The 14 parts of the Crowd Economy…

We are back after a very nice spring break – where we spent a lot of time sorting out the landscapes in our lives, drinking tea and buying more books from Emmaus and Oxfam in Brighton – and there was a common theme to many discussions we had. The power of the crowd and how this fits with the role of design in the circular economy. In particular, we were talking about whether this new bunch of terminology is actually the same thing in different ways..

Fortunately, we happened upon this marvellous graphic by Sean Moffitt on Crowd Sourcing Week which outlines some of the top 14 sectors that encompass the Crown Economy…

The 14 Parts of the Crowd Economy

And, even though this is distinctly aimed at ‘business’ this has a huge amount of applicable elements to those of us who work in design – and specifically, the circular economy based types of design.

However, there are areas throughout the whole of the 14 points which can refer to the wider aspects of the design process – equity based crowdfunding for instance, where as an example, Kickstarter has brought many product design projects to fruition with the support of worldwide backers.

One of our own clients – hiSbe – raised an enormous amount of crowd sourced funds to get the project designed, built and supported – and they are now going from strength to strength…

So – is the Crowd Economy the future of business as we know it? We think it is, which is an exciting place to be. The next part is to decide how, and where we all fit in this ever evolving business sphere…

(image by Sean Moffitt via Crowd Souring Week)

the Tomorrow Collective – inspired by the past, designing for the future…

Every day, across the world, we are creating more and more stuff. More stuff that we will use, discard and possibly never see again. Of course, some stuff we will continue to use, cherish and (hopefully) develop and repair throughout our lives, but unfortunately this is rather in the minority. This is one of the major problems with product design – how do we create new ‘things’ that people will want to use and want to keep – and that are relevant to the modern user? The Tomorrow Collective, a group of Masters students from the Lund University’s School of Industrial Design have been pondering this too – creating a range of products that address these issues…

‘In a time when the single person is becoming more and more distanced from where things come from, how they are made, what they are made of and where they inevitably end up, it becomes increasingly harder to see the consequences of our lifestyles and choices. We depend on fossil fuel driven transportation systems, monocultural large-scale farming and non renewable, toxic energy sources. Our economies thrive on productivity and consumption and we live like there’s no tomorrow. The Tomorrow Collective is about exploring ways of enabling us to live a sustainable life in the future. Inspired by past knowledge of how to grow, make and be, the project presents concepts for modern tools and systems that can be used in a cyclic sense, within private homes or to share in smaller communities.’ 

From herb collecting kits, to sunflower seed presses, shoe making / repair kits and natural cleaning systems, the Tomorrow Collective have created a range of really interesting (and thought provoking) projects which are made beautifully too.

Even perfume has gone natural, with a kit allowing you to create your own fragrance from self identified and harvested wild herbs and flowers…

We think designers that think in this way are a delight – without this type of reflective practice, how can we ever start to reassess our current ways of living and bring ourselves in line with what will be required? However, these projects often remain in the beautiful but conceptual sphere – never making it to the wider, consumer based world.

Why is this? Is it a step too far? Do we not have the time (or inclination yet) to be so involved in the processes of our products? Or is now the time that we need to re-educate ourselves and step outside of the vast consumerist world and begin to create for ourselves again… Many ‘trends’ are pointing towards this as a distinct change in mindset, but with the recent apparent decline of the ‘hipster’ there is also the musings of whether this type of self creation will fade back into the self sufficiency past of whence it came.

We hope not. As designers we believe that the personal connection to our products is extremely important. This is the way forward, even though, as the Tomorrow Collective have shown, is discovered through looking back…

THE TOMORROW COLLECTIVE from patrik bruzelius on Vimeo.

in praise of the refurbished…

We are very lucky at the studio to be located along a very long road in Hove that can only be described as ‘eclectic’. With Portslade Station at one end, and well into the reaches of Hove in another, Portland Road is about a mile or so of houses, schools, a park and a variety of retail spaces (plus our little studio, based in the old public toilet). But theses are not any old retail spaces – they are all mostly small, independent shops and cafes – all very different. But what struck us recently whilst walking to the Post Office (6 minutes from studio) was how many great examples of repair, refurbished, service based industry and reclaimed goods shops there were on Portland Road.

dyson city

There are two launderettes. A sewing and alteration workshop, two computer repair shops, a cobbler, an refurbished oven place. A scattering of secondhand stores, a hardware store and the Bargain Vacuum Centre, to name but a few. And it was in the last store – the Bargain Vacuum Centre that we found the latest addition to our studio – an almost new, refurbished Dyson City vacuum cleaner.

