Life presents us with countless problems on a daily basis, some common (how to communicate with someone who speaks a different language; how to toast drinks while maintaining eye contact) and some decidedly less so (how to pop a balloon without waking the baby). Dominic Wilcox addresses a full range of everyday conundrums on his website Variations on Normal, which he uses as a kind of instant sketchbook for expressing his ideas at the moment of inspiration. “I can come up with an idea and then photograph it, draw it, or animate it and get it to the public right away,” the London-based designer-artist says.
Wilcox is perhaps best known for objects like the War Bowl, for which he melted dozens of plastic toy soldiers into a writhing mass, and a series of stickers resembling rusty scratches meant to keep bicycle thieves away. But he’s been making these sorts of clever concept sketches since he began studying visual communication in Edinburgh at age 19. “It gave me the possibility to express my creativity through ideas as opposed to just painting still lives,” he says. Senior year, he decided to translate some of his doodles into actual objects — like a mattress cut to the silhouette of one’s favored sleeping position — which then led him to apply to London’s Royal College of Art for product design. It was both they and the sketchbooks that got him in.
He still keeps up both pursuits. In addition to Variations on Normal, he pens a monthly sketch column in the London design magazine Icon and is thinking about compiling his creations into a book. As for 3-D commissions, last year he developed three concepts for Nike based on his War Bowl, and he’s recently been creating limited-edition products for the London design gallery YCN. When Sight Unseen approached him for a peek inside his sketchbook, he offered a series of designs based on the needs of today’s celebrities, whose eccentric activities seem unavoidable in today’s culture. Like all of his drawings, they provide a glimpse into his unique thought process. Says Wilcox: “I showed my mom a bunch of ideas, and she looked up and said ‘Your mind is zany, isn’t it Dominic?’ Only my mother’s allowed to say that.”