Tōō ĭn

This week my firm hosted a meeting of all the regional design leaders. On Thursday, the rest of us mingled at a reception and were treated to a slide show showing some of the issues they had discussed. Very inspirational, of course, and as occasionally happens, this event triggered a dream. In the dream fragment I recall, someone approached me (in the setting of this reception) and said, absurdly, “tōō ĭn.”

I write this phonetically because when I woke up with this dream snippet in my mind, the phrase churned up several spellings – to in, too in, two in, to inn, too inn, two inn. So, why not have some fun with these random dream words. What if you had a contest to interpret these words in terms of design or art?

First I looked them up in a dictionary, mainly to get the phonetic spelling, and found that both of these words have myriad meanings. “To,” for example, is both a preposition and an adverb. As a preposition it means toward, as far as, to the extent of, before, until, for the purpose of, in honor of, relationship, exclusivity or separateness, in the direction of a given state, in contact with, in front of, regarding, as a toast. “Too” means in addition, excessively, to a regrettable degree, extremely, immensely, or indeed. Even “two” has more than one meaning – it’s a cardinal number, the second in a sequence, something having two parts, or a two-dollar bill.

“In” can be a preposition, adjective, adverb or noun. As a preposition it evokes limits, movement from outside to within, function, style, process, order, means, medium, condition, activity, purpose, reference, and ratio or proportion. As an adverb or adjective, it means toward the inside, toward a destination or goal, within a place, available or under one’s control, inclusion, relationship, incoming, inward, having power, currently fashionable, exclusive. As a noun it relates to position, influence, or power. “Inn,” of course is a public lodging house serving food and drink to travelers, a hotel, a tavern or restaurant. But it’s also a residence hall for students, especially law students, in London.

Wow – a plethora of connotations, not even considering acronyms, abbreviations, slang, and languages other than English. So what could one do with this?

1. A new, exclusive line of clothing.
2. A salute to architectural trends, past or present.
3. Maps.
4. A design for two hotels.
5. A panel discussion about the role of design – can there be too much design?
6. An examination of the process of design.
7. A photo essay on entrances.
8. A paper about achieving balance between private and collaborative space in the workplace.
9. Anything relating to signage.
10. A comic book about opening a bar.
11. A discussion of proportion.
12. Funnels.

This could go on and on and be somewhat serious or completely whacky. Wouldn’t it be fun to see what people came up with?

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