This Is, This Isn’t

This Is, This Isn\'t

By Tess McCabe

It’s a familiar story – great design ideas spawning from creatives at a dinner party.

Earlier this year over dinner, Industrial Designers Bonnie So and Jansen Lye were pondering how natural the idea of using chopsticks as hair accessories seems today. A short while later they noticed a friend using milk crates as TV cabinets in his home, and something clicked.

Jansen notes how it’s quite common for humans, regardless of culture or economic status, to appropriate everyday things for other uses (tyre swans, anyone?). For this year’s Design Festival, the pair have set out to find more examples of this very concept.

“It’s not so much about recycling, its about using things naturally for another purpose” says Bonnie. “When we introduce the idea to people or when we talk about it with friends, most of the time they can’t picture an example straight away. Even when they do it, they don’t realize it. So we’re looking for that moment, that moment where someone naturally uses something for a different purpose’.

These ‘moments’ are the core of ‘This Is, This Isn’t’, a blog where they document their finds and invite others to contribute their own ideas and photographs.

Overall, both Bonnie and Jansen are keen to promote the idea that good design doesn’t necessarily have to imply something that is brand new. They both believe that the most important thing about design is that it should have meaning. Jansen thinks that it is our obsession with buying things new, and constantly updating to the latest must-haves, that makes explaining to people about repurposing and reusing things that they own in a different way all the more difficult. The trend toward vintage and retro household and personal items is helping change this mindset a bit, but he believes that people need to think about the inherent value in the things that they own, their individuality and the stories and meaning behind them.

The environmental benefits of using things that already exist in order to create something new, is something Bonnie has experiments with in her work as a freelance designer. You may remember Bonnie from the July ’07 Melbourne Design Market with This Is A Trivet – a nifty little kitchen item designed to hold hot dishes and pots to protect your table top. That project was about re-using, re-cycling and re-purposing post-industrial waste (in this case, the trivet is made of excessive Corian® material derived from kitchen bench and general solid surfaces).

So, the success of This Is, This Isn’t relies heavily on the general public thinking about their own household items in a different way, and contributing to the idea pool. But this project won’t end when MIDF wraps up. “Originally we were just going to do the blog” says Bonnie. “But in talking with the folks at the NDC, we’re tentatively planning and exhibition, where we show examples of what we’ve done and what others have come up with.”

Jansen adds, “It’s not much right now, as this blog is really an introduction to this idea. Hopefully next year we will have enough of our own pieces and ideas from other people through the blog for a proper exhibition”.

So before going out to that big stock take sale in the city, have a look at what you already have. Maybe, just maybe, you’ve already got a solution to whatever it is you think you need. (And if you do, go and tell Bonnie and Jansen about it!)

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