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A Glass as an Empty Vessel: Metaphorically

Meaning is defined as: 1) what is meant by a word, text, concept, or action. 2) implied or explicit significance. 3) important or worthwhile quality; purpose.

Meaning can be imbued, gaining significance with time and is at the heart of good narratives, stories and belief systems. The bones of good narrative serve as the structure that binds the idea together creating an empty vessel, which we can pour our own meaning into. Noted Author, Daniel Pink observes, “Abundance has satisfied, and even over-satisfied, the material needs of millions - boosting the significance of beauty and emotion and accelerating individuals’ search for meaning.” While IDEO Founder Tim Brown continues on that theme, “As more of our basic needs are met, we increasingly expect sophisticated experiences that are emotionally satisfying and meaningful.

In 1917, Josef Hoffman designed the White Wine drinking stem for J. & L. Lobmyer and part of the “Drinking set 238”. Created in ultra-thin muslin glass, this vessel was filled with even more meaning by acclaimed design curator, Murray Moss: “This is a proposal from a designer as to what the world would be like if it was more perfect: a perfect world reduced to a glass. I imagine that Hoffmann felt perfection would be to have the thinnest possible barrier between your lips and the liquid--that’s why the glass is so thin. It also requires incredible delicacy. What happens when you go from a normal glass to this is, it modifies your behavior. You become more graceful. And that’s an extraordinary thing.”

In the words of Bruce Mau, “Every object has the capacity to stand for something other than what is apparent. “ Moss’ description of the White Wine Stem serves to illustrate the increased relevance that Hoffman’s design created and imbued the literal empty vessel with added meaning.

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