It’s a good thing that I don’t have hayfever as we are due to spend the next few weeks deep in a field.
Week one was all about new experiences. We had discussions from guest speakers – David Hiut was an inspiration and raised some fantastic points that truly resonated with me – had classes in other departments – who knew that pottery clay was so soft(?) – and mingled with new people. It was also a nice opportunity to explore parts of the Art School that I had never been in before, and meet further lectures who could provide help on future projects.
Back to Product Design
The initial brief was to take something that is ordinary and make it extraordinary. To help future generations, to look at the materiality of things and take them to a higher echelon; to consider the form of items and see how this can affect the lifespan or worth of an item. We were to be the FORM GIVERS.
As a group of six, we discussed what the brief meant to us, discussing simple materiality – i.e. using better quality, longer lasting materials and the connotations these bring to the party – and how the form of certain mundane objects are more beautiful than some higher ticket price or desired objects. We decided that, rather than making something new, we would take something existing and soon due to be deemed as rubbish, and give it a higher purpose. Why would we make something new and incur the ecological cost of making this new item, when the resources, energy and damage have already been documented for an existing item. What was the item we decided upon? Plastic bottles. They are designed as a single use item, but remain in the ‘system’ for centuries to follow. Plastic never really decomposes, it simple becomes brittle and breaks into fragments, but will always remain as plastic. Think of an area where water washes upon the land and you will always find plastic bottles.
With this in mind, we went away and looked at future, second life for a plastic bottle. Not just simple second uses – like turning into a makeshift fish tank – but taking the humble bottle to a higher form: making it EXTRAordinary.
I came across something Heineken devised back in the sixties – the WOBO. Mr Heineken (?) saw with his own eyes, people living in shacks, sometimes just on the street and thought they had to do something about this. From here, the new Heineken bottle was produced: the World Bottle (WOBO).
This bottle was just as easy to hold – possible easier with the grippy sides – but was designed to be stacked together, brick fashion, where the top of one bottle would link into the bottom of another bottle. These could be stacked together into large structures, such as a shack.
With this as inspiration, we came up with the idea of redesigning the plastic bottle to have a similar hollow in the bottom of the bottle, but with an added screw cap feature so a bottle could be screwed into the bottom of another bottle, making them act as a set. To take this further, we wanted to try and add the same feature to existing bottles, rather than make new ones. We thought, if we could make a metal screw that can be heated, then this could be screwed into the bottom of an existing bottle, melting in a screw profile, allowing another bottle to be screwed into it. This metal screw could be, the form giver.
After much discussion with the lecturer, we may have interpreted the brief a little too far from it’s origins, so for now, we will shelve this idea for a later date.
Looking then into form, aesthetics, materiality, things passed down from previous generations and why they were kept, we decided to individually make a list of objects that we felt may be kept and handed down to a next generation. After many strong suggestions, we group voted on a toolbox / toolbag; an item many of us had on our individual lists. I personally have a toolbox passed down from my father, made of basic steel, rivets and (now) flaking paint. Monetary wise, it is worthless, but I would never sell it. It has personal history to me, sentiment; it has scars of use where my (late) father has used it over the years. Each mark on it has as much history in it as his name plate stamped on the front.
With this in mind, we undertook some primary research, speaking to some of the lecturers in CSAD and were given some amazing feedback; summarised:
- They had toolboxes passed down to them and will pass them to a further generation.
- Materials make a big difference; they weather and get better with age, showing the scars of life.
- They do their proposed job very well, but they may not be used for the same items further down the line – e.g. you can make a beautiful ipad cover now, but what happens when ipads cease to be?
- If the item is inherently beautiful – through shape, materials AND the history of the item – then it is more likely to be put on top of the desk, on display, rather than under or in a cupboard, hidden away.
We had confirmation of our initial group thoughts, now we needed to research materials that people felt reflected longevity. A mix of primary and secondary research came up with a list:
- Metals (copper, brass, aluminium, steel) give a strength to an item but also show a patina of use.
- Leather ages with grace, showing fatigue lines, softening up with age.
- Hardwoods have earthy connotations, aging slowing, picking up marks of use.
Design time. We had a good selection of information to help shape our toolbox / toolbag, we just needed to sketch some shapes for the item; taking inspiration from nature, automobiles, timeless periods in history, and items that have stood the test of time – the Anglepoise lamp for instance. Here are some of my sketches:
A great idea that came from the group was the ability to modify an item or leave a personal mark on it. If something breaks on the toolbox, that piece is easy to remove and replace (not glued in), but could be replaced with a personalised item, leaving that person’s mark on it. Not only this, but the toolbag could come with a branding kit so that each owner can leave their stamp on the bag, physically leaving a timeline on the toolbag.
Again, we collated the sketches and then hand picked our favourite shapes / features and then worked on some final designs. Here are some of them:
These sketches, along with several others from the group, were presented in front of the class and discussed at length.
Where do we go from here? We head on a field trip proper, going to another department, working in groups and on a new project. What shall I pack? Take the the ideas and principles developed over last few weeks – heritage, repair rather than replace, carefully select materials, show your scars, leave a mark – but leave the vessel behind (the toolbox). Discuss these with my new travelers and see what we come up with. Bags are packed.