Do you believe that great design can save the world? That theory is the essence of The Intelligent Optimist, an exhibition at Central Saint Martins featuring the creative and conceptual work of recent graduates and emerging designers. Overarching themes of sustainability and global challenges like climate change weave themselves into the works, which range from a climate change-ready clothing line that lets people survive on less water to furniture made from non-toxic plantain and coffee waste. The show, which opened for the London Design Festival 2015, identifies four categories of designers needed to create positive social change: Future Gazers, Material Explorers, Social Agents and The Fixers. Inhabitat took a tour with creative producer Dr Ulrike Oberlack—read on to see some of our forward-thinking favorites.
Jaime Tai has designed a new approach for coping with climate change and a future of increased droughts. With Trehalose Artefacts and Skinwear, Tai harnesses the power of trehalose, a natural sugar that protects cells from dehydration, to make products that allow people to survive on less water. The trehalose-based skincare products reduce water loss through the skin. The protective garments, made of textiles embedded with trehalose, also protect cells from dehydraton by releasing sugar into the wearer’s skin when needed.
Evangeline Pesigan’s Tirintas Chair explores the collaborative process between Filipino designers and artisan craftspeople. The Tirintas loop chair is made from small producers and is constructed with a metal frame and steam-bent wood. The chair suggests that we should strive to match traditional techniques with modern technology and design in order to preserve craft skills and create a new global market.
Image of suit courtesy of Alexandra Ilona Lucas
Alexandra Ilona Lucas’ TMO: The Mars Odyssey imagines a future where climate change has forced humans to colonize other planets. Lucas created a multi-layered Mars Exploration Suit from textiles handwoven on a dobby loom. Also on display are a variety of fabric designs that explore possible shapes and materiality suitable for space exploration.
The Apple Tree Hills Cider Bottles are hand-thrown ceramic alternatives to mass-produced glass bottles. Dominic Upson developed the bottles for his family’s traditional English apple farm and cider business. Rather than ask customers to recycle anonymous glass containers, he proposes reusing unique ceramic bottles instead. The handmade packaging better reflects the craftsmanship behind the juice, cuts down on waste, and builds stronger customer relationships.
The Excessively Long Shoes are a humorous way of raising awareness of personal space and individual gait in a busy urban environment. The shoes force the wearer to slow down and encourage them to get reacquainted with their individual rhythm.
Materia Madura by Ana Cristina Quiñones is a collection of furniture and vessels made from a composite of plantain and coffee waste. Inspired by the mountains of discarded plantain peels and coffee grounds in her home country of Puerto Rico, Quiñones developed a globally transferable model for tackling food and agricultural waste. This innovative recycled material is non-toxic, biodegradable, and serves as a sustainable alternative to conventional materials.
Esna Su developed the ‘Refugee and the Burden,’ a clothing line that was inspired by her desire to help Syrian refugees. She created two pieces made from renewable materials: a cloak crafted from renewable paper rush that cocoons the wearer and provides protection in turbulent times; and a leather cord hooded carrier made from tanned vegetable leather and plant fibers that serves as a lightweight backpack.
Memetery by Pan Wang
Pan Wang’s Memetery proposes a digital solution to the problem of overcrowded cemeteries. Memetery uses augmented reality and GPS to create a responsive 3D visualization of the tombstone in any physical location of choice. Accessibility or availability of burial location would no longer be an issue.
Carpet Everything by Georgia Fleck gives new life to carpet remnants. She upcycles and transforms the otherwise discarded material with techniques like stitching, collaging and screen-printing.
Photos by Charlene Lam for Inhabitat unless otherwise noted