On Wednesday 28th November we saw the MA Industrial Design students from Central Saint Martins, working on the OD&M Future Algae brief, present there projects exploring the immense potential algae holds.
For the the final crit all the students from across the course came together to present the projects they’d spent the last 6 weeks developing – with 3 briefs (future algae being one of them) we saw varied starting points all focusing on open design and manufacturing, circular economies and systems design.
For the algae brief the students all started at the same point – exploring the future potential of algae (both macro & micro) but all groups research took them down different paths, focusing on different narratives to explore this material through.
With growing frustration of throw away, single use plastics Group 1. decided to focus on this sector. With the hope that consumer change will continue to grow and we will see less demand for single use products the group identified a few industries where they thought the convenience single use offers will continue to be necessary. Focusing on the service sector and hotels in particular they created a narrative to celebrate algae’s ability to replace plastic as a bio plastic alternative, allowing single use products to not have a lasting negative impact on the environment.
Creating a company that operates directly in the hotel supply chain they created a closed loop system of creating luxurious algae toiletries for hotel rooms – There kit RHODON houses single use products for those traveling light.
Identifying independent hotel chains on the south coast they sought to develop a system from – raw material – to product – to end of life care. By choosing a controlled environment such as hotels they can remain in control of there products right through to disposing of them.
The group understood the need to still create luxury products and try to separate the idea of a sustainable alternative offering a lower aesthetic – they need to continue there material work to create prototypes as desirable as there rendered samples but the project holds potential and there ability to identify a niche narrative and environment to work within allowed them to focus there project.
With fast fashion an ever growing problem and the enjoyment we gain from consuming not decreasing Group 2. chose to focus on the single use properties of algae, celebrating it’s ability to biodegrade and return to the environment. They created a project that played with consumers enjoyment of buying – creating short term swimwear brand ALJE.
Swimwear is typically made from plastic based fibers, to ensure product durability whilst in the water and being exposed to the sun – however with trends changing as fast as the seasons they found that many holiday goers like to purchase new beach attire for each holiday.
Rather than building a product to last for as long as possible, ALJE has a purposefully short shelf life – allowing consumers to update there swimwear regularly, guilt free.
Using the website you can pick your item, enter your size and choose your finish. This is then sent to a local 3D Knitting machine placed at a makerspace. You can then collect your order in person or have it sent to you.
Once ALJE has reached it’s end of life span it can be returned to the company to be recycled or there website will help you to locate a suitable composting location near to you.
Whilst this project remains at the speculative stage and the group need significant development of algae based samples and to conduct exploration with manufacturing and distribution techniques – they managed to identify the possibilities that open design platforms could offer the fashion industry whilst tapping into the idea of fab cities and a more connected maker movement.
Through the future algae brief Group 3. became very aware of how little they had known about algae previously and were shocked to learn the potential it holds for a more sustainable future. Identifying the fact that the public probably knew as little as them they set about to create a communication project that would educate and inspire others to take part in the algae conversation.
Creating an exploration kit to communicate and engage the public the group visualised this material becoming a DIY phenomenon, creating an accessible kit that contained at home experiments and learning with algae. As well as the kit, the group mocked up a website and pop up shop where the public could actively engage with the material. Creating an open source platform the idea would be that the curious could share there experiments, create further work, encourage others to explore and ultimately create a large scale constantly updating recipe book.
With algae found around the world the online platform also allows those further afield to explore recipes without needing to purchase the kit.
The group successfully identified the need for alternative sustainable options to become part of the conversation – as the more we know about alternatives the more likely we are to demand them. By creating a kit that is lo-fi and accessible it allows for maximum engagement. The success of this project would be visible by physically putting it to the test and engaging the public.
All projects had a certain level of speculation in order create future narratives, although all are not to far from possibility – with algae exploration advancing constantly and more people working within this sector we are hoping to see the students take these projects further and potentially develop them into a reality.
This project took place over 6 weeks, the students responded to a brief that challenged them to work with alternative ‘new’ materials and to understand the areas of industry that algae can infiltrate – the Green Lab team can offer similar projects & tailored briefs – if you are interested in a brief lead by the team for your organisation, school, college or university please get in contact at: