What else do we know?


A forthcoming article by Dr Rosie Hornbuckle examining the facilitation of inter-disciplinary collaboration, based upon her T2C paper ‘What else do we know?’, is soon to be published in the Journal of Textile Design Research & Practice. Here Rosie breaks down her key findings from the research.


The most obvious reason to include designers in a project like Trash-2-Cash, where the aim is to develop a new fibre, is so they can use their product design and their experience to show scientists what they would like the new materials to be like. But in the workshops I noticed that designers were actually performing a number of important roles other than designing products, that were supporting the project work in different ways. 


Asking different questions

The first thing I saw early on in the project was that designers were asking questions you wouldn’t normally associate with fashion and textiles, like ‘could this material be useful for migration?’, ‘how would this perform as a recyclable healthcare garment?’ or ‘how would this affect levels of ocean plastic?’. Bringing ideas about social and environmental issues into the discussion was an interesting and unexpected influence of the design team.


Understanding one another

Designers are usually great communicators and on a project where each person is from a different country, or has a different work background; communication is an incredibly useful skill. What I observed was that some designers, particularly the materials specialists, were very good at explaining design stuff to scientists and getting scientists to stop and explain their stuff for designers when it got too complicated. This was so useful that the project could have done with more people with those skills. These people were also great at grabbing a material to help a designer and a scientist explain something to one another, like ‘how soft?’, ‘this soft?’. 


Using design tools      

Designers are great at finding ways to get other people to contribute their ideas; they have a tool for almost everything. Some of the design tools used in Trash-2-Cash were a bit baffling for scientists – they were too designy, too abstract, and difficult to understand what they were for. While other tools seemed to work really well, especially when there was a clear purpose, like the capability map (image below) which helped people to show where their knowledge fitted within the project.


What does this mean?

The great thing that we discovered was that designers have a lot more to offer this type of project – where lots of different specialists work together – than just designing products, they can actually support the teamwork as well as potentially take it in different directions than would have been possible if scientists or manufacturers were working alone. This is good, because this is how innovation happens, by stepping outside of traditional ways of working and trying something new, and designers have an even more valuable part to play than many thought before this project began.


Rosie's paper 'What Else Do We Know? Exploring the application of design knowledge and skills for the circular economy beyond materials selection and design for production' can be read in full here.


PLATE Conference: Product Lifetimes and the Environment

TU Delft University 

TU Delft University 


Three of Trash-2-Cash’s key academic researchers, Associate Prof. Kirsi Niinimäki of Aalto University, Finland, Prof. Rebecca Earley and Dr Kate Goldsworthy of UAL, London, have been invited to present papers at the 2nd PLATE Conference to be held at the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering of TU Delft, The Netherlands, November 8 –10, 2017.


PLATE is an international conference on Product Lifetimes and the Environment which Prof. Tim Cooper of Nottingham Trent University set up in 2015. He understood that moving to a more circular economy and increasing product longevity are key areas to explore in relation to a sustainable future.

Rebecca Earley and Kate Goldsworthy, co-directors of the Centre for Circular Design (CCD), are presenting a paper entitled, Playing for Time: seven practice-led workshop tools for making design decisions to extend the life of fashion textile materials and products as part of Mistra Future Fashion research.

The academic duo, throughout their careers have transferred practice into theory and vice versa in the field of sustainable textiles. The paper presents 7 inventive design tools to support fashion textile designers from a variety of backgrounds to extend the life of a garment. The tools range from design strategy cards through to lifecycle assessment approaches which include the use of metaphorical Speeding Tickets. These playful and creative methods are designed to enable the development of a design concept on paper for a product with an extended life.

The subject of slow fashion and long life is further discussed by the keynote speaker Kirsi Niinimäki in her paper entitled, Fast or slow? Fashion lifecycles in a circular economy context. Kirsi will be talking in depth about the differing methodological approaches and systems thinking in relation to fashion speeds.

Her research focuses on a holistic understanding of sustainable fashion and textile fields and connections between design, manufacturing, business models and consumption. The fashion/textile research group that she heads at Aalto University is involved in several significant research projects, which integrate closed loop, bio economy and circular economy approaches in fashion and textile systems.

Both papers reveal an immense depth of knowledge and creative inventiveness that have the potential to have a real impact on the future of sustainable textiles.


Building bridges in Helsinki: Reporting from workshop 09

Design Museum Helsinki

Design Museum Helsinki


Finland, with its densely rich forests and scattered islands, provided the perfect backdrop to workshop 09 in its capital, Helsinki. Hosted by Aalto University over a period of three days, workshop 09 was based at The Design Museum in the historic centre and at Espoo, a stunning tree covered campus.


A pre-workshop session between the Methodology Team took place at Aalto Arts on Tuesday 19 September, where the partners discussed the methods models created to date, and began the process of crafting the meta-model for Design Driven Material Innovation (DDMI). A big black bus then took the team to The Design Museum, for a book launch and seminar for ‘Lost in the Woods’. Trash-2-Cash partners – Christian Tubito (Material Connexions Italy), Helena Wedin (Research Institutes of Sweden) and Michael Hummel (Aalto Arts) – presented results and insights from the project to date, to an audience of design-hungry students and public. (View ‘lost in the wood(s) book launch and seminar event’ blog post.)

Day 1 of Workshop 09 was centred around the academic partners meeting to discuss the ‘Master cases’ – concepts shortlisted from 33 ideas to 7 - covering fashion, new generation plastics and automotive interiors. Environmental impact, LCA, innovation, realistic business models and feasibility all had to be considered in great depth before arriving at these decisions. The main purpose of the workshop as a whole was to decide how to turn these cases into successful design products and prototypes.

The day began with an overview of the whole project along with thorough presentations of the 7 master cases.  This was followed by interactive and discussion sessions to assess how to move each case forward. Honest and difficult conversations were had, essential to innovation success.

To break from the intensity of the day a tour of the design museum was given with particular reference to the ‘Enter and Encounter’ exhibition, featuring work from Aalto University’s New Biomateriality Lab and referencing Trash-2-Cash work.

On day 2 the consortium was very much ‘Lost in the Wood (s)’ on a cold misty morning at the green leafy Aalto University campus in Espoo, where Aalto Chem are based. Surrounded by nature and spending most of the day in what looked like a luxury tree house, all technical aspects of the project were analysed. Manufacturing streams, recycling and business scenarios were all debated and discussed at length and processes put in place to move towards fully-formed prototypes. Existing and potential challenges were also addressed.

A tour of the Aalto Chem laboratories provided a fascinating insight into regenerated cellulose processing.  It was inspiring for everyone to be in a scientific environment free of harmful chemicals and that focussed on circular innovation.

The highlight of the day was to see the results of new Trash-2-Cash yarn and fabric developments. Despite the challenges ahead and technical aspects still to resolve, excitement was in the air as the consortium could see the potential and positive impact final realised prototypes and product designs will have on the environment and on industry.

At this important turning point fully formed products can now begin to emerge. Watch this space!