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©2018 BY SUMMER CHEN

Designer Statement

I am a multidisciplinary designer with a background in both Fine Art and Business. My current projects were ignited by my responses to social and environmental concerns within the modern industrial societies, specifically waste management within urban settings. I design projects to investigate innovative ways to bring positive societal changes through product-based design solutions. I aim to strike a balance between delivering a design outcome and allowing artistic exploration within my design practice, as I do not view design as a solution in isolation.

My understanding of design is heavily influenced by Victor Papanek and his book Design for the real world: Human Ecology and Social Change. He promoted community codesign and pro bono schemes that cast users as the crucial participants throughout the design process and urged designers to produce morally and environmentally responsible design solutions. Those are the core values and principles that guide my design practice. In my work Urban Encounters, a participatory public art installation, I designed a group of reconfigurable public furniture as a tool to study the interactive relationship between people and public structure in the urban space and give users the power to construct their own space instead of being dominated by the existing one. For Bukentsu, I designed a domestic waste management unit to help facilitate the daily activity of waste separation and recycling and provide a viable food composting solution for my community in order to tackle the increasing issue with waste management in the city.

I employ an interdisciplinary research-based approach for my projects. Experimentation and active engagement with my environment help me to develop a greater understanding of my target issue; these artistic explorations with the people and materials involved in creating the problem help me identify suitable design solutions. In order to study domestic waste disposal behavior for my project Bukentsu, I unpacked rubbish and recycling bins and analyzed their contents to understand the factors that play into waste disposal decisions and my discovery through that process led me to a key design decision for the project.

I utilize digital tools and modern technologies, such as Rhino 3D modeling software and laser cutting, to help me visualize my ideas and refine my process of prototyping. I experiment extensively with food waste materials aiming to incorporate the philosophy of circular design into my practice.

I view design as a civic service: a powerful tool to explore, engage, and manage societal and ecological transformation; and it is through this lens that I approach my current body of work. I aspire to create real, practical solutions through social innovation by design, and intend to continue exploring the potential applications of food waste-based materials.