Complete with all the bits and bobs – and a 9 month guarantee, this little vacuum only set us back £50. ‘Any problems and whizz it back’, we were told. ‘Sure, we replied – we are just along the road’. And this is what is great about this type of ‘High Street’ – the mix of people, skills and services – all independent and backlit acrylic sign free – offering the personable experience that is not found elsewhere. This is what we love and this is why we are very proud to be part of Portland Road.

We need to save these types of road, because there is very little that we are not able to access within a 7 minute walk of the studio – and we are very aware that this is a precious rarity. Chains have their places, but these are the roads that can offer us repair, reuse or leasing – on our doorsteps…

Here’s to the refurbished.

what we are up to: FIELD Brighton…

We are delighted that we have been up to loads of interesting and exciting things already this year, and we can now announce the first… Back in January we were part of the first call for Brighton based makers for the forthcoming redevelopment of a long term derelict site in the city…FIELD brighton main page

So what exactly is FIELD? Well in the words of the developing team themselves (Cathedral Group – who are marvellous, and also working on the Circus Street redevelopment in Brighton)

‘We want to work with you; Brighton’s makers, creatives and innovators, to transform a corner of Brighton into something more than just a field. The possibilities are endless. A field of inquiry, of knowledge, of expertise, of endeavour. A playing field. A field of innovation.

Over the coming months we will be inviting you to hold events, exhibitions and providing opportunities for you to shape what FIELD should be.

You all have something in common: you make. We are inviting you to make FIELD your home for now and the future. Your activities will define what will in time become an exciting new community. The ideas generated by FIELD will inform, shape and deliver the future of the maker community at the gateway of the city of Brighton.’

This is exciting stuff. Many moons ago I gazed upon this long abandoned piece of land whilst doing my Interior Architecture degree on the top floor of the University of Brighton building opposite. It is huge – and has incredible scope…FIELD brighton profile page

And so we are delighted to be part of the start of this really exciting project with a load of other great makers – we will keep you posted of the developments and we are full of ideas… (NB – I don’t usually look this stern – we went for a ‘power gaze…’)

Check out the main FIELD Brighton website to see what the project is all about and get on the mailing list to be the first to hear about what is going on…

(thank you also to the great Dean Chalkley for my great photo and also to Studio Makgill for their art direction on the shoot!)

2014 recap – May – narratives in design…

In May there was lots going on. We spoke at a couple of events, ran a foraging walk in Brighton and visited stacks of Artist’s Open Houses for both ourselves and our clients. It was a busy month, but for our 2014 recap we are looking back to one of the talks we did – all about narratives in design…

first published 12 May 2014…

At the end of last week I was invited to speak at the first Interdisciplinary Narrative Symposium at the University of Sussex, which got me thinking generally about narrative. What do we mean when we talk about narrative as designers? Is everything we do concerned with the narratives of design? What exactly are the narratives of design?

narrative

With speakers from a variety of disciplines, speaking about the different forms of narrative, I was aware that my own application of the term was going to be very different to everyone else, particularly if you then start to think about the theoretical and practical references to the term…

So. I listed a few of the ways that narrative is used in our own studio works. Basically – the stories that we use and the stories we create. Vernacular references are key – ensuring that the projects we create are rooted conceptually in their places, using nods to historical elements, or site stories, or even the materials of the area – like the black tiles and forms of the Jerwood Gallery in Hastings by HAT which references the pitched roofs and blackness of the Old Town fishing net huts, which sit beside. Referenced, but with no pastiche.

Historical narrative is also key in our work, so our designs often are borne out of the fact that they used to be something else, but we try and ensure that this previous life is retained and respected, either within a site or within a product. Repair is championed here in the studio – don’t chuck something that can be repaired – and actually, this repair is an essential part of the process in the life of the product – be it a building or an actual product. It adds to the story.

