Papernomad brings together a material innovation that creates much more resistant, hard wearing paper with a gesture that alters the usual designer versus user negotiation. The covers invite customisation that allows users to make them their own. The material suggests a much more temporary purpose which creates an interesting contrast with their actual long life.
Papernomad originated from the idea of designing and manufacturing environmentally friendly paperboard furniture as a promotional vehicle for open-air events: bio-degradable beanbags made of paper and filled with popcorn.
With technical support from a leading Austrian company, we developed an organic paper composite, which is the basis of all our products. This tear and water resistant sandwich exhibited such great properties, that we did not want to confine it’s use to furniture. We set out on a quest for industrial niches where traditional materials could be replaced by our paper composite.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
We identified two problems with existing cases and covers for mobile electronic devices – problems which we were able to developed a solution for:
PAPERNOMADS MEET THE NEEDS OF MODERN NOMADS.
Most of us live and travel through a world of constant change – a world that we are at risk of losing ourselves in. Paper is the perfect analogue counterbalance to a glass and plastic digital world that surrounds us. Why not use paper to make products that capture our experiences as quick scribbles, coffee stains, finger prints, telephone numbers or the occasional lipstick impression. Not unlike a diary, Papernomads document our experiences and create reference points in time for us to remember who we are.
PAPERNOMADS LEAVE A LASTING IMPRESSION ON PEOPLE’S MINDS BUT NONE ON THE ENVIRONMENT.
The life-expectancy of today’s electronic devices is rarely more than a couple of years. Why protect them with plastic covers that will likely outlive the device by decades? Papernomads are made of several layers of paper and a bio-polymer membrane – combined with cotton-padding, wool-felt-lining and a pull-strap made from linen. When it’s time to upgrade an electronic device, the protective sleeve can be reused. If the relationship with an electronic device has expired, the protective case can be composted.3. The Intent: What point of view did you bring to the project, and were there additional criteria that you added to the brief?
Identity, Sustainability and Mobility encompass our values in a world of constant change.
I realized that paper could cater for all of these values:
1. Paper can be customized to express personality.
2. Paper is organic and renewable.
3. Paper is cheap and versatile.
Nearly all of today’s mass-produced products lack distinguishable characteristics and blend into each other like the petroleum that fuels their production. I believe that many people living in this fast paced world long for individuality and self-expression. I experience this emotional need myself and therefore set it above all other criteria. Functionality and sustainability are a casualness of design, but creating a canvas which, at the end of the journey, tells your own story is a unique design feature.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
At the beginning was the idea to design compostable bean bags for public open air events. The beanbag idea itself was already a consequence of careful analysis of the anticipated requirements posed upon public seating furniture, because at the predecessor of the beanbag was a chair made from corrugated cardboard. This first prototype collapsed during initial testing. Due to stringent OHS regulations in many countries we had to eliminate any chances of our furniture to cause injury to its users; this led us to the beanbag concept, which can not collapse.
Open air events pose a challenge to paper furniture in several ways: the paper will be exposed to rain, potentially to fire (cigarettes), to sharp objects and harsh treatment. We succeeded to develop a material that was able to cope with such impacts: even though we did not use any synthetic materials, we were able to create a paper that was water proof, sufficiently tear resistant and could be rendered fire retardant by using a derivate of lemon juice.
After the potential of our new material became apparent, we decided to use it to manufacture sleeves for mobile electronic devices, adding new materials such as wool-felt and hemp fibres – but always keeping in mind to not go down the much easier path of using plastics or chemical additives.
We looked at markets, user groups and behavior patterns, interviewed our anticipated target group and honed in on a suitable design language. We began to document our story and it became a vital part of our products. I learned to use a sewing machine and began to produce some 60 prototypes which were released to family and friends to be used and tested.
As we were getting closer to a working prototype, we began scouting for manufacturers who would be capable of producing our products at any scale (of course we were optimistic that we would move large volumes of products). We found enthusiastic suppliers, manufacturers, logistics partners and our first corporate clients who helped us create some initial turnover while feeding their experiences with our products back to us.
Our keen interest in meeting every stakeholder – from the staff on the factory floor, to the executives placing the first orders – in person. Direct involvement in every step of the process, from raw material production to the point of sale, has enabled us to solve problems early on and become competent to make fast decisions.5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural, gladdening, etc.)
Our sleeves for personal electronics are plain but affecting, soothingly analogue and ecologically elaborated. They are made from 100% organic materials, they are tear- and water-resistant and biodegradable.
Meanwhile we have sold 1000′s of Papernomad sleeves and received overwhelmingly encouraging feedback; we see this feedback as our proof of concept. This is our motivation to continue to improve and create new products and solutions and to challenge the traditional use of plastics instead of renewable resources.
Papernomads aim to demonstrate the need to question existing systems and to create solutions with respect to social and environmental issues: identity, sustainability, sanity.