PRODUCTS AND BYPRODUCTS:
TRANSFORMING THE INCIDENTAL INTO THE INTENTIONAL
Parsons the New School for Design
In 1957, American industrial designer George Nelson used leftover scrap blanks from his own knife stampings to create an elegant floor-to-ceiling screen for the home of industrialist William E. Dunlap. Still today, the partition is convention breaking. As the diversion of waste streams usually end at recycling, the novel repurposing of die-cut drops in a domestic environment was both clever and unexpected. While this seminal project’s synergistic approach did not become a central working methodology for Nelson, it (as well as projects done by his contemporaries) hinted at how intentional byproducts might one day become an integral part of closed loop manufacturing.
Scenarios of joint processing commonly occur with commodity materials such as feather-down from poultry processing, lanolin from wool washing, and asphalt from oil refining. Conversely, industrial designers rarely specify or accommodate production outside the establishment of a ‘primary product’. This paper examines opportunities for a more optimized multi-product developmental approach, and offers case study scenarios by leading companies. Examples include bio-composite molded forms helping to green the toy industry, creative end-cycle reuse in packaging, and parametric nesting in fashion flatwork and sheet-goods. The array of co-products referenced posits how enterprising designers are creating more affordable, sustainable, and purposeful things.