Makedo – Paul Justin
Makedo is a reusable connector system that enables construction using everyday materials including cardboard, plastic and fabric to create new things. Makedo has the ability to shift perceptions around waste and inspire social change through playful creativity. Makedo comprises three simple parts: the re-clip, the lock-hinge and the safe-saw.
MAKEDO Paul Justin, Designer and CEO Jake Tankel, 3d Modelling
Harry Allen: During the review the discussion often turned to modern themes such as local production, environmental responsibility, and hybridization, and here is this toy that speaks to all of these things. I find that most of the toys on the market are so over-designed that they leave no room for the imagination. These connectors are an open-ended system that asks "what is possible?" and leaves the rest up to the child's imagination. At least trash is used creatively before it is discarded, at most it is a learning tool for young and old. There is a great chance a toy like this will raise awareness of wasteful practices in the society at large and encourage reuse in parents. In any event, it certainly prepares kids to work on a brighter future for themselves.
Maria Popova: Hands-on curiosity is at the heart of creative exploration. Makedo facilitates this kind of creativity at key developmental stages, empowering kids to explore the fertile intersection of play, design and engineering.
1. Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the challenge posed to you? Did it get you excited and why?
In 2007, after 5 years working in a commercial design studio, I went to Salon Internazionale Del Mobile, to get inspired for a future in furniture design. I became incredibly disillusioned with the entirely unsustainable excess on show. For the first time I saw product design as fashion. I did not see ideas that were seeking to benefit society but merely provide more aesthetic choice to a slim few. During that trip to Milan, I wrote a brief to myself for what would constitute an idea worthy of bringing to market - something open-ended, a system rather than a product, taking in social and ecological consideration, and above all simple.
My second child Ezra was 4yrs old at the time the idea was forming. Ezra is a hands-on maker type but with a wild imagination that demands immediacy. We were spending a lot of time making - in one play session he would 'need' a rocket and a space outfit and by the next day it was a castle and a horse.
Makedo began as a much smaller idea, but I soon saw that it had the capacity to fulfill the Milan brief and the Ezra brief at once. The briefs merged and I was now focused on a system of making that was simple enough for a child to use. The more I broke it down to its basic elements, the more open-ended it became and the more green it could be – in product and philosophy.
2. What point of view did you bring to the challenge? Was there anything additional that you wanted to achieve with this project or bring to this project that was not part of the original brief?
Makedo is very much a product of our times, and is especially suited to those leading the way in this arena. There are those who are already in a Makedo mindset and a growing slice of global consumers who are shifting gears.
Whilst manifesting as a product, Makedo is really more of an idea. And so part of the challenge and excitement of bringing an idea to market, is that you get to engage like-minded individuals who not only embrace the philosophy but extend its scope of possibility.
To champion and channel these inputs, as much thought and effort has gone into community building as has gone into product development. This was certainly not anticipated at the outset but I can see now that they are inextricably linked, as the future of the Makedo system is literally in the hands of the people who use it.
The Makedo concept must therefore be looked at holistically, for it is a connector of found materials and a connector of people.
3. When designing this project, whose interests did you consider? (Discuss various stakeholders, audiences, retailing, manufacturing, assembly, distribution, etc., for example.)
Product packaging is considered at every stage with all materials both recycled and recyclable, and the size of each unit is optimized so that we don’t ship air.
Current logistics make sense to base manufacturing in China, as a hub for worldwide delivery. The goal is to engage more localized production in future, with facilities in Europe, North America and Asia.
Two types of people: Makedo was originally designed with the child and the child within the adult in mind. It is a playful creative tool with an open-endedness that has revealed diverse applications in education, occupational therapy, household and design circles.
Simple and intuitive process: The designed product is supplied so that the smallest of components encourage the biggest potential. The end user is empowered to control the direction of their outcomes, which means that individual resourcefulness provides for unique creations, all from the same base components.
Scale: Existing construction systems tend to be limited by scale. For the most part, they are intended for the desktop. Of course there will be some experts who will make something enormous as a showpiece, but this is not accessible to the average user, in terms of both skill and cost. Makedo has the ability to allow both small and large scale construction because the user sources the bulk material to determine the size of their creation.
A maker can use the same parts to build something to fit in their hand or to be larger than themselves.
4. Describe the rigor that informed your design. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) If this was a strictly research or strategy project, please provide more detail here.
It has been observed that the children’s market for creative products tends to shy from actually promoting creativity. A colour-by-numbers approach to creativity is the accepted norm, at the expense of fostering the inherent ingenuity of the child.
Makedo stands in stark contrast to this pattern. Ten makers working with Makedo will lead to ten distinctly different creative outcomes.
Having established the core design principles behind Makedo, the development of the components themselves involved several rounds of tooling and scenario-based public testing. Once the design felt close to complete, a soft tool provided an inexpensive pathway to some thorough beta testing. The idea was for 'name' designers to create something with Makedo and have a huge exhibition profiling the creations. A few thousand parts and some interesting discoveries later, I took everything I had learned through both the manufacturing and creation processes and redesigned the parts from scratch. At this point, some rapid prototyping was done however as the material property is fundamental to the function of the product, they did not reveal the true potential. The proof only came after the parts were tooled and sampled with various materials. It took a few adjustments to the tool until start full-scale production could be started. Incremental improvements have since been made to the design directly in the tool.
The choice of materials and a firm control over the supply chain enables Makedo to take back components for recycling at end-of-life, although the components themselves are designed to be reused over and over. It is also notable that the very nature of Makedo is to keep other materials in use for longer, delaying the rate at which household materials are discarded.
5. What is the social value of your design? (Gladdening, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, labor-mindful, environmental, cultural, etc.) How does it earn its keep in the world?
Makedo is a creative tool which makes reuse of everyday materials safe and accessible. Through customised parts, materials can be connected in ways not previously possible by using adhesives like glue, tape and staples. Creations can be built quickly and easily, without a dirty mess, can be large or small or have moving parts. With reusable connectors every creation is designed for disassembly.
A critical consequence of using Makedo is its ability to change people’s behavior around waste and reuse in a playful and creative way. A cardboard cereal box that might otherwise have been deemed rubbish becomes a valuable building block when coupled with Makedo connectors.
Makedo alters the perceived value of objects and materials by providing an accessible means of upcycling. This shift in perception is a critical step towards addressing the waste crisis we find ourselves in. Makedo highlights a serious issue and offers a solution wrapped in a most digestible of forms – play.
It is hoped that this seed of thinking – of seeing waste as a resource - once planted in the child’s mind, will grow to reveal creative solutions to the problems of the future.
Each Makedo product variation champions the creativity of the maker and celebrates resourcefulness, awareness and the inquisitive pursuit that is a hallmark of DIY.
6. If you could have done one thing differently with the project, what would you have changed?
Initially, the idea behind Makedo was more important than the physical artifact. With a community of makers gathering momentum, the physical is now catching up.
Had I waited until the part was perfect before going to market, Makedo may never have been released. So the plan was to put it out there half-baked and aim to be responsive to our own experience and community feedback for adaptations to make it work better.
The Makedo components could have been approached differently, but I am happy with how the process has unfolded because the real and ongoing product evolution is responding directly to actual use.
Makedo will continue to evolve to match, and indeed exceed, people’s concept of reuse in their lives. In future, this may include finding better materials or perhaps designing other components to add to the Makedo range that will further enable reuse.
It is with this approach that failure, or rather wanting to have done something differently, is in fact embedded in the process.