After Covid-19, product designers march towards sustainability and resilience
The Covid-19 pandemic tested individuals’ ability to adapt to imposed circumstances. Some had to terminate their projects, while others innovated solutions to challenge the impact of the pandemic. Adapting themselves and their projects to challenges to reach more resilient and sustainable projects.
Bushra Abu al-Loz is an interior designer. Her freelance work was impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, and she faced numerous challenges preventing her from pursuing projects she was working on before the pandemic. She also had to deal with customer problems and the difficulty of implementing projects alongside other obstacles.
During that period, Bushra tried to transform every setback into an opportunity to improve herself and her capabilities to achieve her aspirations. She remained hopeful that one day she will become a designer with her particular brand name. This has motivated her to take advantage of the quarantine period to prepare herself for after-quarantine through enrolling herself in various workshops and courses to enhance her capabilities and skills in this field.
Bushra joined the “Product Design Fellowship: Towards Sustainability & Resilience” program through which she found an opportunity to develop herself and increase her knowledge and expertise in the product design process. The fellowship also put an end to the social isolation she experienced under the pandemic.
This program is organized by the Goethe-Institut Jordan, within the framework of takween and in partnership with Twelve Degrees. It seeks to attract young designers and design enthusiasts to enhance their skills, flexibility and resilience in challenging times, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic to expand their professional activities.
‘The face-to-face nature of the program allowed the participants to socially interact and build relationships’ says Safa Hijazeen, one of the program facilitators. ‘The facilitators' interaction with the participants, and the participants among themselves helps to advance ideas in a stimulating constructive and experimental framework. Far from the fear of failure in the actual labor market, experimental environments allow mistakes. Such interactions also enrich the participants and facilitators.’ He added.
Hijazeen added that the participants’ diverse backgrounds and expertise helped them benefit from each other by sharing stories of the successful and failed attempts they went through to get to where they are today. Some are still in the early stage of design and developing project ideas, while others are more advanced and have their own projects for various products.
Bushra was one of 15 participants in the program from various academic disciplines including architecture, interior design, animation, mechanical engineering and marketing alongside others who are interested in design and product design.
Over three months, Bushra developed her skills through one-to-one sessions and more than 13 workshops led by many consultants and experts from Jordan and beyond. These workshops tackled various skills such as leadership, flexibility, advanced product design and storytelling among others which help designers during the design and design thinking processes.
According to Khalid Odeh, the program coordinator from the Goethe-Institut, the program focuses on the economic, social and environmental sustainability of product design. It targeted free-lance, part-time or unemployed designers whose businesses were damaged by the pandemic, and who wish to enhance their skills and abilities to find new sources of income.
Before joining the program, Bushra says she was not aware of which product she wanted to propose. She came up with the idea during one of the workshops led by a program supervisor who made her think of a solution to a family problem by making use of and recycling used coffee grounds. The program was an opportunity for her to propose the idea to product-design experts and gain their insight on how to develop the idea further.
Bushra faced numerous challenges while working on her project. For example, the lack of previous similar projects, since the idea of recycling used coffee grounds is still rare and new in the Arab world and elsewhere. However, this also constituted an opportunity for her to create a pioneering project in Jordan, particularly where coffee consumption is very high.
Bushra notes that the storytelling workshop was the most influential - personally and professionally. She explains that it was because of Dina Musharbash’s method in leading the workshop, during which she shared her personal stories and experiences. “The participants shared personal matters and inspiring stories during the workshop because they felt comfortable and that they were in a safe environment,” she added.
During the two days of her workshop, Musharbash sought to bring out the best of the participants by introducing them to all types of storytelling exercises such as written, visual and audio narration. She also sought to equip them with the necessary skills to do so, including controlling their tone, body language and utilizing their creative writing skills.
Musharbash believes that storytelling is a powerful tool to indirectly persuade and captivate others. It is a tactical tool people need in their day-to-day work to connect emotionally with others and highlight their brand name among a plethora of products in the world today.
After several workshops, Bushra began gaining a new understanding of product design. The features of her product plans began to crystallize and mature with each workshop. Soon she began to consider the possibility of transforming coffee remains into new material to produce clothes, cups and compost.
Bushra believes that the initiative to consider recycling this waste contributes to reducing ecological damage. The coffee production and consumption process are a complete cycle that starts and ends in coffee plantations. It affects and is affected by all components of this cycle, and this is what she seeks to employ in her final product.
All participants in the fellowship program were driven by a passion for product design and learning more. This encouraged Sarah al-Qal’awi; a founding partner in the SNC project for oriental handicrafts to join the fellowship to learn, delve into and develop herself away from any prior knowledge she gained through her own project. To receive a comprehensive knowledge of product design.
Sarah says she gained many skills that she needed to design her products. She learnt how to come up with an initial idea of the product and realize it more easily and simply than she is used to, to reach the final product. She also mastered the skill of turning challenges, difficulties and setbacks faced during work into positive opportunities for education and self-exploration and development.
After three months of workshops, Saif Shreideh, Twelve Degrees program coordinator, says that the participants will come up with project ideas that will form a basic foundation for their work. These ideas were the result of their acquisition of a new set of diverse skills and expertise, which they can develop later on, to produce more mature projects.
According to Shreideh, the participants are finally working towards presenting their proposals in a networking event that seeks to connect them with potential partners and collaborators. This might open new project horizons for the participants, through which they could realize their ambition in establishing their future products and businesses.