April 16, 2018Comments are off for this post.

Craftsman in a factory – Joris de Groot

For designer Joris de Groot, materials and techniques are the key sources of inspiration for designing. Joris obtained degrees in both industrial design and product design. Whereas product design departs from the material, industrial design focuses on engineering; the combination of the two studies fits Joris like a glove. By using his vision and knowledge of materials, Joris combines aesthetics with new techniques in his designs.

Joris: I start with the materials, and gather knowledge about the production process and the techniques that are used by visiting the factories. In that respect, In4nite is a great opportunity because it fits my design approach perfectly: we started the project with a tour of the factory, providing the necessary insight into all the techniques and materials available.

Materials and techniques.

I love to explore new techniques and to examine the properties of materials, asking myself the question: “How can I use it in a different way?” There are so many different and special techniques, most of which are exclusively hired by factories. You rarely get the chance to just go there and delve into the possibilities. When In4nite invited me for a collaboration, they literally opened a new door, offering a wealth of opportunities to gain new knowledge.

I felt really supported by the Low and Bonar company. They encouraged us to explore and research their material. For example, I’ve worked with three factories to complete my design: the laminating factory, the pleating factory and the Low and Bonar factory. All three factories were big resources in material use and techniques.

I rarely make a drawing at the beginning of a design process: my starting point is the material itself, I need to see it and feel it. ”

Filtration inspiration

I do not get my inspiration from social media or books. What gives me the most inspiration is to just visit a new company where they use materials and techniques I haven’t seen yet. I contact those companies and, if possible, pay them a visit. I find production processes incredibly interesting. When I'm in a factory for a day, I sense and see the possibilities; I know immediately what kind of design I want to make and how I’m going to accomplish it.

After the first visit to the factory of Low and Bonar, they explained the production process of Colback and gave us booklets with information. I found information about the air filters Low & Bonar produces and it intrigued me; air filters are built from layers that differ in softness and strength, but also the pleats are different. That special technique of pleating and the use of layers in the material triggered me to research these particular aspects. The first idea was to make some new pleated textile which can be used in carpets, for example. I made a lot of different samples with various shapes and strengths. Eventually I focused on designing a pleated chair in which I could combine the pleating techniques as well as experiment with the strength of the Colback material.

 

 

Pleated Seat by Joris - Photo by Lonneke van der Palen

 

However, it was challenging to find a factory that wanted to collaborate in the pleating research. You can imagine why: generally speaking, the machines are set to fixed values, producing thousands of meters of the same kind. But I wanted to examine the material’s strength depending on varying lengths and forms in the textile, which meant that the machines had to be set for every few meters. In order to do so, we needed to rent almost an entire factory.

Fortunately, I found a factory in Berlin. I received a lot of technical support from the filtration department of Low & Bonar; they were the ones that brought me in contact with the pleating factory in Berlin. And they conferred on the heat and speed of the machines, as well as the pleating process: when I needed certain materials, they produced them especially for me. Because of the technical expertise of Low & Bonar, I had the opportunity to extensively research the material, the techniques and the design. For a designer that’s a very convenient way of working.

Craftsman in a factory

I did four years of industrial design and I graduated as a product designer at ArtEZ Arnhem, The Netherlands. Product design is focused on vision, working with your hands and starting from the material. “How can I connect my vision with techniques and materials?” That’s the design way of thinking. The industrial study I followed was more concerned with production processes: “We need 10- products in a few days: how do we make this possible?”

Because of this combination in education I like to work with the machines in the factory as a craftsman would; I want to explore the possibilities of the materials and techniques.

I try to design in advance, but usually all plans are off the table after a visit to the factory, which is when I start over again. For example, I already designed a bench for In4nite in the first instance and I was struggling with how to accomplish this design and how I wanted to shape it. But then I visited the pleating factory and experienced how the material can bend and how it ‘plays.’ This rendered my initial idea irrelevant. Hence, I really work from the material.

When I start, I first research the original use of the material: “What is normally made from this material? How is it used? Which techniques are applied?” Then, I focus on one aspect: “Why is it made in this way? Could it be done otherwise? How can I enhance the properties of the material?” I want to show the origin of the material, what its original use is and how it can be applied in multiple ways. I take the existing techniques and the material as a reference and depart from there.

'The factory is my playground, searching for new possibilities with the tools I can find'

 

Experimenting with pleating techniques

 

Future Focus

When I was a child, I made my own furniture, which I used in my room. And I put quite a lot of effort in making small circus attractions, such as an actually functioning carousel. I was so into engineering and crafts that I attended a technical course for kids on Friday afternoons. I remember how enthusiastic I felt as a kid when the staff of the workshop helped me out with my designs. Now I sometimes feel like a big kid, doing the same things on a bigger scale.

