It may look like an ordinary rock, but this rock is a pet rock. It possesses unique qualities that the casual observer may miss, a personality all its own. To reveal its singularity, it needs the perfect habitat...a custom-designed home/showcase, created collaboratively and thoughtfully constructed.
“The Pet Rock Project” has been a staple of Eric Moes’s Visual Thinking and Fabrication class for several years. Based on the notion that the design process is a conversation between designer/builder and client, the project requires students to manifest another person’s vision while using the materials and tools available to them.
To kick off the project, Eric sends out a call for staffulty “clients,” who can either bring in a small rock or choose from a stack of pre-selected “pets.” After spending a little time with their rocks, each client is paired up with a student who is tasked with creating an environment specially made for their new “pet.”
A collaborative and multi-modal project, the process of creating the rock habitat starts with an interview between designer and client so that the client can express what kind of home would be best for their rock’s individual needs. Some clients choose to see their rocks as small, inanimate totems of themselves; others see the rocks as beings with distinct personalities, likes and dislikes, and creature-comfort needs.
The designers take the results of their initial interviews and come up with a sketch, bringing it back to the client for more feedback and direction before they begin the process of creating a prototype. The first prototype is built using cardboard and is meant to be simple and temporary, a test drive for the shapes and features dreamed up by the client.
Finally, the designers construct their rock homes (generally using foam core to build the habitats). The finished products are revealed to the clients in a critique session with the whole class. The designers recap their understanding of their clients’ visions, and the clients are then invited to provide feedback. This is an important final step in the process, as the clients review what worked, what didn’t, and what surprised them.
When you’re on campus, keep an eye out for these pet rock environments in classrooms and offices. The clients get to keep the finished rock homes so their pet rocks will always have a comfy place to rest.