1. Which work are you particularly proud of? Which work best represents your style or approach?
Paula: We are very proud of making the step to leave our offices (our comfort zones) for six months to gather new insights on what sustainability means around the world. It was great to get a closer view on sustainability beyond Europe. For instance, did you know that Chilean people rather look at Australia and New Zealand instead of Europe on what is cutting-edge? Many discussions with local designers and experts have revealed surprising background information about the local environmental situations and challenges.
We are driven by the fact that we love our planet and believe that »business as usual« is not an option anymore if we want our next generations to live a respectable life.
Our approach is to collect as much information as possible and share it at the same time. That’s why we are working a lot with universities and students, too. We are frequently asked »What can I do as a designer?«, because many designers find it hard to put sustainability into practice. This is one of the reasons to do workshops – to provide answers and show practical solutions.
Our goal is to develop and share sustainable ideas and projects with a creative audience therefore we are preparing a book with local stories from four continents, methods, materials and projects that inspire a more sustainable future.
Aart: Materials Utopia, an exhibition we organized in 2010 with the Panatom Gallery, is something that I am really proud of. Not only because of the unusual concept we developed (making art sculptures from Chicza, an organic chewing gum) but also because of the amazingly positive people response in Berlin and London (with over 300 contributions!). We organized this exhibition to make people aware of what they eat/chew in a fun and creative way. For instance, a lot of visitors didn’t know that most chewing gum is plastic – a product of the petrochemical industry.
2. What inspires you?
Paula: Most of all people inspire me who are not afraid of doing what they love to do, what they are really good at and what corresponds to their personal values. And we met a lot of very inspiring people during our journey…
For instance, some days ago we got a mail from a designer we met in Buenos Aires – we asked him for a contribution to our book – and he finished his mail with this sentence: »I want to be good.« Wow, that’s exactly what I think. I want to be good, too!
Aart:Weird materials and objects. With »weird« I mean a surface, texture or object that surprises us with its unusual materiality. Think of shape changing metals, color changing plastics and handcrafted items. I am a so called »collector« and have a big depot with suprising objects and substances. I realize that my desire to collect is a neverending story and recently started to focus on small items. My friends will also appreciate this, since my last moving included a lot of boxes labelled with »inspiration objects«.
In my »Get Inspired« newsletters I share some of my inspirations with a creative audience. You can find these at www.materialstories.com/newsletter
Each newsletter focuses on a different theme such as GROWTH, POWER, AGING or VEGAN and brings together inspiring facts and stories about people, materials and things.
3. The theme of this year’s TYPO Berlin is »Sustain«. Sustainability seems to have evolved into a »buzzword« in the last couple of years, with which agencies and companies aim to fulfill a desire for stability and values. Can you name a project in which this ambition has led to concrete, exemplary design solutions?
Paula: For great projects you need personal values and ambition. Some agencies may have both, but I think the larger a agency/company is, the more difficult it gets. Most really great projects we saw are initiated by a single person or a small group. I do think that it is very important that bigger companies and agencies care about sustainability- but the most inspiring projects we discovered started small …
For example, Magno Radio from Indonesia. Singgih Susilo Kartono studied design in Bandung and wanted to give something back to his village after he finished his studies. Today his (small) company in Temanggung produces great radios. But even more important is that this company secures the income of local families and provides 30 young craftsmen a professional perspective combined with fair social standards.
Another project we like is the book »PIG 05049« by Christien Meindertsma, which is more about information and research. In this book she gathered three years of research about all the products that are made of a single pig. Amongst some of the more unexpected results were: Ammunition, medicine, photo paper, heart valves, brakes, chewing gum, porcelain, cosmetics, cigarettes, conditioner and even bio diesel. Christien aims to regain understanding of processes that have become so distant in industrialization.
Aart: One of the goals of the »It’s Not Easy Being Green« project was to get a better understanding of the sense, and nonsense, of sustainability. One of our inspirations to start this journey was the Viva con Agua organization that improves drinking water supply in developing countries. We love their positive attitude, openness, and hands-on approach in creating a community for a good cause. Viva con Agua enjoys a very dedicated and creative community of people by organizing actions at music festivals, parties and art projects.
4. TYPO Berlin 2012: What are you especially looking forward to?
Paula: I’m looking forward to TYPO Berlin every year. It’s a very special event with three days full of inspiring lectures. Last year I had to skip the conference, because of our worldwide journey. This year, I am especially curious about both the speakers list and visitors. During our journey we have met a lot of inspiring people from outside Europe – so it will be great to meet and hear more opinions about what sustainability means for professionals within Europe – to complete our picture.
Aart: Enjoying inspiring lectures, making new friends, and going home with that everything-is-possible feeling!
5. Required reading/watching: What are currently your favorite interesting/beautiful publications, books, movies and/or links?
Paula: If you mean »green« publications, books, movies, links … of course there are a lot of interesting documentaries, films and books like »The Story Of Stuff« or »Plastic Planet«, but in particular I like the positive and fun approach like this commercial by Ruper Jones »Think! what does it take to change a habit« or Thefuntheory (»The world’s deepest bin« is my favorite one).
Aart: I am currently enjoying reading at the »Groene Offerte« (Green Offer). The Groene Offerte shares project examples and experiences to enable more sustainable design. In my opinion this is a great initiative by the Association of Dutch Designers (BNO) which brings together over 2,500 individual designers, as well as 200 design agencies and design departments within companies.
One of my favorite books is still »The Art of Looking Sideways« by Alan Fletcher. I received this book a few years ago but it is still within reach for bedtime reading. It’s a book full of inspiring background stories and facts that changes how we see the world. In my opinion, learning to see things differently is one of the most important skills that designers have (or have to learn).
So far, see you soon!