‘What Design Can Do’ is an annual conference where people from all over the world come together to spark ideas and share visions. As part of this year’s conference I got to visit the conference and help out with two sessions.
As a design student I have always seen this conference being advertised but had never got the chance to visit or take part until this year.
The conference was held in the Stadsschouwburg, a beautiful Renaissance style theatre located in the heart of Leidseplein. Each room was filled with high ceilings, large angelic paintings and, ornate arches.
Freitag started when two brothers from Zurich, Switzerland were looking for a practical, strong bag to carry their creative work. They stumbled across a unique idea of collecting used truck tarpaulins, car seat belts and bicycle tubes to create a collection of individual bags for like-minded creative people all over the world.
They also talked about one of their recent projects the ‘AD ABSURDUM LAUNDRY CABIN’ where the brothers teamed up with the Riklin Twins and tested their own principle by collecting old Freitag bags and turning them back into truck tarpaulins and then re re recycling them back into bags!
This project inspired them to create a set of guidelines for a circular economy. The team also created an ‘inhibiton’ which was an exhibition about their attitudes to life which was based on their very own laundry room. This resulted in the AD ABSURDUM publication — a catalogue which demonstrates how to create your own pop exhibition. Daniel Freitag himself brought a number of these books to the session which we were able to look through. The books themselves are designed beautifully from the binding to the different paper materials. The books are created so they can even be posted to a friend allowing them to utilise the book as well, Freitag really has created a true circular system in every aspect of their brand.
The session started with a talk by Daniel Freitag himself explaining how his business came about and the core values of Freitag. Switzerland is a country which takes environmental issues very seriously, people are well educated in the matter of being eco-friendly, so recycling is a very important aspect and is a main aspect of the brand Freitag itself.
This also relates to their core mantra ‘we think and act in cycles’ — this is based on the idea of using waste materials which shouldn’t have existed in the first place.
By creating a system which generates zero waste and utilises all of its inputs then we as a civilisation can reduce our carbon footprint, especially in a world of fast fashion and constant changing trends.
By using Freitags original principles the group were split into teams each with a different day of the week in German: Montag, Dienstag, Mittwoch, Donnerstag, Samstag and Sonntag. The inspiration for this came as Freitag translates to Friday and is ironically also the last name of the two Swiss brothers.
The challenge was to think of a problem that the brand could solve and to create the guiding principles for the solution. My team was given Dienstag meaning Tuesday. As a group we discussed problems which we all faced on a daily basis such as commuting to work or not being able to see family members. As a group we all decided that the lack of time to experience nature was a problem we all shared. The next task was to discuss how we could solve this problem using Freitags principles. My group discussed various topics such as oxygen bars to help decrease polluted air or a system which allows you to switch off and relax. But we needed to create a unique idea that did not exist.
This type of challenge allowed us to think about how we can use design in a more unconventional way instead of just aesthetically.
In the end our group agreed on the idea of designing a service where people could purchase a special form of time, a service which you can ring and it would relax you by allowing any notifications on your phone to switch off and it could for example guide you to a garden nearby where you can relax by nature or start producing calming whale sounds. This idea prompted us to think about the ways in which we use our own time and whether we use it as efficiently as we can. As part of this each group also had to think of their own brand principles just like Freitag. Our team created principles based on the idea that our service should be accessible to everyone, that it should allow everyone to get closer to nature and it should give back to the environment for example donating profits to grow more trees.
Towards the end of the session each group had to present their ideas for each of their brands.
As each team presented there seemed to be a similarity between each team’s ideas. Every team chose the ‘lack of time’ as their problem.
As each day of the week went on stage to present their idea every team had a new solution whether it be hiring people to do work for you or purposely creating guidelines allowing you to relax and be lazy. Maybe the days of the week acted as a trigger for everyone to think of time as a problem, but it is something we all take for granted.
Overall this workshop was very insightful and humorous. It allowed everyone to focus on how they could potentially improve their lives and make use of what time they have. The session was fun, informative and lead by a great host. Many thanks to Daniel Freitag and Stefan Pangratz for letting me help out and take part!