The Mars Challenge: Marina Mellado’s Other-Hand Toolkit

We have now opened submissions for The Challenge – Design to De-stress in conjunction with the upcoming Frame 119 Nov/Dec issue. Each Challenge addresses a different topical issue, which we ask designers to respond to.

The Challenge series in Frame magazine began in our Jan/Feb issue this year, under the section called Talents. Inspired by Elon Musk’s plans for space colonization, we asked five young designers to create an essential travel item for a trip to Mars. Marina Mellado was one of them.

How would you describe yourself, professionally?
I’m a 23-year-old industrial designer from Spain, but I’ve studied in three different countries: at IED Madrid, Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk, and Central Saint Martins, London, where I earned my master’s degree.

What inspired your concept for the Challenge?
Researchers at the University of California (UCI) found that astronauts travelling to Mars will be exposed to radiation that adversely affects the transmission of signals between human brain cells. This causes memory deficit, depression, and impaired decision-making.

I propose a set of modifications to standard spaceship tools to generate stronger connections between brain cells.

How does it work?
Using your nondominant hand stimulates brain function, leading to the growth of new neural connections and strengthening existing ones. The modifications I made to four objects – cutlery, pen, drinking valve and food container – prompt travellers to use the ‘other’ hand. To minimize cost and maximize intuitive usage, the objects are made from the same materials from which they are currently produced.

The Other-Hand Toolkit for right-handed Mars travellers. Using the nondominant hand might help avoid depression.

The majority of your work is technology-focused. Why analogue objects for this concept?
I like technology and scientific experimentation, but in extreme scenarios, I tend to design with minimal changes that provide maximum effect. These don’t always require technology, but thoughtful modifications to everyday objects that tackle the issue accurately.

How is the Toolkit linked to the rest of your work?
The aesthetic appearance of the tools is simple, like that of my other designs. And the Toolkit is based on grounded design research that tackles a psychological or behavioral issue in a specific scenario. 

Apart from space travel, what challenges will designers face in the future?
I believe that design will become a cross-disciplinary practice where designers will collaborate with biologists, neurologists, economists, botanists; working to face the transforming scenarios that are emerging rapidly from the worlds of science and technology.

What kinds of scenarios?
What’s the future of currency? Healthcare? Transportation? In different parts of the planet? How might industrial design intervene? I’m thinking of how wearable technology and 3D printing are quickly becoming more sophisticated – facilitating new means of production and integrated technology in everyday life.

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