INTRODUCTION


"Sustainability" and "sustainable design" refer to our ongoing responsibility to choose and design methods of manufacturing, building and ways of life that have little to no impact on the long-term health of the environment, society and economy.  From government to industry to individual consumers, we must all consider our "ecological footprint" and the legacy we will leave for future generations around the world.  Designers and manufacturers are now faced with the responsibility of considering the entire life cycle of the products they create, especially within the context of international trade and globalization.  As more goods and materials are shipped around the world, we must consider how products are made, by whom and under what conditions. We need to think about where the raw materials come from, whether they are renewable and how much impact we have on the environment when we grow and harvest these materials. Other factors to be taken into account include the energy and waste from packaging and shipping, the life span and use of the product, and finally its me Read More
INTRODUCTION


"Sustainability" and "sustainable design" refer to our ongoing responsibility to choose and design methods of manufacturing, building and ways of life that have little to no impact on the long-term health of the environment, society and economy.  From government to industry to individual consumers, we must all consider our "ecological footprint" and the legacy we will leave for future generations around the world.  Designers and manufacturers are now faced with the responsibility of considering the entire life cycle of the products they create, especially within the context of international trade and globalization.  As more goods and materials are shipped around the world, we must consider how products are made, by whom and under what conditions. We need to think about where the raw materials come from, whether they are renewable and how much impact we have on the environment when we grow and harvest these materials. Other factors to be taken into account include the energy and waste from packaging and shipping, the life span and use of the product, and finally its method and location of disposal.


DESIGN

Design Discipline: Industrial Design


Design Defined

Design

When used as a verb, design means thinking about, conceiving and executing an idea. It is a creative, problem-solving process. When used as a noun, design refers to the result or product of such cognitive processes.

Industrial Design

This branch of design refers specifically to the conceptualization of objects that will be manufactured in large numbers in factories. Different from handmade or handcrafted objects, industrial design represents the bulk of things sold in the world today.

Craft

Before the rise of factories in the late 18th century, all human-created objects existed as craft and as the result of craft traditions. Representing the utilization of special knowledge and special skills, craft always involves the use of one's hands in the making of something, whether it is a woven basket, a knitted sweater or piece of pottery.

Mass Production

Tied to the rise of industrialization, mass production refers to the making of multiple copies of the same thing. Characterized by exact standards of measurement and sameness, the mass produced object is the most important dimension of capitalism and consumerism.


Sustainable Design

Sustainable design addresses the 'triple bottom line' (economy, society and environment). Sustainable design is said to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable design can also be defined as the art of producing objects and built environments using only renewable resources, and which themselves, in operation, deplete only renewable resources using integrated design approaches in order to reduce our ecological footprint.


DESIGNER

Patty Johnson (Toronto, Ontario)

Patty Johnson is a furniture designer whose work had been produced by such Canadian companies as Keilhauer, Nienkamper and Speke/Klein. An active member of the design community, Johnson has organized international exhibitions of Canadian design in New York and London. She teaches at Sheridan College (Oakville, Ontario) and the Ontario College of Art and Design (Toronto, Ontario). She is completing a Masters degree in furniture design at Central St. Martins College of Art and Design (London, England).

Johnson's work represents both craft and mass-production.  Her knowledge of working with small and large manufacturers in Canada is valuable in developing countries. She is currently consulting on projects in Guyana, South America and Botswana, Africa.



DESIGN CHALLENGE


The governments of Guyana and the United States of America are working together to help Guyanese industries become more competitive internationally. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funds this program.

Furniture was identified as an area that Guyana could develop into a successful export industry. They were already producing furniture for their local markets and Guyana grows a variety of high quality forest materials. However, competing internationally requires more than selling furniture at a lower cost than other countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia. Guyanese manufacturers needed to develop lines of products that were better quality and offered something new. Design was the missing ingredient that would help them to gain international attention.

First, the Guyanese companies needed to improve their local products, their plant design, efficiency and staff expertise. They solicited the help of an experienced designer who understands manufacturing processes, materials, distribution (how to sell and ship the furniture), the international furniture market, consumer demands and trends around the world. Once their products were almost ready, they could start promoting their new furniture with better marketing materials and by showing their work at international trade shows.

