Dezeen Magazine

Designers make desktop computers and mice out of honey and ice

Industrial designers Hank Beyer and Alex Sizemore have made prototype computers from unconventional materials such as ice and honey to explore how people value emotional connection versus usability.

Called For the Rest of Us, Beyer and Sizemore made the retro desktops from the regional materials that can be commonly found in the US states of Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and New York.

Ice computer from For the Rest of Us
Top: A computer made of honeycomb. Above: The collection includes a computer made of ice

As well as ice and honey, the project comprises desktops and accessories such as mice made from coal, limestone, sandstone, lard, peat and clay.

The designers hope that their project will prompt a range of emotional responses, from the inquisitive to the humorous.

Limetone computer, keyboard and mouse
The designers made a desktop and mouse out of limestone

Beyer and Sizemore said they wanted to question the nature of everyday objects in a consumerist society by selecting materials picked solely for their emotional value, rather than their usability. Some of the computers are operational, whilst others are mockups.

"Our computers aren't meant to be realistic proposals for the future of computing," Beyer and Sizemore told Dezeen.

"They are symbols of how simply shifting an object's material can change the relationship between people and the products they interact with," the designers explained.

Soil desktop from For the Rest of Us
The photography recreates the aesthetic of the original Apple adverts

The designers used the familiar archetype of a desktop computer in order to make their project relatable. The computer, they decided, is "one of the most recognisable objects of the past three decades."

For the Rest of Us is named after the tagline of an Apple advertisement campaign from the 1980s. The campaign's tagline was "Introducing MacIntosh. For the rest of us."

Desktop computer and mouse made of coal
Coal was used to recreate a retro desktop computer setup

"Apple was claiming that existing computers were too complex and technical, while the MacIntosh was designed for everyone," Beyer and Sizemore said.

"We wanted to further develop this idea by reconsidering not only how a piece of technology works but also how it relates to emotions."

The project's photography is also meant to visually reflect the Apple adverts.

Beyer and Sizemore said they picked regional materials because they were living in Ohio at the time and wanted to explore how local materials can invoke an emotional response or a connection with a particular community.

"For us, 'regional materials' means materials with sources that we can travel to and access to experience and better understand the material's origin, related processes, and immediate community," they said.

Book from For the Rest of Us
The designers also produced an accompanying book about the regional materials

They spent time in their chosen regions in order to unpick each material's history and associated process, as well as the people and politics attached to it.

The designers compiled their visual research into a book which accompanies the computer prototypes made from the materials that they investigated. In each section, there is a removable leaflet with information about each material.

Hank Beyer and Alex Sizemore are industrial designers who began collaborating on projects when they met at the University of Cincinnati. The pair work together as one studio in California.

Several other contemporary designers have explored how using unusual materials to make everyday objects can provoke an emotional response, such as Dewi van de Klomp's floppy shelves made of foam and spiky aluminium chairs made by Orson Oxo Van Beek and Quinten Mestdagh.

Photography is by Hank Beyer and Alex Sizemore.

More images

A close up of ice, one of the materials explored in For the Rest of Us
Interviewing local people about regional materialas
A photograph of a local man explaining the value of ice as a regional material
Investigating ice with local people
A photograph of one of the regional locations visited by the designers
A close up investigation of a regional material
Exploring materials and investigating their value
A photograph on location while visiting places of significance for the project
A close up photograph of a coal computer keyboard
A close up of limestone
Looking at limestone
Investigating coal as a material
Getting to know a local area in order to understand its regional materials
A clay desktop computer and keyboard and mouse
A close up of a clay keyboard and mouse
A photograph of a computer user interacting with one of the prototypes
A close up of clay
Comparing different regional materials
An image from a field investigation
An image from a field investigation
A computer made of lard
An image of a lard sample close up
Looking at animal products
Investigating lard close up
Exploring how to design using regional materials
A close up study of a bee
A photograph of the landscape of a regional location
A sandstone mouse
Taking a closer look
Comparing different materials
Understanding the machinery used to work with regional materials
A pile of sandstone
A computer prototype
Another close up looking at regional materials
More photographs from out in the field looking at ice
Behind the scenes of investigating materials
Looking at machinery
A photograph from one of the regional areas
The front cover of the accompanying book designed by Beyer and Sizemore
The book's contents page
Pages from the book of field studies
An image in the book
Photographs from the For the Rest of Us project
Details from the spine of the field book of investigations
A desktop computer made out of ice with an ice keyboard and an ice mouse