Cas Holman on Abstract

This is part of a series where I write about episodes of Netflix’s Abstract that I really enjoyed and think you might, too.

Who is Cas Holman?

In Cas’s words she designs for play; she is not a toy designer. Some of her products include the big blue blocks and rigamajig. These are not your typical toys. They empower children to follow their own path, not one dictated by an adult. There doesn’t need to be an outcome, instead they just do what is intuitive. One thing that motivates Cas is the activism involved with toys. Children are our future and “good toys make good people.”

Cas’s Creative Process

  • Sketches cover the walls of Cas’s studio. She says they are “an extension of my brain,” and “images are more useful than words.”
  • Dancing not only inspires Cas’s work but allows her to feel like a sane human.
  • Projects always begin with an experiential goal, such as design a way to get to school or design a way to transport water. From the goal, the design process can flow freely and uniquely. As opposed to the process that might come about if the goal were to design a school bus.

What Blew My Mind

  • The episode introduced me to the procedural architecture movement. An example is the reversible destiny lofts in Japan. Most designers assume that easy is better and they want to eliminate work for the user, but some designers like Cas and Arakawa and Gins are not convinced that is the better way.
  • Animals play, too! See the crow sliding down a snowy roof on a yogurt lid.
  • We Americans are pretty closed-minded about what children are capable of or susceptible to. Compared to other cultures, we keep our children indoors and prevent them from lifting or falling. The Abstract episode shows China for comparison, but I think also of parents in Europe who allow their children a longer leash, so to speak. Listen to this podcast to hear an American mom who observed how Germans raise their children.
  • Cas believes that “if we can play together then we can live together.” That statement reminded me of the Fisher Price toy that resolved an international crisis. I guess toymakers alike for generations have peace in mind.

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