Throughout this process, issues of sustainability were considered. Wood products from the rainforests of South America are popular internationally for furniture and building projects, and are often exploited with little regard for the local economy, labour force and the impact on the environment. In Guyana, vast rainforests are protected, but at the same time, the country's workforce needs sustainable employment.



CLIENT AND USERS

  • Guyana: The Guyanese forestry and furniture industries, and their employees would benefit from improved operations, access to international markets with a competitive product, and hopefully increased sales at higher prices
  • Guyana: Citizens, including the indigenous tribes that depend on the forests, would benefit from more control of their natural resources, better working conditions, reduced impact on the environment, and a stronger economy
  • Internationally: Furniture distributors, home stores and interior designers sourcing furniture for their clients • Internationally: Individual consumers, hotels and restaurants around the world purchasing the furniture


DESIGN SOLUTION

The Guyanese and American governments decided to invest in a one-year program that would result in a new line of products to be launched in May, 2006, at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York City. They hired Patty Johnson to consult with the furniture industry. Further to this initial work, Johnson collaborated with Liana Cane, Precision Woodworking, and the Wai Wai Community on developing market-ready design products. She visited factories and proposed changes that would allow improvements to prototype development, factory design, manufacturing methods and efficiency while reducing costs. She helped firms to adapt the look of their furniture for the international market, to create promotional materials and to prepare for the trade show in New York.

Based on her professional experience and using Canadian companies as examples, Johnson delivered a seminar that covered issues such as:

  • trends in wooden furniture
  • ergonomics
  • manufacturing techniques
  • use of materials and power tools
  • factory set-up
  • companies outside Guyana interested in furniture and accessories made in the southern hemisphere
Two companies joined together to create an entirely new product. Precision Woodworking will manufacture hardwood components while Liana Cane will contribute the liana vine (similar to rattan and bamboo) found in local rainforests. This partnership may convince other Guyanese firms to collaborate, and take advantage of each other's skills and resources to become more competitive internationally.


In 2004, Patty Johnson partnered with Canadian designer Terence Cooke, Canadian manufacturer Pure Design and Liana Cane to create the Par furniture series. They used local materials and manufacturing techniques to create a collection of chairs and tables. The legs were made of tubular steel produced by Pure Design in Edmonton. The furniture won a Best of Canada award from Canadian Interiors Magazine.

Patty Johnson is now working in Africa through the Botswana Program for Export. She is collaborating with the Etsha Weavers Group and the Mogomotsi Enterprises Furniture Company. Mogomotsi will expand their product offering to include Mabeo, a new line of furniture for export. Johnson looks forward to similar initiatives in India and Vietnam.

CASE STUDY RESOURCES


Patty Johnson

http://www.keilhauer.com/designerbio/designerbio.asp?DesignerID=13

http://www.sheridanc.on.ca/academic/arts/craftsdesign/furniture/johnson_content.html

http://www.renegademedia.info/articles/azure-may-2003.html 

http://www.spekeklein.com/AD/bios/patty_johnson.htm

USAID project
http://www.gtisproject.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=8&Itemid=65

Canadian Interiors Magazine award http://www.canadianinteriors.com/archive/2004/ja04/bestcan7story.htm

International Contemporary Furniture Fair
http://www.icff.com

Students at the Parsons School of Design in New York City travel to Guyana to work with Liana Cane on a new product line

http://www.isdesignet.com/Magazine/J_A%2700/ednote.html

http://productdesign.parsons.edu/html/collaboration_html/Guyana/guyana.html


Guyanese companies participating in the USAID program http://www.gsmp.org/lianacane/

Fair trade timber
http://www.eftafairtrade.org/Document.asp?DocID=100&tod=53329

Projects in Botswana

Botwswana Craft
http://www.botswanacraft.bw/

Mogomotsi Enterprises Furniture Company
http://mogomotsi-a.en.21cpp.com/en/

Etsha Weavers Group
http://www.botswanacraft.bw/gallery/gallery.html

Canadian international development programs

Canadian International Development Agency 
http://www.acdi-cida.gc.ca/index-e.htm

Engineers Without Borders Canada
http://www.ewb.ca/content/en/index2.shtml

Sustainable design
http://www.valuecreatedreview.com/


© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.

Boat transporting Kufa plant for use in furniture factories.

