2D shape sheets into 3D voluminous elements. User interface considerations like this are a critical part of the design. I distilled all the elements of experience that I wanted the user to have and made sure the rest were invisible. When a user makes a Paper Punk, it seems simple — because it is a highly curated experience.

I am anticipating putting my robot together. Will I need any of my own supplies?
No, just your imagination and hands. Bail on the scissors, and say goodbye to messy glue, because the kit comes complete — the shapes are “punch-n-build” so they’re already perforated, scored, and die-cut. The notch-tab interface eliminates the need for glue. Adhesive glue dots are included to adhere the shapes to one another. You can also play with the paper blocks as you would regular building blocks, but — as you might expect — you’ll be exposing yourself to the laws of physics and gravity.

Paper Punk will be funded on Monday, July 11. You can still become a backer (and a commenter) here.

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Comments (1)

  1. Posted by Paperlover on 07.7.11 at 4:47 pm

    Love this!! Can’t wait to see it all in production!!

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