Re-use is essentially a historical narrative of a previous life that we feel is important and should inform the new. Equally, the materials used in a product have distinct narratives that we use as designers, but are based deeper in the psyche of our own backgrounds and communities. For instance, a product created in wood has a very different feel, associated value and longevity compared to the same form in plastic…

Lastly, I spoke about the power of a strong narrative within a brand. And not just a story that is attached to a brand – a brand that is literally founded on a wonderful and meaningful concept. Microsoft PowerPoint - Design should tell a story - narratives i

Who Made Your Pants was the example that I gave – a wonderful company based in Southampton which reconnects the people who actually are responsible for creating your pants with you, the end user with a little name label in the pants themselves. No sweat shops, no hidden workers – the whole process is beautifully transparent and serves not only to educate us as the wearers of the garments, but helps those who are making them too.

Plus, the fabric that the pants are made from are end of line, past season fabrics that the fashion houses have declared as ‘last season’, but are of course, still completely beautiful and functional. And they are beautiful.

The pants themselves are not only stunning, they are highly finished, very comfortable and a joy to own. But the fact that they are so gorgeous does not a deep brand make. The strength of the ethical story ensures that we ask questions – as I did in the presentation, to a group of mixed age academics and invited guests. Unsurprisingly, I was the only one who could honestly say who had made my pants, which is what I expected. The disconnect between the makers of our products and ourselves is starting to be more of an open issue, which surely can only bring about deeper concern and a heightening call for all workers to be respected, regardless of their locations.

But, in the meantime, it is companies such as Who Made Your Pants who are starting to open our eyes. And how?

By telling stories. The best and foundational in the narratives of design. 

(slides from presentation, pictures on slides via Who Made Your Pants)

2014 recap – February – the markets of the future…

Today on our 2014 recap we are looking back to one of our Monday Musing posts in February, where we were talking a little bit about the future of the farmer’s market and where the markets of the future could be rolling…

first published 3 Feb 2014…

With the rise in both our wider interest in the origins of our food and our desire for easy, seasonal consumption, it is no real wonder that farmers markets, pop up food stalls and street dining have exploded over recent years. However – the static market – even if it just inhabits one street per week, can result in an infrastructure nightmare, with road closures, a limited amount of visitors local to the area and the rubbish generated at the end of the day.

La Petite Ceinture market, traveling markets, train market Paris,

But what could be the answer? A recent proposal submitted to the 2013 M.ART Opengap Competition seeks to address these issues with a market that travels along the decommissioned or underused rail lines in Paris.

La Petite Ceinture by Amílcar Ferreira and Marcelo Fernandes refocusses the concept of the market as a commercial space by organising it into a series of inhabited carriages which can literally pop up in various areas of the city for periods of time, benefiting not only a wider audience but also cutting out set up and shut down times.

The proposed project creates an interesting mix between local and tourist needs whilst also creating a travelling ‘event’ for the city. It also aims to rehabilitate the Chemin de fer de Petite Ceinture (which translates into ‘the little belt railway) in Paris, which previously ran between the walls of the city.

If built, we think that this concept would be a very interesting development in the advancement of what we deem to be sustainable retail, as well as beginning to redefine what we think of as temporary, pop-up happenings within our city.

The High Line has used decommissioned rail structures in New York as an innovative public landscape area, but could areas such as these be re-enlivened with markets and travelling retail experiences?

We can only wait to see.

(image via inhabitat)

december wish list day 12 – a bag from Freitag…

It has been said that I have a bit of a ‘thing’ about bags. If a ‘thing’ means that I am drawn to all manner of things satchel like… er, yes. Not bothered with shoes necessarily, but give me a new satchel and I am like a seagull with a chip. Tasty. And as tasty bags go, there is a particular brand which ticks our boxes of not only being creators of beautiful pieces of useful design, they are responsible and care for what they do. With each bag being completely unique from the next, and made from recycled materials, Freitag is a marvellous brand indeed.

F202 LELAND

Created from old transportation lorry tarps, the bags are hard wearing and individual – showing little glimpses into the previous lives that they had and little hints as to who or what they used to advertise. This material reuse is relatively standard now, with many manufacturers creating completely new products from old items – hence the increase of the term ‘upcycling’ in our vocabulary.

But Freitag has another term for this reuse, which fittingly they have also created – ‘recontexturalising’ – in the world of Freitag is all about the removing of a former life and putting a new context on a material and product.

