Monday musings – The Men Who Made Us Spend…

We work as designers. We create new stuff for the world for all sorts of clients with all sorts of budgets in all sorts of styles. However, we work firmly within the ‘green design / eco design / sustainable design’ sphere, which is just where we think everyone should be designing from, regardless of who / what  /where you design. And we get rather incensed by the larger corporations who have the biggest clout and yet, sometimes the lowest regards for responsibility. The bigger you are the harder it can be to create a fully responsible design chain, but it is not impossible.   So it was also rather timely that we noticed the new series on BBC 2, which started last week – ‘The Men Who Made Us Spend’.

the men who made us spend

From the outset, this was – by far – one of the most interesting and engaging programmes to have been produced for a long while that tackled the complicated issues of consumer spending and the psychology of why we want the newest, better thing.

These are issues that designers of all spheres work with on a daily basis, and we all know that not everyone within our industries are working within the sustainability bubbles that we inhabit, but it made compelling watching. The decisions made by industries to include planned obsolescence within their products to promote further purchases, the tricks included in products to keep us – the owners – from getting inside and repairing them ourselves. Even the fact that battery packs on some products are deliberately sealed making a perfectly good product useless (unless you pay a large replacement fee) in as little as 18 months.

Even with product reclamation and material recycling increasing worldwide, the actual psychological and design decisions that are imposed on us are worrying and need changing. An interesting comparison was made with the IKEA ‘chuck out your chintz’ campaign and the fact that they are championing sustainability. It was wonderful watching and we highly recommend looking it up on the BBC iPlayer.

But really, this does show the two faces of products and repair – on one hand we have manufacturers creating products that are deliberately ‘disposable’ and ‘fast fashion’ we have the ground roots backlash of individuals and independent companies such as Sugru, Fixers cafes and designers who are not accepting that this is the way we should be creating. This is the camp that we firmly sit within and I am proud to say that I also sit on the British Standard Committee of  BS8887  - MADE, which relates to Design for Manufacture, Assembly, Disassembly and End of use processing, which sets out guidelines for processes for a more sustainable future…

Which is where we should all be heading.

(image via BBC 2)

Monday musings – the power of fixing…

Regular readers of the Ecospot will know that we have a particular passion for all things fixing orientated – how to fix, ensuring that things can be fixed, hacking things and generally the place of fixing and our throwaway culture in general. We even travel about to talk about fixing… Well, this weekend we both undertook a spot of fixing.

sugru fixing

So -  fixing. The seals on washing machines are rather notorious for splitting over time and sure enough, ours had split and was leaking water – dribbling down the front like a toothing infant, creating a puddle on the floor and reducing the performance of the wash.  Options were – new washing machine (not likely), new seal (impossible to find), new fix. We opted for the latter and at the weekend, our trusted Sugru came out the fridge.

For those of you not familiar with Sugru, it is by far the most wonderous material that we have found in recent years. The small packs of self setting, semi rigid air curing silicone rubber are cheap, easy to use and hugely versatile. Keep it in the fridge and it’s use by date extends to about 18 months (even though they new, longer life Sugru will soon be with us…), open the pack, mould it in place, leave it to cure – done.

It can be used to protect things, to bridge gaps between things, to waterproof things – take a look at their website for images of what people have used it for. The seal on our washing machine needed a bit of extra care – we moulded the shape, then covered the Sugru with cling film (so it would not stick to the door) then closed the door. A couple of days later, door opened, cling removed and the seal is as good as new. Perfect.

This took about five minutes to action, a couple of quid of Sugru and a bit of patience. The resulting fix is not only immensely satisfying, it ensures that the washing machine is not losing any water and consequently will be working better. Good all around we think. And if you ever need reminding, check out this Fixers Manifesto too. Stick it on your wall and get fixing. As Sugru quite rightly says – The Future Needs Fixing.

(image by claire potter)

weekend colour inspiration – natural brown and brights…

There is something rather satisfying about brown paper and manilla card. Something raw and honest. And of course, natural. But a mass of brown can be rather unappetising, in both an interior or product basis, so it needs a bit of a pop. You can pair natural brown with both black and white very successfully, but we have a bit of a thing for natural brown and brights…

Chocolate branding - beautiful.

