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Visualizing the invisible, from service design to sustainability.

Design Challenge: Reduce, Reuse, Redecorate

 Reduce, Reuse, Redecorate - Tom Price - Meltdown Series Chair 

Until the end of the year, I'll be sharing design challenges from my book Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills, which was just released by HOW Design Press. The book consists of 80 creative challenges that will help you achieve a breadth of stronger design solutions, in various media, within any set time period. Each exercise includes compelling visual solutions from other designers and background stories to help you increase your capacity to innovate. Here's the fourth one in this series: "Reduce, Reuse, Redecorate."

My vision of future fashion, when it comes to home furnishings, is the concept of reuse. Without reuse, we’ll never be able to reduce the number of products that already choke our landfills and threaten to overtake the Pacific Ocean. Essentially, we can no longer choose to make products out of practically any material and expect them to magically vanish off the face of the planet when they reach the end of their first life.

I’m all for the craft revolution brought upon us by the ReadyMade magazines of the world—and we have the capacity as designers to imagine truly inspired designs that, if primed for larger-scale production, can help take care of our trash in a functional manner instead of creating more of it. With this challenge, you’ll get a chance to design furniture that does just that!

In an hour, take a recyclable object that you purchase regularly when going about our everyday lives—bottles, cans, cutlery, plates, cups, magazines, whatever works—and design a piece of furniture that uses it in multiples. As part of your planning process, consider if your furniture would require detailed instructions for construction or would be delivered in an entirely constructed state.

Then, in your second hour, build yourself a rough prototype of the idea—perhaps at a smaller scale if you don't have access to the requisite source materials. Does your idea hold up when you make it real?

Shown above is one of the inspirations for this challenge, the “Meltdown” series by Tom Price, a furniture and product designer established in London. “Plastic is with us virtually from now to eternity: impervious to bacteria, acid, salt, rust, breakage and, in some cases, able to withstand heat, plastic is something of a miracle substance. One hundred years ago, when it was first invented, no one could have anticipated that plastic would present one of our biggest recycling challenges … These chairs are part of a series commissioned by Arts Co for the exhibition, ‘From Now to Eternity,’ and are made exclusively from discarded polyester fleece clothing … The seat area is created by placing layers of polyester clothing onto a hot steel seat-shaped former. As it heats, the fabric begins to melt, exposing and integrating colors and patterns of the various layers. When cooled the surface is transformed into a rigid, shiny, colorful display of dissolved pattern and color.”

 Reduce, Reuse, Redecorate - ReVision Line by Artists for Humanity, Boston, MA 


Another inspiration for this challenge was the ReVision project from Artists for Humanity, a Boston nonprofit that provides urban youth with the keys to self-sufficiency through paid employment in the arts. “ReVision tables are a response to the market need for innovative sustainable design. All the designs are recreated from reclaimed junk mail and magazines. Once the pieces are assembled, the surfaces are finished with a no-VOC eco-friendly resin, which is water resistant and easy to clean with eco-friendly products. ReVision was the innovation of teen-artists who apprentice at Artists for Humanity.”

Want more? The first 24 pages of Creative Workshop are available free on Scribd.

David Sherwin is an interaction design director at frog. He has built his reputation as a design leader, interaction designer, and researcher with 17 years of experience in generating compelling solutions for systemic business problems. David is the author of Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills and Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers. You can follow David on Twitter @changeorder.