A chance to meet, discuss and share ideas on sustainability and furniture design.


Tommy Papaioannou will be participating in this year’s Toolkit, presenting his MANUFESTO and thoughts on consumerism, obsolescence and sustainable furniture design. More info here.





Tommy Papaioannou – August 2016.

To summarise the thoughts and the suggestions of this research 10 recommendations have been developed and a manifesto has been produced. This is to act as a general guide for furniture designers. Wanting to keep it short and sharp it is generic and not analytical (like most manifestos are). Please note that these suggestions are the result of this research as well as part of years of personal experience.
A short analysis of each point follows bellow to assist towards a better understanding. It has been named MANUFESTO signposting that repairing is a manual process/practice.


  1. Check your materials, their origin and your suppliers.

There are unsustainable sources and practices in the global supplying chain of prime materials. Usually certification and accreditation gives a good indication of origin and practise. Local sourcing is ideal. Very low prices are usually an indication of low quality, hidden costs and bad practises.

  1. Suggest non hybrid-composite materials.

Reinforcing two or more materials of varying properties forms composite or hybrid materials. Hybridisation is a process of incorporating synthetic fibers with that of natural and metallic fibers in order to yield better strength, stiffness, high strength to weight ratio and other mechanical properties. Composites can offer a series of advantages (especially light weight and strength) but are extremely hard to take apart and reprocess for recycling or reuse. Usually they are petrochemically based and are highly toxic and unsustainable.

  1. Suggest mechanical joining rather than: gluing, welding, brazing and soldering.

Gluing and welding is a fast, cheap and very effective way of putting together two separate parts or materials. It makes it impossible to take these elements apart for repairs. It seems impossible but there is a variety of examples of how to put together different parts using mechanical means without problems. Cars, boats, motorbikes, airplanes etc are all assembled with mechanical joints and fasteners. They carry heavy weights and are subject to massive physical forces. They all function and operate sound and safely as long as they are serviced accordingly

4.Make sure parts of your product are separable and easy to disassemble and be replaced.

Ease of disassembly has a cost effect and that can be key to whether repair will take place or not.

    5. Suggest solutions that do not need special tools or custom processes for their assembly and disassembly.

Special tools and processes function as disincentives for people. Ideally a user should be able to replace a part without going to specialists using everyday tools.

  1. Make assembly-disassembly instructions comprehensive and easily accessible.

It is essential for instructions to be comprehensive to the average user and widely accessible via Internet.

  1. Make sure your product will last as long as possible.

Products were made this way for thousands of years. This is a matter of prime materials quality and manufacturing processes. It adds cost on the product but it can be seen as an investment. Quality furniture has a very high resale price.

  1. Replace any heavy footprint material with a light one.

Traditional materials have a lower environmental impact. A life cycle assessment of materials gives a very good picture of their impact. An organisation like the Materials Council can help designers being informed. See image of materials footprint.

  1. Avoid design trends and fashion.

As professor Tim Cooper argues in his ‘Longer Lasting Products’ book: today’s fashion is tomorrow’s junk. Today’s functionality is tomorrow’s dysfunctionality. Today’s beauty is tomorrow’s tawdry reject.

  1. Get informed about materials and processes and inform others.

It is essential to be and stay informed about materials and processes. It is a big part of any designer’s job. Developments and research results are in a constant motion getting updated and introducing new insights and results all the time. Spreading the word is essential for every conscious designer.

Today’s fashion is tomorrow’s junk.

The cover photograph is of Paul Bonomini’s design for the RSA’s Weeeman Project. The robotic figure is made of scrap electrical and electronic equipment that weighs 3.3 tonnes, the average amount that each person in the UK throws away during his or her lifetime.


Tim Cooper, 2010

The throwaway society. How quaint that term seems now! I am old enough to remember the shock that attended its arrival as a description of modernity. The wastefulness it implied. The damage it evoked. The erosion it predicted, not just in terms of product durability but in terms of social durability, in the durability of society itself. And yet today the concept is so deeply entrenched in our cultural self-image as to be almost redundant. Very soon, I imagine, there will no longer be a generation that remembers what it was like to live in a society other than this. Was there really ever a time of make do and mend, of repair and reparability, of continuity and durability? Or was it just a dream? A figment of history books and senile imaginations? Our children have already inherited a very different view of the world. In which it is taken for granted that things don’t last. That relentless novelty is the order of the day. And for a few years they may even be able to sustain the belief that things don’t need to last. That today’s fashion is tomorrow’s junk. Today’s functionality is tomorrow’s dysfunctionality. Today’s beauty is tomorrow’s tawdry reject.

The tyranny of the trend.


Gerard McGuickin, October 2013

Trends encourage mass consumerism. They manipulate and exploit both the consumer and, usually, those making these fashionable – ‘trendy’ – products. High streets, retail parks and shopping centres cater almost exclusively to consumable goods. They rely on consumers to be impulsive individuals, taking little time to think about the merits of any purchase. How many consumers reflect: will I actually use this product; do I genuinely want or need it? But when Jamie Oliver is selling them cooking utensils, David Beckham is selling them cologne and Kirstie Allsopp is selling them bedding, well they must be good products, right? Wrong.

