Last week Runius Design was invited to Outokumpu in Alvesta, to discuss some possible applications of stainless steel
in some of our current projects. They invited us on a tour of their R&D
center and their production facility. We got a heathy dose of stainless steel knowledge
along with a reminder of what it means to be an industrial designer. First, in
the R&D, we saw testing, microscopes; analytical stuff. Essentially, the
continuing development of stainless steel. Then, we toured the production
plant, viewing every step of the transformation from scrap to hot roll. We went
from a clean, office/lab/testing facility to the factory floor. It was unreal
how different these two environments were; different in nearly every regard.
For me, that led to a metaphysical separation as well. The same feeling when
walking through the threshold of a room and forgetting why you are there, when
the new visual stimuli and environment create a new state of mind. The new
physical space becomes a new head space.
And this is the job of the industrial designer, going into each of these scenarios and achieving something for the adjacent and different scenario. Orchestrating them. Making all of them work together in order to create a successful product. Keeping the big picture in perspective can be hard. We wear many masks, and it is hard to balance them all while remaining true to yourself.
When we see a material, it’s just that; a material. There aren’t many products that are just composed of one, singular material. Most of the things we own are a complex collection of materials. Even a single ink pen can composed of 5 or more. What we don’t see is the amount of effort it takes to even turn a raw material into something that can be used for production of a product; what most people think of a as a raw material. A material that will be just one of the many materials in a finished product. In a way, it’s disrespectful to use a material without actualizing it’s true potential. Without taking advantage off all of it’s chemical and physical properties. Or simply making a poor material choice without considering better, more optimal materials.
Days like the one we had at Outokumpu are an important reminder of the reality of consumer products. That the things we use have a long chain of energy consumption behind them. Considered material choice is important. There are so many items that are used briefly then disposed of, yet contain precious materials just for the purpose of looking flashy. Why does my pen have to have a metal clip? I’m just going to use it for a month then it’s gone from my life. And computers for example: they are outdated in 6 months, only last for 5 years if you are lucky yet, they contain a slew of irretrievable precious metals. If you know the object won’t last, at least make sure it can be disposed of responsibly.
It’s all a part of the larger problem which I am attempting to wrap my head around, something to pick away at bit by bit.
Thanks for reading, check back soon!