The Kufa plant, also known as Lianacane, grows up to 30 metres high in the forests of Guyana. It is an easily regenerated crop that is popular for furniture because of its flexibility, length and durability.

Photograph by Patty Johnson
2006
GUYANA
© 2006, Patty Johnson. All Rights Reserved.


Par chair is part of a woven furniture series made in Guyana and Canada

The Par furniture series was a model of international collaboration. The chairs and tables were made of local materials and manufacturing techniques from Guyana, and the legs and interior frame were made of tubular steel by Pure Design in Edmonton.

Patty Johnson, Terrence Cooke, Pure Design (Edmonton), Lianacane (Guyana), Photograph by Pure Design
2004
CANADA Toronto Region, Ontario, Toronto Region, CANADA
GUYANA
Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA
© 2006, Lina Cane. All Rights Reserved.


Canadian designer Patty Johnson works with weavers from the indigenous Wai Wai community of Guyana in the Liana Cane factory.

Canadian designer Patty Johnson works with weavers from the indigenous Wai Wai community of Guyana in the Liana Cane factory.

Photograph by Dr. Fenton Sands
2006
GUYANA
© 2006, Patty Johnson. All Rights Reserved.


Liana Cane factory and workers making woven furniture

LianaCane is a company that produces woven furniture using sustainable materials from the Guyana rainforests. Here, factory employees assemble furniture frames made from kufa vine that has been steamed and bent around wooden jigs.

Photograph by Patty Johnson
2006
GUYANA
© 2006, Patty Johnson. All Rights Reserved.


Precision Woodworking factory

Precision Woodworking will collaborate with Liana Cane to launch a new line of hardwood and woven furniture at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York City in May 2006.

Photograph by Patty Johnson
2006
GUYANA
© 2006, Patty Johnson. All Rights Reserved.


Wooden furniture for export by Mogomotsi Enterprises Funiture Company

Patty Johnson is collaborating with companies in Botswana to create furniture for export.

Patty Johnson (Toronto), Mogomotsi Enterprises Furniture Company (Botswana), Photography by Mabeo
2006
BOTSWANA
© 2006, Mogomotsi Enterprises Furniture Company. All Rights Reserved.


Etsha Weavers Group shown near their village

Patty Johnson is collaborating with the Etsha Weavers Group to produce contemporary design objects based on traditional baskets and techniques.

Photograph by Patty Johnson
2006
BOTSWANA
© 2006, Patty Johnson. All Rights Reserved.


Baskets by Etsha Weavers

The Etsha baskets are a combination of traditional weaving skills from Angola and patterns and colours from Botswana.

Photograph by Patty Johnson
2006
BOTSWANA
© 2006. Patty Johnson. All Rights Reserved.


Patty Johnson discusses what led her to become a furniture designer and why her work has a social focus.

Patty Johnson discusses what led her to become a furniture designer and why her work has a social focus.

Patty Johnson discusses what led her to become a furniture designer and why her work has a social focus.

"I think like all designers, I came to design through a route that one might not necessarily think that one might come to design. I started off in the University of Toronto in literature and theatre. I was very interested in modernist literature, modernist theatre and I did a lot of directing, I organized a lot of plays. Most of these were around the theme of utopian ideals and modernist theories of being. When I left university I was very interested in pursuing a creative..."

Qasim Virjee
Patty Johnson, Elise Hodson
March 2006
CANADA Toronto Region, Ontario, Toronto Region, CANADA
© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.


Patty Johnson discusses what led her to become a furniture designer and why her work has a social focus.

"career or a career in the arts somehow. I wasn't convinced that a career in theatre or a career in the visual arts necessarily made sense for me because attached to my artistic interests was this overriding feeling of the need for utility. I really wanted to make sure that what I was doing had some use or had some larger function or made sense in people's lives in the larger context. So then when I left school I started to work for the Canadian Mental Health Association as a psychiatric social worker. I worked in their housing programs as an advocate for patients and I did that for about two years. My partner, during this period, started to take a furniture course at Sheridan College in Oakville, at that time the School of Crafts and Design and now the School of Animation Arts and Design, and I kind of thought that it looked interesting. It never occurred to me before that one could be a furniture designer or a designer of any kind! I knew nothing about this, and I thought it seemed sort of interesting so I decided that I might take this course too. I enrolled in it and started my career as a furniture designer. When I first left school I made furniture! I had the studio, I had the shop space and I made furniture. Slowly this grew of less interest to me and I really felt that production (or making objects for production) had far more meaning and also matched my democratic youthful ideals. So I started to build a body of work that was more suitable for production and I started to work for Canadian manufacturers. I started to do some consultancies in developing countries like Guyana, South America. From there I built a career that I think, at this point, embraces both a kind of democracy of design on many levels (making products that are appropriate or available to a wide variety of people) but also working with social concerns of mine."

