In the age of postmodern consumer culture, this thesis is aiming to emphasize the moral and ethical responsibility of a product designer. By producing material goods for society, the industry is consuming natural resources - a heavy duty. Inevitably, a part of the production energy is used to generate waste material, which form and potential is usually disregarded in the ongoing process. To honour every bit of these limited and valuable materials, this project is trying to redefine the existing role of the unmindful product designer.
In ecosystems, the decomposer plays a decisive role. Bacteria and fungi for instance occur where there is dead matter. By remineralisation they decompose this matter into useful material for the system on site. The focus of this project is to illustrate opportunities for the product designer to serve as the decomposer.
Based on a cooperative exploration of alternative uses of industrial by-products, the following protocols report on fieldtrips to different production sites. The resources of these locations were examined and utilised to design furniture and home objects. Unlike conventional mass production, the by-products and circumstances in the collaborating companies dictated the scope of each design.
By transforming and recontextualising the industrial by-products, one goal is to free the scrap material from the degrading stamp of waste. During the project, these materials become objects with a story worth telling. The documentation portrays the origin and atmosphere from which the product was brought to life.
This is an appreciation of our materials and processes.
In this last project of my studies, I wanted to dare some steps out of design school into designer-manufacturer-relationships. The method of designing with industrial by-products evolved from one project to the next. I started with intuitive work and ended up in serial repeatability.
The projects "Shotcrete Series" and "Graywacke Series" were depending on an improvisational and direct contact with the by-product. It was not possible to design a strict principle one can apply throughout the production. The necessity to decide situationally made the production unique and erratic. The by-product was too unreliable in its form.
On the contrary, all the other projects were allowing a potential serial production. Since the form of the by-product varied in a smaller range, the applied production techniques could be repeated and improved. The differences in the form of the depreciated material were manageable with a consistent production.
Still, the same production would always have a unique result. The turned table legs of "Returned Objects" will always look different when they are glued together and turned again. The exteriors of the "Forged Series" steal bowls will diverge. The surface of the "Aluskin Bench " will have other bumps and industrial markings. The placement of the gaps in the foam layers of the "Foam Seats" will be dissimilar. The colour and the sunken surfaces of the "Wax Series" objects will not be alike. These characteristics generate an interplay between industrial production and unpredictable coincidence.
Reflecting on these past projects, I defined a way of working that appreciates every material and process equally. I aimed to find a guilt-free way of producing objects, preventing to pollute the consumption landscape with more goods made of newly harvested resources. On the basis of my explorations, producing by decomposing was applied.
The proximity towards the origin of each object made me feel more connected to their story. The way of documenting the production felt as important as to preserve the traces of the process on the actual object. I wanted the process to be visible and transparent. The places and atmospheres of each production site played an important role in the design. Each produced good was indispensably bound to and defined by the potentials of the location. I aimed to encapsulate this atmosphere in the objects.
By directly operating on the factory floors of the corporative companies, I believe that I set a cornerstone for a future producer- and supplier-network. Realising the fact that some ideas need a second party to be brought to life, I learned to step back at times to let the skilled craftsperson rule the production. Nevertheless, I had the feeling that my presence, engagement and strong interest in their actions led to a mutual enrichment. On the one side, I learned about different production techniques and material properties. On the other side, the craftspeople were encouraged to break their routine due to my plans. My personal achievement was to motivate the craftspeople to act out of their norms. Participating in the hard labour of production made the value of their work become more tangible to me. The implicitness of crafted objects faded.
Across the comprehensive documentation, the viewer is enabled to grasp the individual historicity of each object. By doing so, the fact that all used materials are actually industrial waste could become more and more respected. Consequently, a conscious perception of everyday materials and processes could lead to a greater awareness and gratitude of our natural resources.
The produced objects might seem odd and imperfect. Their functionality might not occur immediately and there could come more homely furnishings to mind. It seems as if the objects refuse the common way of handling things. But the fact that these alleged flaws are always a consequence of their production story and the forms of by-product, contributes to their wild character. They have a life of their own.
In times of all-accessibility and digital over-connectedness, people tend to surround themselves with tamed and anonymous products that are completely disconnected from their origin and process. The tendency of always wanting to have a faster, shinier and more stylish possession is omnipresent.
The urgency for new and more considerate ways of consumerism might arise sooner than we think. With the increasing scarcity of natural resources, we have to seek for alternative production methods. At best, there will come a time when people want to invest in a sustainable story with an emotional value. A story of the heavy duty of industrial production and consumption.
This was an appreciation of our materials and processes.
This Final Thesis would not have been possible without the help of the following people:
Mum & Dad
Shotcrete Series 2019:
Greywacke Series 2019:
Olli & all the stonemasons of Schiffarth
Returned Objects 2019:
Forged Series 2019:
All the blacksmiths of Hammerwerk Erft
Aluskin Bench 2019:
Jose Ceballos Tejero
All the aluminium workers of alimex
Foam Seats 2020:
Britta Di Napoli
Diego Di Napoli
Dario & Kadir
Wax Series 2020:
Esther & Kevan Butt
Christoph van Bömmel
Thank you so much for your support!