stacking boxes

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Design Indeterminacy: Stacking Boxes was my initial exploration of indeterminate outcome in design. How might I design a functional object whose final form & aesthetic are beyond my final design control.

My stacking box idea began with a concept sketch. The wing nuts represent the ability to easily disassemble and reassemble a collection of components into a progressively greater number of compositions thus making the final design outcome less predictable, i.e. a single blue component = one possible configuration, a blue and a green component = two possible configurations, etc.
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The project's proposed 5 stacking storage boxes can be rearranged meaning that I as the designer had control over the materials, dimension and form of the individual boxes, but I had no control over the configuration of the boxes.

Being slightly math challenged, I left the math behind the project’s indeterminacy to my then 14 year old daughter who did the initial calculation of number of possible reconfigurations. Five factorial or 5! = 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 120 is the number of possible box configurations. The boxes each have 4 unique sides which means that the number of possible configurations is = 5! x 4 to the fifth power = 120 x 1024 = 122,880.
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To push the idea of design indeterminacy as far as I could, I gathered all of the scrap materials in my shop locker and restricted my choice of materials to what I happened to have rather than what I might go out and purchase. I felt that this took away a bit more of my control of the final outcome since I couldn’t necessarily predict or design what the final palette of materials might be.
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Five unstacked stacking boxes from above.
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Stacking boxes partially stacked.
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Stacking boxes one configuration out of 122,880 possible configurations.