Qasim Virjee
Patty Johnson, Elise Hodson
March 2006
CANADA Toronto Region, Ontario, Toronto Region, CANADA
© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.


Establishing a role for a Canadian furniture designer in Guyana.

Establishing a role for a Canadian furniture in Guyana

"I started originally working in Guyana in 2000. I was hired on by the Canadian International Development Agency Consultancy. I was hired as a furniture design consultant for the furniture industry in Guyana. I'd never been to a third world country before but off I went for 21 days. During that time I visited 14 factories in Guyana. I got a very good chance to compare with Canada or the US what their furniture industry is about and also the obstacles faced by third world countries. It's almost a miracle that any industry exists but it does. I completed that consultancy and I was very moved by their efforts and the materials they were using there also fit very will with the kind of materials I had worked with previously. [...] I was actually really compelled and I really wanted to continue to work there. It was really hard to see a way to do that because the industry is not set up to work with designers, the infrastructure is not there to really allow design to flourish and what they need in addition to design is actually access to markets."

Qasim Virjee
Patty Johnson, Elise Hodson
March 2006
GUYANA
© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.


Establishing a role for a Canadian furniture designer in Guyana.

Establishing a role for a Canadian furniture in Guyana

"We started talking to USAID, which is the United States Agency for International Development who run quite large projects in Guyana. They run them in a variety of sectors including fisheries, timber, health and safety. They're all running service programs and we talked to them about running a furniture program aimed to create an export product line and aimed at a launch. Initially when we wrote up the terms of reference it covered my costs for a year working on the product lines over a series of visits to Guyana. We proposed that I work with a couple of companies and at the same time work with some local manufacturers to improve their quality in the hopes that eventually they would come into the export market. Very soon after that project started, USAID expressed interest in actually expanding the project to include a market launch in New York. The project was put together as something that would span about a year and a half starting with product development, trying to address some of the needs of the local market and ending with a launch in New York. We are now two months away from the launch."

Qasim Virjee
Patty Johnson, Elise Hodson
March 2006
GUYANA
© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.


Establishing a role for a Canadian furniture designer in Guyana.

Establishing a role for a Canadian furniture in Guyana

"I guess one of the things that makes a project like this appropriate for me is that I have a craft background. So although I've always been interested in production, I've also always been very interested in craft. That was my educational background, and continues to be my educational background [as I complete a] masters [degree] from Central St. Martin's [school]. Central St. Martin's is famous for many things, among them fashion design but also craft and design. And having said that I'll clarify that my level of comfort with craft production shows there and and shows why I would be interested in a project like this. To contextualize that a bit more broadly, I would also say that 2/3 of the world operates on hand labour. So despite the fact in our culture we think faster, bigger, more, better, in fact a lot of the things we use everyday are manufactured by hand in developing countries or in emerging economies. Design has an obligation to address these sorts of things. So I see that as a very important part of what I'm doing."

Qasim Virjee
Patty Johnson, Elise Hodson
March 2006
GUYANA
© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.


Establishing a role for a Canadian furniture designer in Guyana.

Establishing a role for a Canadian furniture in Guyana "[For] both of these companies that I'm working with in Guyana and Mabeo in Africa (Botswana), I have to stress that they are very well traveled. They know a lot about design. They understand design and almost any of the clients I have worked with value the importance of design in what they do. They each have their core clients already. I think each of them are working with me because they want to, in different ways, change what they were doing. And they also understand that design is an avenue into [export]. You can't manufacture furniture at that level, at that volume without understanding the process of design, without understanding that you draw something, you model it, you prototype it, you master it and then you make it."

Qasim Virjee
Patty Johnson, Elise Hodson
March 2006
GUYANA
© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.


Readjusting your expectations: the challenges of working in a developing country.

