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Design & Bioplastics

Design & Bioplastics What designers Fig 1: Bioplastics were the very beginning. In the 19th century, more and more people were able to afford decorative products that were not fundamentally necessary for every day´s life. Today we would call them designed consumer products.The photo shows decorative personal care items in ivory style, but made from cellulosenitrate (Celluloid ® ), a bioplastic from the very beginning. (Photo: Deutsches Kunststoffmuseum) by: Christian Bonten University of Stuttgart, Germany Susanne Lengyel Hamm-Lippstadt University of Applied Sciences, Germany Good design gives a product identity, and more and more companies have recognised for some time that good design is a key element in the commercial success of their products. Design has now become a hard factor and is a firm part the product development process. There is almost no product sector or successful company that is able to ignore design. Even in the field of investment goods design is no longer just an option, but is seen much more as a way of differentiating product offerings and as a marketing tool - and is used as such. The highest success levels have been achieved by those companies which integrate design right from the beginning of their development process, apply the concept in a strategic way, and see design as a holistic function. A well-designed product has a number of roles to fill, with its function being number 1. Even the most beautifully designed products lose their value if they do not work! It is the task of the designer to make clear the way the product works, make it accessible to the user, and possibly explain how it is easier to operate. The product should be self-explanatory, inhibitions can thus be overcome and a relationship with the product can be created and built upon. And design is a lot more than the shape, surface finish, colour, and aesthetics of a product. It carries a message. Design also gives a product identity. Design makes a product unmistakeable, makes it recognisable, and so gives the brand its own character. A well designed product will not be anonymous, but will let the user know where it comes from. Well designed products will express the promises of their supplier: they radiate reliability, show their quality, and are innovative. Such products can stand out from the competition and have a status on the international market. There are also many plastic products that use design as a unique and specific feature. In many cases it is not possible to identify clear differences from the competition based on technical and quality features. However the wide range of plastics and the processes used in manufacture allow some very different visual and tactile impressions to be set before the user of the product. An aesthetic combination of different materials and colours, as can be achieved thanks to the many alternative and cost-effective production methods for a major product run, is therefore able to be used to meet the demands of design in an economical way. 50 bioplastics MAGAZINE [05/13] Vol. 8

Design & Bioplastics look for in bioplastics Actually a designer is certainly not limited to a specific material or a specific raw material. A designer will seek out a material that suits the overall product concept and aim. The anticipated life of the product, and thus the service life of the material used, also has to be added to the equation. If leather or wood is used partly to support the product image, then the product itself should be made from leather or wood. Fig. 2: Biodegradable beach toys (Photo: Metabolix / Zoe b) Where mass production is the aim (and industrial designers do hardly work on one-off products) then technical and economical factors will play a role. Plastics are not chosen because they are cheaper than other materials. This is a mistaken idea. Plastics are being much more frequently chosen by designers and engineers for the wide range of shapes that are possible, and thus the design freedom, even for mass produced products. Plastic is a chameleon of materials and so is very popular with designers. Using plastic it is possible to imitate other materials, both visually and even at times in a tactile way and – thanks to the energy saving processing of plastic – to create products that are cost effective and that minimise the use of limited natural resources. The cost-saving manufacturing processes have certainly led to the fact that plastics have for a long time been regarded as cheap materials. Today, however, plastics are used to produce high calibre, well-designed products without needing to disguise the fact that they are in fact plastics. If we sit in a current model car, for example one made in Germany, we immediately get a coherent, harmonious sense of its shape, surface finish, sound, colour and feel, without thinking about what materials it is made from. In most cases it will in fact be plastic. Verner Panton, the designer of that most recognisable plastic chair, said, as early as 1969, that “Strangely enough, plastics are still considered as a substitution for natural materials ... . This is nonsense! Plastics is a useful, independent material with endless aesthetic opportunities.” In the 1950s in his book entitled “Die Gute Form” (Good Shape), the Swiss designer Max Bill defined good design as design with a high level of user benefit, a long life, safety, ergonomics, economy, relevance and rationality. Had he been familiar with term he would also have included sustainability in this list. bioplastics MAGAZINE [05/13] Vol. 8 51

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