Category Archives: Sustainable Design

Friday Fun Day!

I have to admit that I don’t have a clue how well this ‘schedule’ idea will go, but I do know that I need to do a better job of organizing categories and tags and what not. You get back what you put into things, right? Anyway, this is my first time of doing a ‘Friday Fun Day’ and I’m pretty excited after just a few moments of trawling the beloved internetz.

However, let me first preface that since this is my blog, I’m probably going to post both designs and objects that I LOVE and those that I do not love to better – but in a way that only helps me understand my aesthetic better. I don’t think that bashing people’s ideas is fun; I think most designers get enough of that with presentation critique!

So, let’s begin! FRIDAY FUN DAY!

I am in love with these pieces by Canadian woodworking-master Christian Woo called ‘Covert’. I am partial to them because of the mix of gorgeous pure, organic wood and bright colors. All of the pieces are made of sustainably harvested hardwoods and hand rubbed oil finishes (hooray recycling without looking recycled).
You can see more of Christian’s work here.

Now, if you really want to talk about fun – what about a (teetering on tasteless) roadkill rug? The Roadkill Carpet by Dutch design studio OOOMS has recently been released for sale, and it’s causing a lot of love/hate. The abstract splotch in the corner is a “a repulsive image of a car-flattened, bloody fox” and according to their website blurb, it’s meant to evoke that fascination and curiosity of “ew, I don’t want to see that!” while looking.


if this is me re-doing a personal project, can I just choose whatever I want?
Because I’m like realllllllly into the idea of “steam-bend this at home in your microwave”.

I feel like the aluminum will feel as cheap as it would be to make, the plastic version would just seem like an overly-complicated take on sporks that already exist (and if they’re so prevalent in that form of “silverware”, there must be a reason) so I feel like the COOLEST option would be the DIY one. Plus die-cutting wood is cheap, right? Like. equal to water-jet-cutting aluminum?

So it’s the best.

Cost vs. Cost-Effectiveness vs. Cute

I was talking recently with a classmate of mine and he said that companies look for “sustainable” projects in portfolios that are sustainable for the company in terms of low cost of tooling and materials for them to produce, not exactly for the consumer or the actual environment.

That means that I have to do the following:
1.) research on the cost of the different processes that would be required to make the utensil as a real object out of the different materials I thought of
2.) find more precedents, their pricing and popularity to know what the market is truly like
3.) a few tests to see if my ideas will work at all
4.) define the market and niche I’m looking to supply this to even further so that all of my research and decisions are backed up ((especially if I choose the more expensive or weird material))

Concepts & Conceptualization

I was supposed to have five concepts for today and one final direction for Wednesday.
No matter, I can still have five sketched out for Wednesday and one already chosen before I get there.
Plus, I do already have five ideas!
1. aluminum (is the most easy and simple first choice because it inherently does everything I’m already thinking of)

  • it bends
  • it’s recyclable
  • it could be easily die-cut and flat packed
  • simple!!!!!

2. kerfed wood (a process of taking away material from one side of a piece of wood to allow for it to bend)

  • those lines I scored into the chip board prototype were my first attempt at kerfing without knowing it
  • can still use bamboo or birch or whatever pretty wood I want
  • this is like a literal translation of my first design if it works the right way
  • this would push it past something that looks (and probably feels) like a throw-away (like aluminum or thin plastic)
  • would hopefully be able to easily un-bend and be ‘flat-packed’ again for trips, picnics, etc.

3. DIY at home kits for bending wood

  • WHAT IF you made it like a craft project and you got to soak your utensil in wood overnight, and then in the morning you get to twist it and it’s really fun? That would be really fun.
  • could use steam or heat or both
  • cool
  • it wouldn’t really be able to un-twist that easily (would probably hurt the fibers in the wood, might snap trying to make it flat again) so it wouldn’t be very portable anymore – just sort of a cute “at home” utensil

4. plastic

  • unoriginal, but hey – if it works, it works
  • plastic can be colored and recycled and washed
  • there are improvements to plastic – some are biodegradable!
  • some interesting “plastic origami” projects already exist

5. something woven

  • this would be the most complicated idea
  • a really tightly woven fabric would be flexible and strong and interesting
  • …..I don’t know. It just seems like it would work somehow.

