Kicking goals for sustainability
It’s a problem facing households all over the world. The accumulation of personal items that will sooner or later, no longer be needed or wanted. But what can we do with these things once they’ve served their purpose? Many of these objects inevitably end up in ever-growing mountains of landfill, due to their composite materials and limited recycling options.
UTS Product Design student Robert Stevenson was struck by this problem, and set to a solution that embraces the reality that every product will at some point become obsolete or meaningless to the owner.
“For our third-year major project we started out by researching a passion area, which for me was sustainability,” says Robert, who is undertaking the Bachelor of Design in Product Design / Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation (BCII) dual degree.
“The thing that stood out to me, was that design just seems so naive to the fact that things will end up in landfill: we can’t have designers continue to build things that are intended to last 100 years, if they’ll only end up lasting 100 years or more in landfill.”
Robert decided to tackle the issue by creating a prototype design for a soccer shin guard that could be easily disassembled when the user is finished with it, and returned in store for recycling.
To develop his idea Robert used a range of techniques, from sketching to making simple cardboard models, then to 3D printing to test out the design. Finally, he decided that based on the way that the item would actually be manufactured, the closest prototype would be a laser cut design, heated over a mould the shape of a shin so that it was the right shape and fit.
“The product comes in its component pieces, and the user assembles it themselves” says Robert.
The project applies the concept of emotional durability, whereby – through the process of assembling and customising it – it’s hoped that the owner gains some attachment to the product, meaning that they value and hold onto it longer. The design also encourages the user to get more life out of the product, with each individual component easily replacable.
“Then when they eventually grow out of it or no longer want it, they get incentives towards their next purchase when they take the items back to the store and recycle it appropriately,” he says.
UTS Product Design Course Director, Professor Jennifer Loy is impressed by the way Robert’s project demonstrates lateral thinking about a difficult challenge.
“His work looks at a familiar problem in a new way, it’s an imaginative solution to a responsible design issue,” she said.
“Robert is an inspiring young designer because of the depth of thinking and research in his work, it is wonderful to see the next generation of designers are interested in tackling the problems we are facing in the world today."
For Robert, who will undertake his final BCII year in 2018, studying both Product Design and BCII at UTS has been invaluable.
“It’s really important to understand that design is not just about creating physical, tangible things. It’s very much about problem solving, and understanding and empathising with people and creating solutions for their needs,” he says.
“I’ve absolutely loved learning that. It’s completely changed my mindset, not just with design, but with the everyday.”
Robert’s shin guard design and prototype will be on exhibition as part of the UTS Design and Architecture Degree Show, which runs from November 24- 27, 2017 at UTS.