Gallery: Pratt Students Design For One Dollar

ICFF 2009 Pratt Design for a Dollar
ICFF 2009 Pratt Design for a Dollar

Far and away our favorite exhibit at this year’s International Contemporary Furniture Fair was Design For A Dollar. With one dollar to work with, students from the Pratt Institute of Design in NYC were challenged to design something worthwhile. Through the design process not only did the students from the Department of Industrial Design learn the meaning of a dollar, but many incorporated cast-off items upcycled into new and intriguing designs. 80 undergraduate and graduate students entered the contest and 15 of the best designs were chosen to exhibit at ICFF this year. Here we highlight our favorites for their eco-friendly design, creative reuse and their affordability.

DRIP PLATE by Catherine Merrick

The Drip Plate by Catherine Merrick is an ingenious reuse of an antique ceramic plate. Originally featuring a winter scene in blue, Merrick renewed the thrift store find by dripping wax onto the plate and then sandblasting the rest away to create a new design. The diner will ponder while cleaning his plate, what the design used to be. The cost depends on the price of the plate and patience of the shopper.


This fabulous lighting fixture is made from a thrift store find and a plastic bottle from your recycling bin. Cute and simple looking, this lamp would make for an easy DIY project. Sara Ebert took the sleeve of a sweater found at the Salvation Army, felted it and stretched it over an apple juice plastic bottle to create this fantastic lamp shade.


The Metamorphosis Lighting Fixture by Sukmo Koo and Young Taek Oh is made from inside out-egg cartons shaped into a continuous wound up organic shape. Inspired by the mobious strip, the twists and turns in this egg crate lighting fixture provide many interesting spots for light to shine out from.

SAW SCISSORS by Brian Perisco

Take one dull saw blade from a grinding shop, a laser cutter and some connecting pins and you’ve got yourself a whole bunch of scissors. While they may not have the ergonomic rubber handles, these scissors by Brian Perisco make excellent use of a discarded material. This one saw blade had enough metal to make 14 blades to make 7 pairs of scissors.

THE PAPER BAILOUT BAG by Rebecca Marshall

Even though this fabulous designer bag looks like it is leather, it’s actually made from paper grocery bags and other paper products. Curious to see how far the value of free paper could be stretched, Rebecca Marshall oiled, heat pressed and crumpled grocery bags to make them softer, more leather like and water repellent. Then she reinforced the inside with newspaper and paper towels, added newspaper and silk handkerchief trimmings to create a beautiful designer handbag.

ORANGE VOTIVE CANDLES by David Steinvurzel

Dried orange peels are commonly used in potpourris for their fresh and light scent. When coupled with soy whey, they make adorable little votive candles. David Steinvurzel took one of the peels from an orange and formed soy wax to rest in the bowl of the peel. The wick for the candle is actually part of the peel that stems into the orange sections. Eliminating metal, petroleum wax and cotton wicks, these little orange votives are not only cheap to make, but smell divine as well.


What to do with old piles of design and architecture magazines? Turn them into a stool of course! Aging periodicals get a new life as Li-Rong Liao‘s stools and mini tables. To make them she raided her neighbors’ recycling bin and folded and glued the magazines into intricate and delicate designs to create these fabulous pieces of furniture. These magazines make an easy transition from the tops of the coffee tables to the functional furniture that supports future mags.



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  1. stevenmatt October 7, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    Brilliant, Pratt. I love it. Good job to everyone involved. We need more inspiration for innovation using the sustainable materials we have and with less money. I wrote about it here:

  2. patis1km September 24, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    The idea of making works of art and effective design on a budget interests me greatly. Along with what TGOR already touched on, I would like to see some artwork made with materials and equipment for under $1.

    I believe it is possible to assemble some of the works above with such a limited budget, but aren’t some of the constructions dangerous? For example, the felted shirt sleeve lamp shade covers a plastic container; wouldn’t the plastic melt after extended exposure to the heat of an incandescent bulb? Even if the plastic did not melt straight away, I imagine that it would still be a fire hazard.

    The “Design for a Dollar” exhibit is a good example of critical thinking and problem solving in action; both of which could be successfully implemented at our university. A similar exercise in our college art department would do wonders for our inspirationally-deficient student body. The creativity behind each of the works from Pratt reminds me that there is still great (and environmentally-conscious) design out there.

  3. TGOR September 15, 2009 at 10:17 am

    I saw this same Pratt design project on p34 of the Oct 09 issue of Dwell and I thought to myself that it would be nice to know the actual design requirements that were given to the students. Yes, several of the designs are interesting prototypes, yet many of the designs have been done before, for example the magazine stool and all of the designs would be difficult to actually make for $1. Maybe the materials were purchased for less than $1, but the labor time, the laser cutting of scissors, the thermal energy used to melt bottle caps and the cost of the light bulbs, sockets (I hope those are not Medium B Base sockets + Incandescent bulbs) and wiring all add up very quickly to a net cost higher than a dollar for each product, especially if manufactured in the US. I understand the concept, but wonder if the students are feeling a false sense of accomplishment? This might have happened, but what if the students also presented an analysis of the true cost associated with each product, not just the pocket change spent at the thrift store, the exercise may be a more valuable learning experience for the next crop of future designers.
    MFA ID

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