When I travelled to the factory in Berlin to work out the design and experiment with the strengths of Colback, it suddenly became so real. I really was going to make a pleated seat! The project became even more serious when we decided to go to the Dutch Design Week and present our design in an exhibition. At the Dutch Design Week I really felt we gave it all. There was such a good energy and a great buzz for the first time in this In4nite project. We received a lot of attention from the press and influential magazines.

Looking back, the Dutch Design Week was a good starting point. Because of the effort and hours of research I put into the Pleated Seat, I want to focus on developing the chair further, doing more research and attending more fairs. I want to focus on researching the material and pleating techniques, combining different layers and playing with various strengths. I want to know if the stability is good enough, and how the material will react on actual use.

 

 

 

 

April 5, 2018Comments are off for this post.

In4nite: a growing platform

With over 3335.000 unique visitors, 2600 participating national and international designers, and more than 610 exhibitions, the Dutch Design Week is the biggest event in The Netherlands spanning themes of creative collaboration, experimental approaches, new techniques and ground-breaking designs.

In our current era of the 4th industrial revolution, material development is an increasingly prominent feature of the annual Dutch Design Week. This proves again that materials determine the future, providing products and concepts that are stronger, more lightweight, and progressively durable and sustainable. In materials, designers can find solutions for the pressing issues of the future: how do we deal with the impending shortage of food and energy sources, and how might we use technology to solve our problems?

Low & Bonar’s In4nite project helps to connect the design community to the world of performance materials. In light of innovation, In4nite challenged  inspiring designers to reflect their vision on the Colback® material and push its boundaries.

Designers’ unique vision

Allowing for the designers to experiment with and respond to the material, the first results of this collaboration were designs presented at the Dutch Design Week 2017 in Eindhoven, The Netherlands. The exhibition at the Dutch Design Week provided an overview of new functional and aesthetic qualities of the material, as well as the designers’ unique vision.

In addition to the In4nite exhibition, there was space for dialogue and debate surrounding Materials & the Future, in which companies, professionals, designers and visitors discussed how smart materials can define the future of product design. This exchange of knowledge and ideas led to interesting discussions and new perspectives throughout the week.

“Looking at Colback through the designers’ eyes, Low & Bonar discovered much more about the aesthetic and functional properties of the material. Through lateral thinking, the in4nite project has opened up a wealth of possibilities to apply the textile in the development of new products.” – Low & Bonar success stories.

The designers’ ideas for new ways to use Colback included acoustic panels, lampshades and furniture. One designer’s experiments included turning the two-dimensional fabric into a 3D product, which led him to develop a series of folding patterns into a strong yet lightweight tube. Another designer used layers of Colback to create a vertical garden, inspired by the Centre Pompidou in Paris. The completion of In4nite’s first year, including its debut at the Dutch Design Week, kick-started the establishment of In4nite.

As a platform that shares the same ideology as Low & Bonar, In4nite aims to make the world a better place, by delivering more beautiful and elegant solutions, whilst contributing to a more sustainable and healthier world. In the perspective of a growing platform, In4nite is always open for new collaborations and ideas. Are you a professional designer and up for the challenge? Would you like to be one of the attendees - for example at the Dutch Design Week- ? Contact us and let us know about your ideas!

 

 

 

March 27, 2018Comments are off for this post.

In4nite designs of Colback by Rick Tegelaar

 

Rick has a background in engineering as well as in industrial and product design. On average, he spends about 50 hours per week in his studio, and more when big deadlines are coming up. His office resembles an urban jungle, with a variety of plants and wires, fabrics and designs draped over desks, and walls covered with drawings of new projects.

A conversation about the In4nite project with design explorer Rick Tegelaar.

 

Materialistic

I’m interested in Industrial design and materials, with a particular interest in materials that are highly functional but don’t have any emotional or aesthetic value. When exploring a new fabric, it is imperative that you abandon all assumptions; you may think you know how a fabric will react, but you don’t, you have to observe very carefully. This is my focus in the first phase of experimenting. When we do simple tests like cutting the material, we really study the cut. We take each step super seriously and then we focus and zoom in even further.

Before working with In4nite, I had never heard of the non-woven fabric Colback by Low & Bonar. Naturally we wanted to get to know the material, so we started to stretch it, burn it, sew it, and cut it while studying how it reacted. I wanted to fully explore the possibilities and do as many different things to it as we could think of.

This approach of getting to know a fabric is similar to getting to know a new person. When you meet someone new, you want to get to know a little more about their character; you want to get a grasp of what that person is like. The same principle applies to material use: what is the material like? How does it behave? By crossing over between different disciplines and processes you can create new techniques, which can be used on the material and yield a whole new range of applications and possibilities.

