March forward

by Bonnie Pau on Aug 2, 2010 in Products
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Following the success of their eco-lighting project, three product design graduates from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University gear up to take on more creative challenges

WHO Catherine Suen (CS), Shai Chai Chen (SC) and Kay Chan (KC)

WHAT Final year students, industrial and product design, School of Design, Hong Kong Polytechnic University (HK PolyU)

WORKS Living Pixels banner lights; Pierrot Senses condiment set

Your group project, Living Pixel, a lighting collection recently showcased at the HKPolyU Design Annual Show 2010, was very well received. Can you tell us how the idea came about?

SC: We had to conceive a design system based on two requirements. First of all, we had to utilise the technical know-how of volunteer workers from Hong Kong Women Workers Association (HKWWA). Secondly, we had to use discarded plastic advertising banners as raw material. As a start, we spent quite a long time playing with the possibilities of plastic banners.

We cut and kneaded them, dried them with a blower. These banners are all single-side printed and colourful, thus we thought this could be interesting when applied to lamp designs.

KC: We found the banners very hard to recycle and work on. They are non-biodegradable, and soften and shrink when exposed to heat. Thus, we used energy-saving light bulbs and LED lighting with minimal heat emission to overcome the problem.

How did your idea evolve into an eco-lighting concept?

CS: We gave a unique three-dimensionality to the material by cutting it into small pieces and combining these to create interesting volumes of light and texture. The lamp-stands are reused material as well – picked up from junk stores on Cat Street in Central.

SC: The banners are white on one side and coloured on the other. On the lamps, this white side is up, however, once you switch it on, the coloured side facing the bulb starts shining in multiple colourways.

Which collaborative partners were involved in this project?

KS: Our tutor lined up Megaman as a sponsor for energy-saving lightbulbs and LED lighting.

ECols, a sustainable design shop in Central supplied the discarded banners.

CS: Volunteer workers from HKWWA workshops in Kwun Tong supplied manpower, equipment and assisted us with sewing skills.

We met and communicated with the volunteers during the manufacturing process.

They are very skillful and passionate, and they even brought our works home in order to finish them on time.

KC: After some trial and error, we managed to finish seven lamps within a month. We learned many communication and sewing skills. It was also valuable to meet people with passion, and experience their kindness.

What has been the response to Living Pixel?

KC: Yanko, a web magazine, invited us to submit our design ( living-pixels/). We also receive comments and publicity via Twitter.

CS: Our works were also posted on some sustainable product design websites.

Living Pixel seems like it was a successful first step for you. What are the opportunities of developing a design career in Hong Kong?

CS: There are more and more opportunities in Hong Kong. Before we start working in Hong Kong, however, we want to explore on the possibility of working overseas, in cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. But we do agree that Hong Kong is a well-connected city to build a design career.

SC: Hong Kong has the opportunities, despite the commercialism and the mindset of making the most amount of money in the shortest timeframe. We want to dedicate more time to design research before delivery, so as to come up with work that is human-driven, experimental, highly-functional and user-friendly.

KC: I agree. Design is not just about forms and appearances.