There are few occasions more suited to toasting than the passing of a new year. It is also the occasion on which toasting has the most immaterial subject: on a birthday, you toast an individual; whereas holiday celebrations often have culturally-mandated hierarchies and a specific subject to toast. But as the New Year begins, and people around the world toast as their clocks strike 12, the glasses raised celebrate not a family member or a long-dead saint but the passage of time itself.
To mark the beginning of 2017, Disegno is delighted to publish a series of short reflections from the designers that participated in the project. Below, contributions from Formafantasma, Jacopo Sarzi and Marije Vogelzang are discussed.
Implicit in redesigning the toast is the idea that designers can shape our social rituals. “But individually developed design rarely plays a good role in the invention of rituals,” note Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin, the co-founders of Amsterdam-based practice Formafantasma. “Rituals are usually collectively designed within a community over a long span of time.” With this reservation in mind, Farresin and Trimarchi chose to base their proposal around lightly modifying the existing ritual, removing the need for glasses and drinks and replacing them with a series of simple hand gestures: “As a continuation of Bruno Munari’s Speak Italian: The Fine Art of the Gesture, we propose two toasting gestures to be performed collectively and without objects.”
Formafantasma's design is illustrated in the gallery above.
“In these days of hate and terror, could the toast become the best symbol of solidarity, respect and willingness to learn from the unknown in front of us?” Jacopo Sarzi, a London-based designer, identifies the democratic nature of the toast as essential to its appeal, yet argues that this egalitarianism could be extended. Toasting is often tied to alcohol, which can prove alienating for those who do not drink. As such, Sarzi has proposed a series of vessels that conceal their contents. Rather than communicating the drink they contain, the vessels reflect the nature of the toast they are being used for – be it celebratory, romantic or secretive. “The choice of the drink becomes detached from the act itself,” notes Sarzi. “It’s a way of respecting differences in people’s beliefs and tastes.”
For a number of years the food designer Marije Vogelzang has been toying with the toasting ritual in the events and installations that she runs as part of her practice. Vogelzang hands her guests a champagne flute that is tied to all of the other glasses by a single, long ribbon. “It means that all the guests are connected to one another,” says Vogelzang. “It’s simple, but immediately gives a sense of togetherness. If you need to freshen up, you have to give your glass to your neighbour to hold for you.” The effect is to engender interaction between guests, thereby heightening toasting’s function as a social lubricant. Symbolically, the communality of the toast becomes embodied by a single ribbon fluttering across a room.