Another element which makes us rate Freitag so highly is their complete transparency of creation, which is very hands on. The tarps arrive after 5-10 years on the roads, they are de-buckled, washed and laid on huge cutting boards where each bag is cut by hand – with the designers working on the floor to create the best combinations of colours, forms and lettering. Each one is highly considered and beautifully well thought out.

Their stores are just as wonderful, and we will be writing about them in 2015. How do you create a sleek store design where every item is a different colour? They will show you how…

This is recycling and reuse on a wonderful scale – creating great bags, laptop sleeves and accessories. Freitag is a pioneer of designing within the circular economy.

Day 12 of our december wish list – anything from Freitag (but we particularly like this one…)

(image via Freitag)

december wish list day 11 – a KeepCup Brew limited edition cup…

As many of you know, we are fully committed members of the reduce and reuse community. If we can try and reduce the amount that we consume and of course, reuse as much as we can, the little actions really do add up to a much bigger action. This is why, along with the fact that we tend to be running in between sites with our coffees, that we are huge fans of the KeepCup. We have one each, and not a day goes by when we do not use them to have our drinks on the go, so for today’s wish list, we have chosen one of the new KeepCup Brew limited edition cups…

KeepCup Brew limited edition cup

Now, this is a different beast to my black and lime green plastic KeepCup – a heavier and more sophisticated version in glass, plastic and cork, the KeepCup Brew is rather lovely indeed. But, like all KeepCups, the size is barista standard (8oz or 12oz), so you are able to hand your cup over any coffee counter and get it filled without any bother at all.

At some places we have even got a discount for using our own cup – double winner.

Plus, unlike many drink on the go cups, the KeepCup is easy to drink from. We know that this should be a standard requirement for a cup, but as many of us know, this is not always the case and many occasions have found us with spillages, leaks and drips.

So, as well as getting a cup that looks beautiful, is refillable (easily) and can be drunk from, the KeepCup has a low environmental impact. The plastic versions for example, contain the same amount of plastic as 20 standard disposable polyethylene lined cups and polystyrene lids. That is not that many lattes before you are ahead in the plastic stakes, let alone the fact that the plastic is staying firmly out of landfill. And when it gets the end of it’s life – each part of the cup can be split into separate parts – easily and quickly – for recycling.

And the KeepCup Brew limited edition also has a cork band – another great material not only for it’s insulative properties but also the fact that cork has to be harvested from the cork Oak for the tree to survive. Literally use it or lose it.

A great, useful, responsible present – and one that will do good and not break the bank too.

Check out the KeepCup website for details on the range…

December wish list – day three… Who Made Your Pants…

We included the fantastic Who Made Your Pants on our Wish List last year and we thought they were very worthy to be included on our wish list for 2014 too. It ticks the boxes of being lovely, ethical and you can get pants all year…

who made your pants

And getting underwear is a pretty standard thing for a lot of us at this time of the year, but as we are very discerning folk, we do not just want any old pants. Oh no. We want beautiful, ethical pants, made by people who care. Fortunately, there is the fabulous Who Made Your Pants?, based in Southampton.

Lunah

ShockerBasically, Who Made Your Pants? create ‘amazing pants by amazing women’ – using fabrics that are left over at the end of the season from other lingerie companies, all made with care by women who have had a pretty rough time in their lives. They are given training and a safe place to work with scope for development. A wonderful company indeed.

But as well as having fabulous ethics, Who Made Your Pants? also create the most fabulous pants. Pants that you would love to receive and wear. They are beautiful and they are obscenely comfortable too – in glorious colours and none of the dreaded VPL. They are packaged with care and you even get to know the name of the person who made your pants. We love them.

Something Blue

Brilliant Black

So – if you are looking for a gift of pants this year, take a look. And looking for a gift that keeps giving past the season? Sign your giftee up to the subscription package of a year of pants, when a special package will arrive each month, with a new pair of pants.

Yes please. 

(images from Who Made Your Pants)

is eco design really now an option?

A little while ago, back in 2008 when I set up this studio, we were very explicit about saying we were eco design specialists. We were fully committed to creating beautiful, innovative and sustainable solutions for whatever project we tackled. We were green. Fast forward a few years and nothing has really changed, except perhaps the way we explain who we are and what we do. Certainly, we are eco design specialists, but we do not necessarily promote that.