Hello again! (yep – that is one large and long picture!) Ok – where were we – oh yes, natural brown and brights. This picture is a fantastic example of how natural brown can be paired with bright colours to give a bit more of a contemporary feel and slightly less of the ‘farmers market’ feel which you get from black and white.

Created by Isabela Rodrigues from Sweety Branding Studio in Brazil, the concept for Hnina, an organic chocolate brand was created to reflect the care, love and attention that goes into the actual chocolate itself.

As far as printing goes, this is not a cheap process at all, as to get that ‘pop’ of colour, the colour has to be on a white base, so multiple ink layers, but this kind of colour pairing can be taken into an interior design with ease. Think about raw woods with bright colours instead…

So – natural browns and brights – create a contemporary natural fee.

(image via the dieline)

SPOTTED – recycled card mouse mask…

Ok. Yes. This post is as random as it sounds. We were looking for something in particular on Etsy for a client and we came across this rather fantastic print your own mask pattern, so you can create your own recycled card mouse mask. Which is the sort of thing that we would do for an event, so we think it is pretty cool. Especially as you can create it in any card you like…

Mouse mask, need a animal mask? make your own from recycled card.

Created by Steve Wintercroft, this mouse mask is just one of a whole load of patterns which are available to purchase as downloads to create from your own recycled card.

Imagine a whole troop of these for a party, or a shop display perhaps? Absolutely wonderful and a really great idea. Not into a mouse mask? What about a Storm Trooper?

Stormtrooper helmet, make your own stormtrooper helmet from recycled card

Oh dear. Wonder what we are going to the next fancy dress party as?

And actually, we are going to an open air screening of the wonderful Labyrinth in Brighton tomorrow, so perhaps we could alter this mask a bit to be one of the Fireys? Bigger feather frill, bright pink? I think we could…

Fantastic. An eco friendly version to the plastic fancy dress masks that you purchase, plus you also have the satisfaction of knowing that you have made the mask yourself too. And when you are finished with it, you can just stick it in the recycling bin.

(images via Wintercroft on Etsy)

SPOTTED – the Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft

Last week we trotted up to the rather beautiful village of Ditchling, which sits on the northern side of the South Downs just above Brighton to attend a lecture by Simon Garfield about type. As well as looking forward to the lecture, we were also itching to see the buildings of the Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft.ditchling museum of art and craft

We were certainly not disappointed. The architecture was absolutely beautiful with the Grade II listed cart house and original building being stunningly connected with a new addition by Adam Richards Architects. A really sensitive adaptation of the existing in an honest way, using traditional materials has resulted in a space that is not only contemporary in feel but one which also feels very much in respect of both its location and heritage.

ditchling museum of art and craft

Exposed rafters in the cart house, which acts as the entrance, shop and cafe show the original structure of the building beautifully, plus the numbered tour of the elements are a clear and minimal way to engage visitors with the architecture.

ditchling museum of art and craft

The exhibits and collections at the museum are rooted with the artists who are connected with Ditchling, plus there is a substantial type influence, as Eric Gill, the designer of the Gill Sans typeface was a resident of the village. All signage throughout the museum is in the typeface, with both lettering and symbols used to great effect.

ditchling museum of art and craft

There is also a significant amount of both lettering and print based exhibits from all ages, all displayed with sensitivity in a variety of interesting ways.

ditchling museum of art and craft

The Ditchling Museum of Art and Crafts is not a huge affair, but it is bursting with clever architecture, character and heritage, not to mention wonderfully enthusiastic staff and fantastically stocked shop.

Plus, the museum is currently a finalist for the Art Fund Museum of the Year 2014

A must visit for print and architecture junkies alike. Which we are both.

(photos by claire potter)

wednesday walls – another type of green wall…

We are rather obsessed with planted, or green walls here in the studio. We think they are a brilliant way of utilising an otherwise abandoned surface for stuff that helps clean the air, is productive, encourages biodiversity or at the very least, looks great and reminds us of the natural world and our passing seasons. So, as we continue to be obsessed with the green wall, here is another, quite stunning example that we spotted over on Pinterest…

La Leroteca / Lacaja Arquitectos, green wall, garden in wall, flowers on facade, wood exterior wall, kindergarten

Situated in Colombia, this kindergarten by Lacaja Arquitectos has a beautifully deep facade which is planted with a variety of flowering plants and herbs. Now, this is a detail that works very well if a projecting planter could be an issue – ie, on a walkway that people could hit their head on, or if a slick detail is required.

