Week 4: “Objectified” and “Toys from Trash for Learning”

In the documentary Objectified, two things that stood out most to me were the idea of democratic design, and sustainable design. I thought about all of the nice things that are sold in the MOMA and Cooper Hewitt Store, and I was instantly reminded of how expensive they are. Once, I purchased a glasses case that folds up into a prism-shape and closes with a magnet. When the case is not in use, the case folds in half and the magnet once again keeps everything in place. My dad really happened to like the case, but when I tried to look for a similar one online, I couldn’t find it anywhere. I couldn’t even find the original that I bought at the store months before. While I support designers making a living off of their designs, I think that if you really believe in design for bettering the lives of people, you should believe in trying to better the designs of as many people as possible. Better design should be something that every benefits from, not just a select few.

The other story that really stood out to me most in the documentary was the story of the toothbrush that ended up on the beach. A few years ago, I went on a family vacation with my parents to Belize. I remember looking at the beautiful beaches next to the hotel, and enjoying the water. One day, we decided to walk a little further down the beach to see what else we could find. Less than a mile away, we ended up on a path covered in trash. I had never seen so much debris before. All around us lay plastic bottles, towels, just anything imaginable. To see a place so beautiful littered like that was heartbreaking. Listening to a designer talk about their impact on the environment was very interesting to me. Designers create, they build, but I had never seen a designer talk about the life span of a product, or the inevitability of it. As average people, most of us consume and contribute to the trash on a regular basis, rarely taking into account how we affect the world around us. In recent years, I’ve noticed more and more eco-friendly designs that have been introduced through social media. I saw a video about a water capsule that completely dissolves in your mouth as soon as it bursts, and spoons that are made out of a hard, wheat substance that can be eaten or easily decomposed. Out of curiosity, I was looking for more sustainable design and found this company: http://tomorrowmachine.se/#This too shall pass. It’s clear that designers are trying to tackle the problem of sustainability in design, but how can we make design like this the standard? How can we mass produce objects that are well designed and safe for the environment at a rate that can actually make a difference? Will plastic manufacturers put up a fight? I’m not sure what the answers to these questions are just yet, but I am eager to see how we can make a future of sustainability come true.


Listening to Avrind Gupta’s talk, I at first thought of how inventive and creative Gupta is to reuse items to create toys and learning objects. From an adult perspective, it seems so impressive. But if anyone has ever watched children play, it is very apparent that children come up with multiple uses for things quite naturally. A chair can be a spaceship, a fork can be a shovel. And although children without guidance will not learn what a polygon is, they can learn by doing and inventing on their own. I think Gupta’s talk was very interesting, but it seemed less about using trash and more about what can be done with little for children. This begs the question whether or not we need to create toys for children? Can we give them modified everyday objects instead of ever heading into ToysRUs? Do parents or teachers have time to assemble objects that allow for play and learning? Children’s toys seem like such an easy thing to design, but making a toy educational and enjoyable is a feat in its own. Gupta’s talk touches lightly on using trash to make toys, but it doesn’t touch at the root of the problem. Creating millions of plastic toys every year creates great amounts of waste. Instead of creating toys from trash, shouldn’t we be trying to create objects that don’t become trash? While I thought Gupta’s talk was very interesting, I couldn’t help but think that assuming we have trash is something we should try to change. His viewpoint may factor in the financial situation of his audience as well. While I think that toy manufacturing is where the change needs to happen, children that Gupta may be teaching might not have money to spend on toys. As a result, toys from trash is essential to their learning and to their childhood.

One thought on “Week 4: “Objectified” and “Toys from Trash for Learning”

  1. pretty interesting reflections Ali, I’m glad you took this assignment really serious and you also posted this thoughts here.
    I can add to your reflections that regarding design, it is pretty bad that planned obsolescence was popularized by a designer(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brooks_Stevens), when as you mentioned, designers should design for bettering the lives of people.

    Thanks for sharing the web of that company, I didn’t know them!

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