Now, this is not because we are not immensely proud of what we do, we think that we are getting to a stage where this should almost be a given. Eco design – and designing responsibly – is not a choice. We have a responsibility to our clients, the wider world and ourselves to ensure that we are designing in the best possible way we can be. Surely we should all be ‘eco designers’, or that that the methodology is integral to the role of being a ‘designer’?

Unfortunately, this is not the same for all of us, but we are seeing a distinct shift…

We have found over the years that our clients are expecting that we would be creating responsible designs, just as we would create designs that are on brief, deliverable and to budget. Designs that are exciting, innovative and forward thinking. And we are delighted about this.

So, when I was asked if I would like to contribute to the fourth edition of the fantastic architectural publication EDGEcondition, with the subject of ‘Teaching the Future’ – I was delighted again. And this is because I really see a bit of disconnect in many of the design courses up and down this land. You learn design, then somewhere along the line, you have an ‘eco design’ module – a singular, tag on, additive module that often is not talked about in many other modules. Surely we are past this now?

You can see my article – Perfect Circles – on page 80…

Monday musings – the power of fixing – again…

Today on Monday musings, (and tomorrow as we are splitting what would otherwise be a very long post) we have a little run down of the activities we took part in last week for the wonderful London Design Festival, which unsurprisingly all had a bit of a tilt towards sustainable design and fixing and the circular economy in general. With our Fixperts hat on, we did a whole range of fixes over the week, plus visited a couple of great exhibitions too…

Fixperts and Sugru fixing Party 4First up, on Wednesday evening, we were delighted to be invited to be part of the Sugru ‘Love Your Stuff’ party at Look Mum, No Hands in Hackney. It was great – a celebration of items that people had owned, looked after and loved (which were then drawn on by four fantastic illustrators) and a celebration of fixing.

Fixperts and Sugru fixing Party 5We were there with the purpose of fixing as many things as possible – on the spot with low cost, fast solutions that we could teach others. As with the last Fixperts fix station we ran, we had a great response with many people bringing items that needed a bit of attention, from bike lights to headphones, bowls to a unicorn. We fixed what we could on the spot, and for those things that needed extra care, we sent people happily on their way with a shopping list and instructions for how to fix something. It was great.

Fixperts and Sugru fixing Party 3Plus, we were sitting next to the great Restart Project, which help people fix all things electronic – teaching people how to do it themselves and not just doing it for them. We ended up building bits to help fix the insides of a laptop that had been brought along – nothing electronic, but a few bits of components and supports that had been broken and rendered useless. We sat and thought about it, and with a bit of lateral thinking, helped the guy fix his laptop. This was a common discussion throughout the week – how design is not just there to solve problems, but also to empower people to be able to add to, fix and hack their own products – gaining confidence and ownership of their belongings…

Fixperts and Sugru fixing Party 2

(tomorrow on Monday Musings part 2 we will be looking at the rest of our London Design Festival activities…)

photos by claire potter)

SPOTTED – the London Design Festival Design Districts…

We are a bit late posting today, mostly due to the fact that we are in the thick of building our new studio (more of that next week), and last night we were up with our pals at Sugru, with our Fixperts hat on, fixing things alongside the Restart Project at Sugru’s Love Your Stuff Party. We fixed loads of things for people on the spot, but again – more of that next week… But as we travelled to and from the day at the London Design Festival, it became very apparent just how huge the event has grown. Excellent for variety and interest, but a real dilemma when it comes to planning. Even we skipped to the V&A, then up to Islington, then across to Hackney. But, there is one way to start to organise your trip – look at the Design Districts…

Now, each of these Design Districts has a very distinct feel, character and style, so if there is a particular type of design you are craving, it could be best place to start. Within each of these districts is a curated collection of showrooms, events, talks, workshops, exhibitions and displays, fitting to the area.

Last year we were part of the Brompton Design District (at the Brompton Pitch, with Fixperts) which had a lovely hands on, demonstration feel, with the cultural London Design Festival of the V&A at its heart. This year, there are diverse events such as Global Design Forum and a ‘meet the makers’ event with Brompton Bikes – where you are also able to customise your own bike, see it made and ride it home.

So, if you are a bit stuck as to where to start, choose a district in the London Design Festival, pick up a guide (loads available throughout, but we got ours at the V&A), and get going. Plan in cake too – design is exhausting.

