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Themes/ re-purpose: hacking objects

Sugru in action. Photograph: Sugru
Written by
Emme Light
Published date
24 November 2018

Sometimes finding a creative solution to a problem is just about having a bright idea and using materials you have to hand! Emme shows us some examples from inventive designers.

Good product design makes life easier for people. Think about all the objects you use; often you only become aware of them when they fail to work properly. Think about the objects you would fix, or could potentially make better.

New technologies such as 3D printing enable people to modify commercial products more than ever before. Smartphones help us to personalise our home screens, sports brands allow us to customise our trainers to suit our own personalities. We can create and interact with our environment in a way that would be unimaginable to previous generations.

Emme presents some of its favourite examples of what is called ‘design hacking’ – literally taking everyday items and adapting them so that they are more useful, comfortable, or even just more fun.

Ikea Hackers

various images of bedrooms with the text 'top 10 ikea hacks of 2016'
Photographs: Ikea Hackers

We like Ikea, it’s cheap and cheerful. It can all get a little bit boring though – everybody has the same lampshade or table. Well, the Ikea Hackers have a number of ideas and examples of everyday hacks to make your furniture that bit more adaptable.

Explore the Ikea Hackers website

iPhone speaker

DIY iPhone Speaker

Video: Balisage

Stuck on which portable speaker to buy? Why not make one? People are using ceramic bowls, loo roll and plastic cups to amplify the sound of their iPhone. It’s an ingenious solution to make your music louder and it’s free! (Although I think we can agree it doesn’t look quite as stylish as those latest speakers.) Check out this video which takes you through the hack with subtitles!


Bouncy kids camera made with Sugru

Video: courtesy of Sugru

The future needs fixing! Sugru is literally a type of moldable glue that can be shaped by hand to fix and adapt objects. It was invented by Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh who is passionate about promoting creativity and resourcefulness and finding an antidote to today’s throwaway culture. Sugru is a magic material than can extend the life of the products that you own or personalise them to your own needs.
The story behind what has been described as the ‘21st Century duct tape’ is just as fascinating. 8,000 hours in the lab and tireless dedication are just some of the ingredients that shaped Jane into a world-renowned product designer and entrepreneur.

Check out the story of Sugru and how it came to the rescue of a Hackney women’s football team!

Vegetable instruments

J.Views playing Teardrop with vegetables

Video: J.Views

No really – stay with us! J.Views goes to his local shop, buys fruit and vegetables and proceeds to play Massive Attack’s classic ‘Teardrops’.

Piano dogs

MaKey MaKey Challenge

Video: UncommonGoods

Following on from vegetable instruments, why not turn your dog into a piano? As the video says at the end, the dogs were happy to be played! I wonder if their Bach is as a good as their bite (sorry couldn’t resist).

100 chairs in 100 days

Confronting the Chair: 100 chairs in 100 days

Video: courtesy of Design Museum

Martino Gamper felt that the perfect chair didn't exist, so he set himself the pretty difficult challenge of making 100 chairs in 100 days (the title says it all really doesn’t it?). From the practical to the unworkable, he met his goal- amazing! Watch the video to find out more about how he did it.

Explore the ‘100 chairs in 100 days’ project on Martino Gamper’s website

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