By Juljka Klingler//
It is apparent that in ecology, there is inter-connectivity with everything. One thing affects another, which in turn affects another. It seems like it is endless, almost beyond our comprehension. Sustainability is similar; you can always go deeper and deeper. In a way, lines need to be drawn; long-term planning and feasibility need to be integrated. Is sustainability a concept or an action in your work?
Yes. I actually came to Canada, to Emily Carr to do sustainable design. That is my passion. I am always trying to find better ways to design, while at the same time, taking care of the environment because I know that every action during the design process, as well as during the manufacturing and disposal of that product, will affect the environment. It is a big issue.
Who do you turn to? When you do your research, how do you know what you are doing is sustainable?
There are many things that I take into account. I always read books about design and sustainable design. I like to talk to people who are in that environment, teachers, and lecturers. I’m always trying to find the newest processes or technological advances to integrate into my work. This keeps me updated.
It is always changing.
That is the hard part.
Does co-creation and co-design play a role in your process?
Yes. I am from Mexico and the first stages of my current research involved co-creation where I went to talk to people in communities and villages, trying to participate with them in the design process, trying to include them. It is not about designing what I think is good for them, it is designing with them to I see what they really need.
How do you feel your process has changed from working in the field verses continuing your education?
Before coming here I was just focusing on developing a product. I was working as a furniture designer and the main thing was just to get things done. Here, at Emily Carr, during my Masters thesis, I learned critical thinking.
Process in always dependent on time. Do you feel you design better working on long-term projects or under shorter time constraints?
Short-term constraints. I feel like my productivity increases when I have a deadline.
In a sense, a Masters thesis is a long term project…
I think I have been feeling better since I have these mini-deadlines. Every two days I have to come up with new ideas. I think that is better, although I am tired. (Laughs)
Has any experience in particular changed the way you have approached your process?
I think it has a lot to do with my background. I learned to design in a way that would be considered shocking here. For instance, when I first worked in the wood shop at Emily Carr I didn’t know anything safety wise. I was just chopping big pieces of wood without any protection because I was taught this way. Then a teacher approached me and said, “What happened? Did you work in a sawmill?” I said “No, this is what I learned!” Besides that, in my process, in Mexico I had a lot of interaction with marginalized people. This is emphasized in my process. It wasn’t just my education but my experience there.
How did that experience show up in your process?
My thesis is research-based; it’s not a final product or a design of an object. It is called design for re-purposing. And before I describe what this is about I am going to tell you a little bit about where I got the inspiration. When I was growing up, when I was a kid, I observed how the marginalized people (in Mexico), used discarded objects and transformed them into something completely different but still useful. Like a rim from a truck, a guy turned into a grill. During my summer internship when I traveled to twelve communities and three cities, trying to find those examples, I realized that it was everywhere in Mexico. The good thing is that this transformation involves no waste. When I went to the recycling transfer station here in Vancouver, I saw lots of useful stuff in great condition, I thought, “this is not trash to me, this is like gold!” I saw a lot of opportunities here. I translated my observations in Mexico and created objects with affordances or features that make the object attractive so they are re-purposed, or transformed into something useful. It is another strategy among up-cycling or design for disassemble. All the products are designed with special little features, like holes or flanges so that when they become obsolete or broken, which happens every day, you can transform them into something useful. Re-purposing lengthens the longevity of a product and that is the main thing. The object reenters its life cycle.
Every piece in unique, I am assuming, or do you have multiples?
Yes, the ones that I found in Mexico, they are unique. You cannot find anything like it.
Designers often use both their left and right brain. What helps you make this shift or how do you know when to make this shift?
I think my mind works a little bit different. I am always thinking about the solution. I am not thinking about the background or what has been done. I detect the problem and then go from there. I don’t know if it is the best way but it works for me!
If you are presented with the problem, how do you find the solution right away?
Most of the time it is intuitive or in my imagination. Sometimes I believe if you know of other people who have found solutions to that problem already, you become limited because you know what already exists.
Sometimes the solutions are obvious in a way. For example with re-purposing. It has already been done. It is human nature to re-purpose. You can think about it in terms of this huge design theory of re-purposing or you can think about it as something that people do in their daily lives. They don’t that have to go through a design process. They do it because it is intuitive, are you thinking along those lines, thinking like them?
Yes. One thing also I want to add is that I like to keep my ideas simple. I want everyone to understand the solution, from high school students to PHD students.
Darinka Aguirre is currently completing her masters thesis at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Her work, discussed above, will be viewable in the upcoming 2010 grad exhibition held at Emily Carr.