Memories: Objectified

Joel Olympio
3 min readMay 4, 2021

I can’t put a full stop after my design philosophy. It’s something that’s continuously developing. I think that subconsciously, there is a connection between all the objects I’ve designed but uncovering that and putting it into words is not something I’m fully able to do yet. I also don’t feel pressured to finalise it at the moment, but I do have an idea of where it’s heading.

Look around you. You’re probably surrounded by objects. Some of them are more important than others. Maybe one was more expensive, maybe it’s something that’s been there for a long time. Or maybe, it’s something that has personal memories associated with it. I have a Lego phone stand on my desk. I made it when I was maybe 13. It’s not the most useful or best looking phone stand but as I look at it, I’m taken aback to simpler times when my friend and I would make stuff on his living room floor. Cardboard curlicues, hot glue webs, X-Acto knife marks on the wood, spectator cats and the lingering feeling of creativity. In the black and yellow studded structure of the phone stand I see a supercut of memories that I long to return to. The memories are objectified.

My Lego Phone Stand

One of my favourite Irish poets, Seamus Heaney, wrote about this “ghost-life that hovers over the furniture of our lives, about the way objects can become temples of the spirit”. Ever since reading this publication I’ve been fascinated by the idea of objects having a sort of living force in them despite their inanimateness. Like the way children give life to toys, I think at any stage of our lives we can put part of our own lives into the objects that we live with. And as Heaney says, “to an imaginative person, an inherited possession like a garden seat is not just an object, an antique, an item on an inventory; rather it becomes a point of entry into a common emotional ground of memory and belonging.”

“In my own case, the top of the dresser in the kitchen of the house where I lived for the first twelve years of my life was like a time machine.”

- Seamus Heaney

But as a designer, the question I have is: Can the memory-storing ability of objects be controlled by the way they’re designed or is the process subconscious and inaccessible? And truthfully, I don’t really know yet. I do think, to an extent, the way objects are designed can assist in the natural process of memory making and storytelling but to articulate that design criteria is difficult and perhaps not something that can be streamlined. And maybe it’s not something that should be controlled but rather augmented by good and original design. Objects don’t inherently create memories, it’s the events associated with them that do. I can’t control those events but maybe I can design things in a way that encourages them to happen.