Things That Talk

Desktop and mobile view of things that talk overview page

Objects can be full of life, and even though they don't have a heartbeat, they can tell great stories. Together with Leiden University and Q42, we created a platform for students to give a voice to historical objects that are normally kept behind closed doors.

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Desktop and mobile view of things that talk overview page

Your grandmother's living room has a story to tell

Our possessions live longer than we do. We trust them to tell our stories when we're gone. Things That Talk is a place to learn the language of objects from the full breadth of human history. It is a sustainable, living archive with stories about the interconnected world of things.

The design focuses on discoveries made by student researchers. At the same time we wanted to highlight the connections between various objects.

Wendy Steffens UX designer

Focusing on the objects

The objects, photographed in high resolution, are the main focus of the platform and act as intermediary between story and audience. Users can choose: find and discover information by clicking on the small markers that are visible on the objects, or follow one of the storylines the editors created for them.

An identity that speaks

The Things That Talk brand is bold. The bright green, the most commonly used colour in chat apps, is energetic and appeals to the imagination. The logo, in bold text, is a tribute to historical research which usually uses textual sources. The style came about pragmatically. All the identity’s elements revolve around creating space for the stories and objects. The result: a set of clear interface elements designed to facilitate the discovery of stories.

Open to the world

Things That Talk invites students to research the life cycle of things; from their materiality to their creation; from items in the back of grandparents' drawers to museum collection pieces.

Things That Talk gives students a platform for their work. Their hard labour is no longer confined to just their laptops and those of their professors, but is made public. Very motivating! We use WikiData so that the students are also contributing directly to a global platform.

Things That Talk gives me the opportunity to apply much of what I learned in my courses, such as Mandarin Chinese, doing research and writing articles, to create an exposition about an object that interests me personally.

Koen van der Lijn Student China studies Leiden

Students gain so many valuable new insights from lectures. It's great that those insights are now finding their way to academia and a wider audience.

Fresco Sam-Sin Product owner and curator Things That Talk