(image via London Design Festival)

Monday Musings – what we are doing at the London Design Festival…

Today on Monday Musings we have a couple of little announcements about what we are up to for the London Design Festival – which properly gets underway today. A celebration of all things design, the capital buzzes every September with activities, exhibitions, displays, workshops and talks and this year we are very pleased to be part of two events this week…

First up, this Wednesday evening from 7pm, we will be with the fantastic guys at Sugru for their Love Your Stuff party at ‘Look Mum No Hands’ cycling workshop in Hackney. This is a celebration of having stuff for a long time, so if you also have something that you have loved, fixed and repaired to keep it going, you are encouraged to bring it along and get it illustrated to mark its birthday. We will be running one of the Fixing Stations, and will be there all night offering on the spot fixes for things that may be a little bit broken but still useable, encouraging the whole fixing element of design. We ran a similar workshop last year at the Brompton Pitch outside the V & A and over the course of the day, fixed everything from tote bags to bracelets and key rings. So – come and say hello and bring something that we can fix. We will try our best! Here is a little video about the whole Love Your Stuff concept from Sugru…

Next up, we will be with the wonderful Fixperts, running a workshop at the Saturday Market Project on Saturday 20th September between 2-5, which is part of the Shoreditch Design Triangle and on the ICON Design Trail 2014. We will be showing a few images of the Fixperts fixes we have completed at the studio and with the Product Design students at the University of Sussex, plus running a making workshop for one of the Fixes we designed. So – suffer from nasty, tangled headphone cables and broken wires in your bag? Not any more – book on the free session to build and customise your very own headphone holder from inexpensive, everyday household materials. And then take it away with you…and make them for your friends.

The Saturday Market Project at London Design Festival

This session will be an exercise on how problems of all magnitudes can be solved with a little sideways thinking and a quick, hands-on approach. Design comes in many forms but ultimately, fixing a problem is the crux of all design. If we are able to link back into this hands on, fixing mentality rather than worrying that we shouldn’t or couldn’t fix something then we start to gain a little bit of control over our possessions – and essentially contribute to their life cycles. This drive for repair has already started to feed back to manufacturers who are taking note – and beginning to realise that product value comes not only from the item we buy, but it’s whole life…

So – two events for us at the London Design Festival – both celebrations of the power of fixing in design. Come and say hello…

Monday musings – the power of materials in design…

It has been quite marvellous just how many excellent programmes have been on the gogglebox recently about design, the context of design and the design process. And very interesting programmes too – we have had an insight into the linking of psychology and design with The Men Who Made Us Spend and last week saw the culmination of another great mini series on BBC 4 – Everyday Miracles – the genius of sofas, stockings and scanners, which looked at the links between design, designers and materials.

toolbox materials Of course, it seems rather a given that designers can only create real stuff within the realms of what exists to build it from, but this programme showed exactly how much of a difference material advances had on designers and subsequently, design and engineering.

The invention of better quality steel has resulted in bridges that are more elegant, whilst the advancement of manufacturing processes has allowed designers to engineer and design ever more delicate looking structures with incredible structural integrity.

As well as aesthetic alterations, the continued advancement of materials has created huge social changes too. The invention of the pneumatic tyre in 1888 by Dunlop (after advancements in rubber manufacture) allowed the hard rimmed bicycles to be updated, increasing their speed, manoeuvrability and essentially, rideability, opening up travel to women and allowing people to ride longer distances, faster. No longer was travel restricted to those with the upper classes.

Now, of course, it is material advancements that have allowed us to build lighter, faster bicycles for racing – a bike built for speed in anything other than carbon fibre is almost inconceivable. The invention of the material is so ideally suited to the cause that we tend to forget that it is a relatively new invention.

But this will always be the way. Every week there are new, advanced, experimental materials created which inevitably will become the standard for products and experiences of the future. Without the partnership between new products, designers and new materials we would never create anything truly groundbreaking.

 

weekend words – a little spark of madness…

Today on weekend words we have a little quote from the marvellous Robin Williams. We were very saddened at his passing as many of our fondest memories are connected to the incredible character, wit and genius that formed his very being. So today we have one of our favourite Robin Williams quotes – and one that is highly relevant to not only creatives, but anyone. Don’t lose your little spark of madness…

one little spark of madness

(illustration by claire potter design)