“Abandon all assumptions.”

I had previously bought a simple 3d printer to experiment with and experienced a lot of problems with the printing material sticking to the print head. I wanted to solve this with a layer of Colback by utilising the same techniques as used in its production process. Because the printer prints at 190° Celsius the Colback fibres’ outer skin fuses perfectly but the core is left intact. It worked beautifully! As an experiment, we then started printing with Colback itself, using the same principles as in the production process. By printing new connections, ridges and eyelets on the existing Colback fleece, we invented a completely new way of printing that utilises the qualities of the material. This represents a whole new niche of printing, which will be very interesting to explore in the future.

Pinter by Rcik Tegelaar

 

Dutch Design Week

Looking back, I think In4nite made great progression in the one-year time frame of the project. In the beginning we were just aiming to do some experiments, but then each of the designers had such a promising start that we all felt there was something more there than just exploring the possibilities of Colback in our studios. We decided to take the next step, so we continued experimenting on the material and let the results fine tune our creativity and designs. In the short space of twelve months we went from ‘just’ experimenting on a new material to a successful exhibition at the Dutch Design Week. I think it has been an amazing achievement, especially considering that we didn’t know each other or what to expect when we set out. In retrospect I think the result is something to be really proud of.

“In the short space of twelve months we went from ‘just’ experimenting on a new material to a successful exhibition at the Dutch Design Week.”

The success of In4nite had a lot to do with the commitment of the designers involved, but equally important was the bold and openminded approach of Low& Bonar to collaboration with the designers. I hadn’t expected Low &Bonar to be so involved and dedicated to making the project a success. There was- and still is- a perfect balance between the support and freedom that Low & Bonar gave us and the effort and determination of the designers. This mutual engagement and understanding of each party’s input in the project was crucial for success.

Although it is beneficial for a company to emphasize the qualities and challenges of a material and to suggest preferred areas of innovation, how the designers carry out their research and exploration should be up to them. I think the company should stay in the passenger seat. It is not driving, the designer is. The designer should be encouraged to take different paths as you don’t want to exclude possibilities that aren’t immediately apparent on the surface.

Colback Designs at the Dutch Design Week

Mindset

As a designer you need the right mindset to join a program like In4nite. If you want a collaboration like this to be successful, you have to have an intrinsic motivation to see it as an opportunity to work with new materials and grow your business simultaneously. You should be aware that your commitment could lead to the start of a whole new company.

The identity and activities of Low & Bonar, the company behind In4nite, are very interesting to me as a designer, because they are active in so many fields and work with a variety of interesting materials. Personally, I love manufacturing processes. I am fascinated by how products are made, and which techniques and materials are used.

The chance to work with these materials wasn’t the only great opportunity of this project. The scale on which Low & Bonar produces the materials also made it very interesting to get involved. They are a big company, which means it can be an opportunity to get to know the industry. If your innovation can make a small difference in the functionality or appearance of the material, it can make a big impact on production.

“If you want a collaboration like this to be successful, you have to have an intrinsic motivation to see it as an opportunity to work with new materials and grow your business simultaneously.”

Rick Tegelaar at the Dutch Design Week

Thinking Design

If you compare the wish to run your own design studio to running a bakery, you will find the same challenges. But think about this: if you attend a bakery college you learn eighty percent of the skills you need to start and run your own business; while at a design college you only learn ten percent. The everyday reality is that I’m only designing ten percent of the time, the vast majority of my time is spent networking, contracting, ordering, producing and promoting my products.

Should schools focus more on business skills? Should they include running a business as part of the designer’s curriculum? I used to think so, but I’ve changed my mind over the past few years. Because most programmes only last four short years and to become a good designer in such a short time is challenging enough as it is. It is a personal profession, and to develop your skills in such a limited time is very hard. If you would have to complete a business training element during your studies, it is my opinion that it would reduce the development of other skills that a designer needs.

I think that if you want to open your own studio, a business mindset should come to you naturally or you should attain the specific skills needed in addition to your designer courses. If you have a problem with networking, for example, find a course to help you develop this skill.

“If we have an issue at the studio, we work together on a solution.”

I approach my business with a design way of thinking. If a problem arises, how can we fix it? If we have an issue at the studio, we work together on a solution. Sometimes it’s just about meeting that one person or finding that one connection. My advice to beginning designers would be: approach your business as a design.

 

Are you a designer in possession of a Rick-minded spirit? Would you like to explore the possibilities of a collaboration? Please send us an email at in4nite@lowandbonar.com, or fill out the contact form at the footer of the website.

 

 

 

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