The stones provide drainage, and it is likely that the water is allowed to drain from the top planted trough to the bottom.

If you are planning a new, cladded facade and wanted a green wall, then this could be the detail for you…

(image by Rodrigo Davila, via archdaily)

weekend words – a quote on – comic sans…

This week, as we are uber geeks, we attended a lecture that was given by Simon Garfield all about typography and the history of type in general. We love fonts. We love typography. But there is one font that we do not like. At all. And we are not the only ones… design agency kent

We love this as much as we hate comic sans. And we’re sure that lots of you will agree with us and the lovely peeps at ifour.

Go check out their other A-boards that have been turning heads over in Tunbridge Wells.


SPOTTED – upcycled pipe lights…

We love anything that is upcycled and has had a previous life which is visible. It creates a story and creates something which is individual, with a personality. But even though we can see the personality in lots of things, there are some things that have a more obvious personality that others. These guys have real character…

Upcycled Furniture: Kozo Lamps

Created by Kozo Lamps, the iron pipe lamps are constructed from a range of industrial fittings which end up being bodies, arms and legs. Even though the individual pieces that make them up are pretty standard, when put together, they are fantastically characterful.

Each one is handmade, with free worldwide shipping and you can be certain that these guys will be a conversation piece.

Plus, Kozo also do a range of pipe based industrial styled interior lights too, so if the pipe guys do not float your boat but you like the overall aesthetic, then there would be something else that could suit, such as these wall and shelf fittings…

iron pipe wall fixtureiron pipe shelf lamp






Visit Kozo for full details of the range.

wednesday walls – stick a bike on your wall…

Ok, ok – we know we were not going to talk about Berlin any more (we can hear you all yawning from here) but for today’s Wednesday walls post, we thought we would just add in one more… Got a wall? Got a bike? Add them together and what have you got? The perfect place for a bike rack that’s what.

bikini berlin wall bike rack

The bike rack in my room was rather lovely – simple, wood, felt, shelf. Perfect. There are now lots of these types of bike shelves on the market now and they provide a great solution for an entrance hall, so long as it is not too narrow.

Or, got a bit of dead space somewhere? Why not put your bike up there instead?

bikini berlin bike

There were bikes dotted about everywhere in Bikini Berlin – and always taking full advantage of the dead space. Hallway ends, large expanses of wall – even on the ventilation pipes as above using a very industrial type of support system.

bikini berlin bike 1

So – when thinking about where to put your bike, think about bringing it inside. It will be more secure and could even become an integral part of your interior…

(photos by claire potter)

SPOTTED – a few lovely public landscaping details in Berlin…

Ok – we are still talking about our recent trip to Berlin, but hey – there was loads of great stuff to report about. Rest assured, we will be finishing our Berlin series this week… But, before we do, we are dedicating today’s post to a few fantastic little bits of public landscaping that we spotted while we were there.

bikini berlin landscaping 1

As we reported yesterday, the whole area of Bikini Berlin, which encompasses both the new concept mall and the 25hrs hotel has undergone a serious amount of regeneration of late. The new concept mall is on three levels, with the top level stores opening out onto the public roof terrace – overlooking the monkey enclosures of the zoological garden again.

What was lovely about this space was, firstly, it was publically accessible – too often the lovely pieces of landscaping that surround buildings, or sit above buildings are closed off to the general public. Not so here – there was plenty of space to sit and take in the views of the tiergarten or the city either on one of the cafe areas or on the public seating, which hooray, there was also an abundance of.

bikini berlin landscaping 2

These large bench seats, which were colour matched to the soft green of the metalwork inside the mall were also fitted with a very simple and very clever back rest adjustment system, so you can decide which way to face. Very nice.

The detailing on the terrace was also rather nice – the geometric wave set into the railings that looked over the zoological garden mirroring the angular rooflights that floods the mall below with light.

bikini berlin landscaping 3

Also, the front of the hotel entrance carried on this angular public landscaping, with stepped planters rising out of the flat paved areas – creating both visual interest and a planting depth to allow larger specimens without the planter being blocky. It was also – as I discovered – rather good to sit against.

A very lovely example of cool, contemporary, angular landscaping – and not just for the private office and workspace users of the area – for the public.

Long may it continue.

(photos by claire potter)