material girl

Material Girl: Steffany Tran Heads to Switzerland

The goal of the Material Matters: Design Lab on June 14 at swissnex San Francisco was to realize the potential of a game-changing renewable material, FluidSolids, developed in Switzerland by Beat Karrer.

As part of San Francisco Design Week, swissnex San Francisco invited 10 industrial design students and young professionals to join the one-day Design Lab, where they were tasked with designing an inspiring object made from the novel new material.

FluidSolids is made entirely of industrial by-products and is fully biodegradable yet offers flexibility in production and application, replacing the need for metal or plastic. During the Design Lab, mentors Karrer and Swiss designer Lukas Scherrer, founder of Shibuleru, helped coach the participants through the design process.

Material Matters: FluidSolids Design Lab in San Francisco

Click on image to see pictures from the FluidSolids Design Lab on Flickr

In the evening, an esteemed jury selected the best ideas and awarded winner Steffany Tran (a first-year design student at San Jose State University) with a $3,000 travel grant and a fellowship at FluidSolids in Zurich to make her design a reality.

Tran, who designed an elegant tape dispenser, also received a residency at the Zurich University of the Arts and a feature in an upcoming issue of the Swiss design and architecture magazine, Architonic.

“It was a one day workshop. I had to go through the process of design that I typically go through for a couple of weeks within a day,” Tran reflects. On her prize she says, “I’m very eager to learn, so this is going to be a great opportunity for me to experience life in a studio. How does the design come to life? That is somethiing I’m looking forward to greatly.”

Until now, FluidSolids had flat coin-like samples of their material to show to potential clients and partners. These samples are impressive, but they don’t demonstrate the flexibility, beauty, and 3-dimensional possibilities of the material. Karrer wanted an object that could be sent to people in the industry that would be appealing, useful, and beautiful. It also needed to be simple to produce and small enough to mail.

Tran’s tape dispenser design was all of these things. Even the blade for cutting tape was designed to be made from the material itself instead of metal.

steffany tran

Steffany Tran’s winning design for a tape dispenser made of FluidSolids.

Other fun projects from the day included designs for a rubber band gun for some office shenanigans, a cord organizer for ear buds, and a desk hook for hanging bags and coats off of a table or chair.

The awards were followed by a panel discussion (Material Matters: Designers Talk) on the role of new materials in innovative design featuring jury members Karrer, Sherrer, Fabienne Barras (Swiss Design Prize), John Hamilton (Coalesse), Thomas Overthun (IDEO), and Collin Owen (Sparse).

This program was part of Cultivating our Future, a month-long series of “green” themed events in June 2014 at swissnex San Francisco.