Folding, bending, friendly materials

I’m not really “re-designing” my Seedling Silverware project, per-say.
I’m really focusing most of my time on finding a new material that fulfills the concept, and doing tons of research in the meantime.
Here’s just the initial part of my research.
Just a little, little, little part 🙂

Seedling Silveware: Re-Visited & More

For the final project of the semester in studio, we get to do practically whatever we want! I’m finishing out a short project from junior year that I think could be an awesome product, and not just a cool concept – the eco-friendly spoonfork utensil with seed packaging. While I’ve been doing extensive research on my different material options (which has been pretty fun, actually) I remembered that when I was in junior high all of my science fair projects were SUPER enviro-friendly. I went to state with the project that I made a natural fruit fly repellent for – because fruit flies destroy so much of the produce crop before it even gets to a grocery store.

I believe that as designers we have the ability to ensure that products are inherently green, and that we should make “being green” something that’s real, not simply another annoying trend that people don’t actually pay more for. Being green doesn’t have to be expensive; just smarter than the traditional resources and manufacturing processes. Even going the extra step to make everything in a product the same material for ease of recycling is a small step to something great. Or simply making a more expensive product that will last a long time, with the notion that the guts of it might have to be replaced and recycled more often.

I’ve been reading about PLA, the corn plastic made from lactic acid, and it’s competitively priced with PET products except that it biodegrades, and won’t take up as much space in a landfill! We’ve come a long way from Bakelight, so let’s not just stop here.

I’m a big proponent of “green” design and material considerations, but I don’t think I need to brand myself that way as a designer because I feel like it looks cheap, trendy, and crafty.


As a designer, I aim to make products that do at least three things:
1. take materials and processes into consideration to create something of high quality at a reasonable price
2. something that solves a problem, not just looks pretty or puts a band-aid over the problem
3. makes an emotional connection of some kind with the user, ensuring it’s success and happiness in the home 🙂


There is a big gap between Ikea and West Elm; there’s got to be some sort of market in between for different materials and new ideas to flourish.

on “KISS”

Keep it simple, stupid.

Need to make everything sleeker, simpler; less parts, less $$$. What about materials? No cloth. Metal. Does that get too hot? Where is the most comfortable place to put that handle?? How handy is it really for a lamp shade to flip around? Stark stark stark. Simple simple simple! Simple shapes, simple parts, simple light. Don’t feature creep. Don’t add hinges. Shapes.
Figure out a “business plan” for this; ‘Tom’s style?? Price, market, audience.

Simple, Shine, Sustainable, Stylish, etc.

I’m still going in a kinetic-energy direction for my desk lamp. My goal is to create a crank-powered ‘task’ lamp that is both stylish enough for home owners, but could also probably be used in under-developed countries that need simple light sources when the sun goes down.
Most of the lamp would be durable and made of metal; haven’t figured out what I want the handle to be like yet. There would be no on-off switch, which would hopefully eliminate both parts and energy waste [prolonging the whole product because even though it’s meant to be “forever”, LEDs will still die eventually…] Playing around with cloth lampshades right now; I found some really interesting felt lampshades online and I love the way that they look – but most likely not the best direction for this particular project (bummer). One of my original ideas was to have a shade that pivots, with one side more direct and one side more diffuse for different lighting needs.

Near the End: Tacky Christmas Sweater edition

I love that my major is project-related and revolves around ‘doing things’, but I don’t love how I feel like there’s always more to do. SO it is ALMOST Christmas break – but not really because I still have things to do:
1. I’m currently sitting in DRM waiting to present my Music Listening Room project [X]
2. I have to finish my Materials Final Project by 3pm tomorrow at the LATEST [and turn it in] [ ]
3. Re-do my branding project [ ]
4. Make a portfolio [ ]

Is it acceptable to make a pop-up portfolio? That seems fun. But it would probably wear and tear over time, and a NOT-sustainable portfolio probably wouldn’t work. Perhaps I should make a statement and put it on paper that they can grow into flowers once they’ve decided to toss it? Har har.