Consumer vs user. Are you a consumer of products or a user of products? Are your choices considered, genuine and environmentally-minded? Are you able to make intelligent decisions about design that you buy? Are you aware that whilst everything is design, not everything is good design. Answer yes to these questions and you are clearly a user of design, conscientious in the choices you make.

read more here

Furniture design for durability.


photo from:  


Tommy Papaioannou  – July 2016

Furniture was traditionally built to last. We can still find, in vintage or antique stores, furniture that was made a very long time ago and are still in a perfect condition. Durability was a build in value that was taken for granted. That was before manufacturers discovered build obsolescence.

As quite ingeniously Jonathan Chapman argues (2005: 9), “Sustainable design methodologies lack philosophical depth”, approaching the problem with superficial treatments and not focusing on the actual cause of it “comparable with that of Western medicine”.[1]

It takes a different worldview, so to suggest a new way of building our material world. There is a large amount of superficial approaches, as well as scientific suggestions that remain inapplicable, or too complicated to be implemented by industry and the designers.

There is no clear path to follow for designers. That makes it challenging and interesting, as well as disappointing and confusing.

Much of the current popular literature has to do with underlying the obvious for all design practices, in order to raise awareness and increase the participation of designers in the question. There have been significant attempts, but without structure and persistence. There are only very few exemptions with good results.

It is always better to deal with a problem at the early stages of it, so it is wise to focus on the design aspect of the problem. By suggesting colours and shapes, designers endorse production methods and materials and their consequences. This should be well addressed and examined in the design education.

“Just as we can measure whether or not a design is ‘usable’ or has a high ‘emotional appeal,’ we should begin to develop a framework to understand whether a design is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in a sustainable sense.  Durability is a key dimension of what it means to be sustainable and therefore is seen as a contributor to the “goodness” of the design. Consequently, any definition of good design must transcend the traditional ‘eye of the beholder,” definition, which is based only on a subjective aesthetic meter and define a more objective definition of good design.”[2]



[1] Chapman, J., 2005. Emotionally Durable Design. Objects, Experiences and Empathy. Earthscan.

[2] http://johnnyholland.org/2010/01/durability-as-a-mark-of-good-design/



No dumping.


No dumping.

Tommy Papaioannou – June 2016

Design used to be: social, revolutionary, democratic, utilitarian, functional, ergonomic etc. Nowadays form and shape is the beginning and cost and profit is the end of the design process. Design has ended up being: cool, hot, hip, chic, stylish, trendy, must have, Insta-cool, sexy, glamorous, latest etc.

Designers are not educated to consider social and environmental parameters. Young furniture designers are asked to explore and find their own “identity” as being a unique trademark and something distinctive and easily recognisable. Nobody is asked to consider: society, carbon footprint of materials, environmental consequences, product afterlife etc. If formal design education is not offering these insights, how can we expect furniture designers with such sensitivities?

Young furniture designers evolve an “approach” or “philosophy” that often has nothing to offer but what you see. Quite a few times this approach sounds thoughtful and well explored but if it gets analysed and studied, the results show quite the opposite. It is obvious that the “philosophy” is only a “marquee” for a design practice that is happening for all the wrong reasons. So to draw a parallel with a theatrical play or a movie, everything can be perfect. Costumes, scenography, music, lighting, production even performances but the actual play or film is superficial and purposeless.

We must shape a new mentality.

Doris Salcedo

1550 Chairs Stacked Between Two City Buildings, an installation by Doris Salcedo at Istanbul Biennial 2010.

Tommy Papaioannou – June 2016

The words of Paul Mazur, a leading Wall Street banker working for Lehman Brothers in 1927, were clear: “People must be trained to desire, to want new things even before the old have been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality”.[1]

The Waste Makers is a book that was written in 1960 by Vance Packard and describes this mental invasion in all its glory.

“The emerging philosophy was most fervently and bluntly stated perhaps in two long articles in The Journal of Retailing during the mid-fifties. The author was Marketing Consultant Victor Lebow. He made a forthright plea for “forced consumption.”

“Our enormously productive economy . . . demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions, our ego satisfactions, in consumption. . . We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever increasing rate.”[2]

The results are: a total disregard to humans, the society and the planet in the name of “growth”. The plan had unbelievably “good” results. Today’s global consumption is exceeding earth’s capacity by 50%. Continuing on this manner by 2030 we will need two earths to support our consumer needs.[3] Resources are running out and pollution is happening in all stages of a products life, from material extraction to product disposal.

Design has played its’ role in this effort. Graphic, interior and industrial design have been generally orientated towards this effort. Mainstream design education is usually market affiliated and it is perceived as a vital part of the consuming process.



[1] https://www.frieze.com/article/truth-dare

[2] The Waste Makers, Vance Packard, 1960 Penguin Books, page 31

[3] UNITED NATIONS ENVIRONMENT ASSEMBLY. 2014. Sustainable Consumption and Production: an important contribution to the Post-2015 development Agenda and the SDGs [Online]. http://www.unep.org/10yfp/Activities/InternationalActivities/tabid/106470/Default.aspx.