From industrial product to do-it-yourself kit: pioneers of sustainable product design

Dominik Hehl peg table

Sustainable construction and interior design ensure a fascinating wealth of facets in many places and at the same time keep an eye on resource consumption and production methods. That is why we have been drawing special accommodations with our on Good Travel since the beginning "Architecture" sustainability criterion out. The hosts are aware that they have a very special responsibility with their respective houses and that they can make a very concrete positive contribution with the individual design.

From then to now: The rise of sustainable design

It doesn't matter whether it's a creative upcycling project or Lampshade made from PET bottles, the possibilities today are diverse and effective. There are now entire courses that are dedicated to sustainability in design, but that wasn't always the case. This article is intended to provide an insight into some of the pioneers in sustainable product design from then until now.

Victor Papanek - against irresponsible design

“There are professions that cause more damage than industrial design, but many are not.” This is the beginning of Papanek's bestseller “Design for the real world. Instructions for a humane ecology and social change ”, which is still one of the most important works in the field of sustainable design. In it he writes: "It is a sign of our times that adults sit down and seriously design electric hairbrushes, rhinestone shoehorns and mink carpets for bathrooms, and then work out complicated strategies on how to make them and sell them to millions of people." he writes of a "new type of garbage that spoils the landscape and processes that pollute the air we breathe".

That was in 1971. On the one hand, it fitted into the socially tumultuous 1970s and 1980s, while at the same time he was way ahead of his time with this consumer criticism. Even today, 50 years later, he still hits the nerve of our time with these words. Victor papanek held counter-drafts throughout his life. Including his legendary "Tin Can Radio“, A tin can radio that was operated with paraffin and a wick and cost just nine cents to produce. His life's work has been shown in numerous exhibitions, including the Vitra Design Museum, appreciated.

"Design, if it is to be ecologically responsible and socially responsive, must be revolutionary and radical."

Victor papanek

Exhibition view Papanek, Vitra Museum // Photo credits: Martin Artur Fuchs

Dieter Rams - minimalism as the key

Likewise Dieter Rams is considered one of the most important product designers of the modern age, who was always aware of his responsibility. As early as 1976, he called on his design colleagues to become aware of their own responsibility and the finite nature of resources.

True to the motto “Good design is as little design as possible”, he always pursued a minimalist, timeless approach and a clear design language in his work. With his “Ten Theses for Good Design” he inspired entire generations of product designers. For his work, Rams was recently awarded the honorary prize of the German Sustainability Prize Foundation.

"We need less, but better."

Dieter Rams

Braun SK61 (left) and tonearm scale (right) // Photo credits: Braun SK61 via xavax, public domain & tonearm scale via braundw20 w / d / h. Via Wikimedia Commons: For links, see below.

WYE Design: Award-winning company in sustainable design

The German Sustainability Award recently recognized the social responsibility of designers with the creation of a separate category in the design area. Under the motto "Shaping Transformation", the award ceremony has been honoring companies that have dedicated themselves to this task in various areas since 2019.

The functional and modular furniture from "WYE“Not only with its recyclable properties but also with its attractive return service: Anyone who returns the piece of furniture to WYE receives a credit of ten percent of the purchase price and can use it to purchase new WYE furniture. Every used piece of furniture is returned to its cycle after its life cycle, according to the cradle-to-cradle principle, which is made possible by the innovation of a new, recyclable and environmentally friendly wood-based material (Neolign).

"WYE (Why) is the important question that leads to the beginning of everything new."

Franziskus & Ferdinand, founders of WYE

WYE Team - Franziskus and Ferdinand // Photo credits: WYE GmbH
Furniture from WYE // Photo credits: WYE GmbH
Productcircle // Photo credits: WYE GmbH
Bank Kalypso von WYE // Photo credits: Else Anna

Van Bo Le-Mentzel - open source designer furniture for little money

Finally, you can also be the architect Van Bo Le-Mentzel are among the pioneers in sustainable design. He achieved greater fame above all with his "Hartz-4 furniture". On his blog he published DIY instructions for numerous pieces of furniture that anyone can implement at low cost.

From an inexpensive stool for just ten euros up to declarations of love to Kreuzberg (Kreuzberg 36 Chair) and Neukölln (Neukoelln Desk) there are also building instructions for sofas, armchairs and dining tables. Ideal for everyone who does not want to do without pretty furniture even on a low budget.

"The power to learn is not in knowledge, but in we."

Van Bo Le-Mentzel

Dominik Hehl - start early, avoid waste

The designer too Dominik Hehl In its work, relies on encouraging people to take action themselves. As part of the development of a furniture kit for schoolchildren, he approached the different spatial and educational requirements in several designs for different age groups. His goal is not only to develop sustainable furniture, but also to design a didactic process and create a formative experience for the students. The resulting “plug-in table kit” is a furniture kit made from CNC-prefabricated wooden parts, with care being taken to waste as little material as possible.

It was exciting to see how the students ended up dealing with the furniture they had built themselves. The construction process made it clear to them how much work there really is in the production of a piece of furniture and so they automatically treated the furniture more responsibly. In any case, you won't find doodles on and chewing gum under the table tops so quickly here.

"Just sanding wood is a very positive sensual experience for most students."

Dominik Hehl

Dominik Hehl, Designer // Photo credits: Dominik Hehl
CNC template // Photo credits: Dominik Hehl
Plug-in table for schools // Photo credits: Dominik Hehl
Plug-in table and chair // Photo credits: Dominik Hehl

From niche to mainstream: the rise of the green design scene

It is motivating to see how more and more designers dedicate themselves to sustainability. They all take responsibility and in their own way make a positive contribution to a better world, which is not only important in view of the current debate about climate protection. With their work, they all set an example against the still prevailing consumerism. And who knows, maybe this time the growing movement will make us think back to a new simplicity in the future. A new simplicity where things like rhinestone shoehorns are a thing of the past once and for all.

Photo Credits:

1 . Opener picture: Dominik Hehl
2nd picture: Exhibition view Papanek: Martin Artur Fuchs
3. Image: Vitsoe at English Wikipedia via Wikimedia (CC-BY SA 3.0)
4. Image: Vitsoe at English Wikipedia via Wikimedia (CC-BY SA 3.0)
5th picture: Braun SK61 (left): braundw20 w / d / h via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0) and tonearm scale (right): Braun SK61 via xavax, Public domain & via Wikimedia Commons
6/7/8 Image: WYE GmbH
9th picture: Else Anna
10. Image: Martin Kraft via Wikimedia (CC BY SA 3.0)
11th picture: private
12./13./14. Image: Dominik Hehl

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