Oh, and David, I just remembered I never told you what I want to do for the next three semesters. The honest truth, and partial cop-out, is that I don’t know. I have a lot of interests, but I don’t feel like I have enough experiences. I’ve been thinking about “what I want to do with my life” and I don’t know that yet, either. Part of me feel like it doesn’t matter 100% what I want to do now because design/freelance is so broad and even if I worked at a firm, I doubt that it would be for the rest of my life (because of the culture/economy/society/etc.). Right now I’m really interested in ‘strategy’ and ‘design thinking’ – I like Unboundary and Big Bang. I also like typography, packaging, branding, and graphic design, so I definitely want to improve my skills in that area over the next three semesters, and I’m reallllly excited about the typography model in the Spring. I’m also pretty partial to living spaces, furniture, lighting, and installations. I originally wanted to get both an ID degree, as well as an architecture degree as per Frank Lloyd Wright – which I think is still a viable option, but I’d have to take some time off between school and school or I would go crazy. I would love to be a space designer – someone that creates spaces with stories, whether it be for living spaces or exhibits or what have you. I want to make things that inspire, influence, and change people. I want to create long-term impacts on both the field of design and people as a whole. I appreciate universal design, simplicity, beauty of the materials and the form, and solutions for problems – not feature-creepin’ band-aides. I appreciate ‘green’ designs and sustainability, but I also believe that designs themselves need to be sustainable, not the materials or the fact that they can be recycled (which people probably won’t do). Sustainability is more than just recyclable materials: it’s also the ease of replacing or fixing broken parts, longevity, quality, and minimal packaging.
Also, my computer skills are pretty crappy and I might think about re-taking a computer class. Since I’m not the world’s best drawer, I just might want to be able to SolidWorks model or something…

SO for the next three semester I want to focus on making myself a more well-rounded designer, and gaining experience in the fields that I feel interested in.

And as another complete side note, I want to help the homeless problem. Homeless people seem to hang out pretty close to my apartment on North Ave, and it’s not that they bother me, it’s more that they hurt my heart strings. There’s one particular guy that I see at the corner of Piedmont and North Ave a lot that has a little pink cartoon back-pack, and I want to give him a warm meal and a hug every time I see him. I truly want to help; more than just giving him a dollar. I’ve eaten at Chow Baby before, and I don’t know what they do with the left-over stir fry that people can’t finish, but I’m suspecting they just throw it all away; why can’t they give that meal to a homeless person? I’m sure my research is lacking, but I feel like we ignore the problem instead of trying to address it. Homeless people are usually homeless because of a variety of unfortunate things like mental disorders or disabilities, substance abuse, getting laid off, divorce, and other things – and although some of these are related to ‘not wanting to help themselves out’, some of the problems that homeless people face are not their faults. I want to help.

And I want to wear a tacky Christmas sweater every day from the moment I’m done with my Materials project to real Christmas.
Sooooo close!

Ah, finally!

After many rather random set-backs and problems, everything fell into place [minus the shelf], as it always does. Mad props to the lovely Angela that let me use her shower, her make-up, her clothes, her shoes… so that I could look like someone prepared for review after locking my car inside Klaus (I’m magical, what can I say?) I don’t know what I would do without the friends that understand studio, or at least try; I love the friends that come visit or actually ask about what I’m making and that comprehend that I’m not blowing them off per-say, and that help however they can. Thank you.

Despite being done with my project crazy early this morning/late last night [TOTALLY done with all my boards at 5:30am], I had a lot of plotting issues/errors [was on the list, waited around till 9 something, had to replot over and over until I finally got it done at 11:30] and I almost had a panic attack while spray mounting, and then again while pinning up [srsly]. But I learned a lot from this project:
1. ALWAYS swipe your card for the parking decks. This is perhaps most important.
2. Embed your pictures into your illustrator files so that they get printed
3. Use Jes to help you figure out your figure/ground sidebar icon thing for your boards
4. Use higher power, lower speed on the laser cutter [like power 80 or so]
5. Run the laser cutter more than once
6. Save your illustrator files “for web” and they’re smaller and flattened

Anyhoo, I’m serious when I say I think that this is the best project I’ve ever done because not only are my models good, but my boards are pretty great and I actually have the ‘whole package’, rather than ‘a really good study model and then some other mediocre stuff that doesn’t mean much.’ Its been cool hearing kids compliment my Seedling Silverware. Also, the reviewers rocked – like totally rocked and gave good, solid, helpful stuff instead of what seems like commands and authority from some others. Wonder if its an age thing?
Finally, I’m posting the boards from this project because I’m very proud, and seeing is believing.
Behold, ‘Seedling Silverware’!

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