This summer I was invited to do a month long internship at MAKLab in Glasgow. MAKLab is a Scottish charity who provide the facilities and teaching to get anybody making and designing things along with supporting many different creative enterprises and ventures throughout Scotland.
I set myself the project of spending the duration of my internship organising a sustainable design event to host through MAKLab.
Together with Richard, the director of MAKLab, I developed a concept for my workshop: first a teardown of consumer goods and then a design session in which participants would develop sustainable solutions to the problems they had identified.
I designed and put together a poster with MAKLab’s Andrew Tibbles and began to advertise with two and a half weeks to go. I posted the event on the MAKLab Eventbrite and Facebook pages and also sent personal invitations out to people and organisations who I thought would be particularly interested. The response was great, with all 20 workshop spaces being filled up in less than a week. This left me the rest of the time to plan the day and source materials.
Part 1 – Deconstruct
The first half of the workshop, before lunch, was the teardown session. After I’d given a brief introduction to the rules of a teardown, we got stuck in.
I put together some worksheets for participants to fill out while they were deconstructing with different ways in which people could analyse the products that they were taking apart. These were supported by some slides I had cycling through on the projector which went into more detail on each issue.
It was great to see people having interesting discussions while they were deconstructing their products. It reminded me of the Men’s Shed motto:
People talk side by side, not face to face.
After an hour of tearing apart the products, we reassembled as a group and discussed issues we had discovered. For me this was the most exciting part of the day as it was really evident how passionate people had become about the issues that they had discovered, and some fantastic discussions began about how these issues fitted into the wider picture of sustainability.
Part 2 – Reconstruct
After lunch, I did a summary of the main ideas that people had identified in the morning and gave a short talk with some examples of sustainable design thinking that I find inspiring.
I then helped the participants to form groups based on common topics and people got stuck into coming up with some optimistic future design solutions. I gave everyone two hours to develop these solutions, encouraging them to consider the “product story” of what they were designing and also the wider implications of their design.
At the end of the day we all came back together and each group presented their final concepts. I was amazed by the diversity of ideas and the passion that groups felt about their respective projects.
- STEAM Punks – an educational experience where school kids take apart electronics to build new things.
- Made in Scotland – If Scotland closed its borders tomorrow. We would only have the materials in place to reuse and what we can grown and manufacture locally at our disposal.
- Re:Call – A government policy in which the manufacturers retain ownership of their products and, through this, responsibility for it when it becomes obsolete.
- Mobile Memories – Giving mobile phones more value through an app which documents its “experiences”. Users would actively seek phones with interesting back-stories and it would be considered a “badge of honour” to own an old phone.
After our presentations had finished, we had a quick summary of the day (and some cake!) before all heading our separate ways. All in all, I am very pleased with how the workshop went, and I received quite a few messages with positive feedback from participants in the days afterwards. It’s definitely a concept that I’d like to develop in the future, considering new ways to approach the topic and to further engage people with it perhaps through more workshops or maybe through projects and experiences.
Talk by Stuart Walker
For the evening, I organised a talk by professor of Sustainable Design at Lancaster University, Stuart Walker. Stuart spoke about his work, linking each example of sustainable design back to very interesting and deep theories on what our products mean. The atmosphere of the talk was fantastic, with all the seats full and the audience really engaging and asking some very interesting and considered questions at the end. It was a very fulfilling end to day’s events and I’m thoroughly glad to have had the chance to make such an event happen.
I’d like to say thank you to all the participants who joined in with the workshop, I hope that you all learnt a lot, I certainly did! Thank you also to Stuart Walker for coming all the way up to give the talk giving us such an inspiring and fascinating insight into the world of sustainable design. And, of course, I’d like to say thank you to MAKLab for helping me to run de/reconstruct. I could not have done it without your support but also your enthusiasm and inspirational attitude of getting things done.
Thank you also to MAKLab’s Andrew Tibbles for taking all of the photos!