Readjusting your expectations; the challenges of working in a developing country "One of the things we’ve really had to deal with is working around quality for the markets we’re going into. The target markets that we’re going into expect not only a material quality and a construction quality, but also a design quotient. This is something that has actually taken quite a bit of time and has involved quite a lot of discussion back and forth. The second biggest problem, I think, is infrastructure in developing countries – quite frankly there is no infrastructure in developing countries. I think you really have to readjust your expectations of how things are going to roll out. You can’t be working in this environment and expect that you’re going to call your local lumberyard when you run out materials and there’s going to be a delivery - because there’s just not. That infrastructure does not exist. Photography, communications does not exist, power - it goes on and off all day long. some of the communities I’m working with live in very, very remote areas so they live in the interior of Guyana in the middle of the rainforest or they live in the middle of the Kalahari desert in Botswana and – despite the IBM ads – these people don’t have computers, they don’t even have phones. So there’s a lot of issues you have to be very flexible about and you have to figure out how you’re going to work within that. Some of the people I work with don’t speak English, so there’s a different set of obstacles."

Qasim Virjee
Patty Johnson, Elise Hodson
March 2006
GUYANA
© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.


Protecting the rainforest: sustainable manufacturing in Guyana.

Protecting the rainforest: sustainable manufacturing in Guyana "No one, in my opinion, is more aware of these things [sustainability, protecting the environment] than the people that are working in these countries. They’ve taught me more about this than one can imagine. They’re not relying on my expertise, I can tell you right now. LianaCane in Guyana, for instance, works with this easily renewable vine from the rainforest so her entire mission – her mandate for her company – is completely sustainably based. I mean this is what she is about and this is why this company exists."

Qasim Virjee
March 2006
GUYANA
© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.


Guyana in the global economy: exporting furniture with a new business model could have long-term benefits at home.

Guyana in the global economy: exporting furniture with a new business model could have long-term benefits at home. "Quite rightly, there is a lot of discussion, a lot of debate these days around the global marketplace, around what’s happening in the global environment, the local and the global. I think that for me this project has been a very nice contribution to that discussion. The methodology of this project has been very important for me, the development of that methodology which not only includes design processes but also includes working in a very explicit way with both these manufacturers in these communities. The model is one of partnership, one of collaboration not hierarchical, not a branch plant. Working across cultures to create new identities for people, building economic capacities not only for the manufacturers but for the communities. The hope would be that it will build some capacity in their communities so that they can continue 1. as a community and 2. that some of these techniques can be passed down to the younger generation and I don’t mean that in the icky traditional sense. I actually mean that a lot of the younger generations are not that interested in these techniques because they’re still used in a very traditional way. Even though they live in very remote spots they actually are aware of the world and so my feeling is that if you can show how these things can engage the outside world and it can lead to economic capacity then, in some way, the younger generation will become more interested in that. For manufacturers who are responsible for and support hundreds of people in these countries, that they have substantial orders or that they could be attached to these affluent markets can, and hopefully will, be a huge benefit for them."

Qasim Virjee
Patty Johnson, Elise Hodson
March 2006
GUYANA
© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.


On the same wavelength: new colleagues, new friends.

On the same wavelength: new colleagues, new friends "On a personal level, I have met the most fantastic people. All the people I’ve worked with I’m extremely fond of. They are highly intelligent, very political people. When I see the effort that they make in these places – no one deserves this more than they do. We’ve worked on a lot of things, we’ve prototyped a lot of things, we’ve built a lot of things and the things that when they’re prototyped everyone in the factory goes ‘that’s good. I like that’ are always the things I feel that way about. So I feel like we’re on the same wavelength."

Qasim Virjee
Patty Johnson, Elise Hodson
March 2006
GUYANA
© 2006, Design Exchange. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

Students analyze the impact of multinationals and globalization on developing nations, emerging economies, and the exploitation of natural and human resources. They apply critical thinking and problem-solving skills using the methodology of designers. Working in groups, students employ multiple learning styles and cognitive skills; practice planning, organization, and interpersonal skills; use current technology to graphically represent the story of the United Fruit Company. Students are introduced to the concept of scenario building as a method to plan for the future. Through a current Canadian case study, students evaluate how Canadian expertise is being applied in developing countries to empower the indigenous people and create autonomous and sustainable economies.

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