A day in the life of the Trash-2-Cash suitcase: reflections on WS03 Helsinki

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Most suitcases are destined for a life of seclusion, at the back of wardrobes, on luggage stands in hotel rooms, in the bellies of buses and planes… the conveyer in baggage reclaim must be liberating by comparison.

But not our suitcase; he has a very special vocation.

Last Wednesday he set out with an important cargo, a suite of T2C things carefully curated to build our sense of community, bring us closer together through our common behaviours, understandings and appreciations, and support us as we continue to create a common language, communicating both with each other and our wider audiences.

Collectively I guess you would call these things ‘design tools’.

These were not the only ‘tools’ making a journey to Helsinki that day.  In a brilliantly orchestrated schedule we were treated to 15 tools and methods from six partners, all with a specific purpose in helping us to revise future scenarios for T2C fibres and give direction to the fibre development.  Some were established methods and some experimental but many were unfamiliar to the majority and all were new for materials R&D.  Many of these tools were brought by design partners, but there were also some prepared by scientists.

The effect was manifold, enabling social cohesion within the group, confidence building, co-learning, aiding communication and trust, furthering individual and collective understanding of the project and tasks, presenting and co-creating knowledge for specific project outcomes.

Moreover, we were able to locate our regenerated fibres within the future worlds they might inhabit, connect our materials development to real and emerging issues and begin to share our hopes for how our fibres could positively influence people rather than just replacing ‘bad’ materials with better ones.  From all of these different angles we viewed the potential for our work.  Our discussions progressed collectively (and not without debate) and by the end of day 2 we were able to come to more of a consensus on the direction for fibre development than we could have imagined or hoped for three months ago.

There was a great deal of positive feedback on this process from all participants, but there was also a desire (among designers and scientists) to discuss in more detail the very real technical challenges, and to have the opportunity to share early results.  Design is after all sabotaging a very familiar – and in many ways successful – materials R&D process which has a much clearer route from action to results.  We are all learning.

The spirit with which the T2C materials researchers have embraced these new methods has been inspiring and as we near the end of the messy ideation phase of the project the technical partners can perhaps look forward to more familiar processes in the near future.  Will this mean that the role of our designers will change within the workshop setting?  How will design methods and tools enhance or disrupt this most logical and linear of processes?

And what of the Trash-2-Cash case?  He is back at UAL awaiting WS04; but in April he is off to Barcelona to be part of an industry innovation event. In May he will be restocked with useful tools and resources and accompany us to Milan… where else but in Material ConneXion Italia HQ.