Dezeen Magazine

Italian university students redesign the humble pencil sharpener

Students from the Free University of Bolzano have created a collection of alternative pencil sharpeners, with designs including rings, a planing tool and a sandpaper bra (+ slideshow).

La Matita Rossa pencil sharpeners

The project was the first workshop in a four-month-long course on "design for education and knowledge sharing" at the Italian university's art and design faculty.

La Matita Rossa pencil sharpeners
O by Caterina Nebl is a circle-shaped sharpener

The team of 20 designers was overseen by tutors Claudio Larcher, Eugenia Morpurgo and Alvise Mattozzi, who tasked the group with developing "new gestures" for the stationery.

La Matita Rossa pencil sharpeners
Finn Icky by Luca Mantenuto is a "kit to satisfy the most finicky users"

"We were interested in having the students analyse and reinterpret the use and shapes of a basic, simple tool with the aim of showing them how even the small changes of an iconic product can generate new enriched experience," Larcher told Dezeen.

La Matita Rossa pencil sharpeners
Faces by Jessica Rosa is a wearable sharpener

"We invited them to reflect on the gesture of sharpening a pencil – an action that we commonly do without much thinking," he added.

"We asked them how to reimagine this gesture with a new object, therefore not only redesigning the object but redesigning the behaviour."

La Matita Rossa pencil sharpeners
Maria Girofletti's pencil sharpener works like a planing tool

The students responses range from straightforward redesigns of the sharpener – including a double-ended "snake" that requires users to twist both ends at the same time – to more unconventional shapes like a a dagger-style design that can be used like a nail file.

La Matita Rossa pencil sharpeners
Ich Bin Spitz Auf Dich by Isabella Sebald is a sandpaper bra that aims to transform the boring act of sharpening a pencil into something fun

Among the more unusual creations is a bra covered in sandpaper that can sharpen writing implements, and a proposal for an edible carrot pencil that could be nibbled into shape by a hamster.

Luca Mantenuto designed a collection of wooden wands, shaped like paintbrushes, with a different sharpening element on the end of each.

La Matita Rossa pencil sharpeners
Red Dagger by Marinetta Gorassini references a traditional nail file design

Michela Franch created pointed metal rings with built-in blades, while Barbara Rossaro opted for a more dramatic solution that requires the users to set light to the pencil to burn away excess wood.

La Matita Rossa pencil sharpeners
Snake Sharpener by Susan Joy Guidi requires users to twist both ends

Students at the Holon Institute of Technology have also redesigned traditional stationery, creating a collection of alternative pencils that included versions shaped like a squeezable tube of paint and implements with serrated roller nibs.