COLLABORATIVE UNIT | Week 2

Week 2 🗓: 17 Feb - 21 Feb

Brief 🔍

Design a new idea/ product for the ecosystem by using Algae.

Teammates: 🤝Lili, Yuki and Guang


Research Methods 📚

We used the "Literature Review" and "Prototyping" methods to do our project.


In the second week of the collaborative unit, we visited "Green Lab" and met Ande Gregson, who is the director. He introduced what Green Lab does and what issues they are caring about. So, it is an open innovation lab and ecosystem for individuals and organizations to design sustainably for the food system, new materials and energy.

Photo of Green Lab

We gonna learn how to use more environmentally friendly material to design renewable concept/ product that can help for improving the ecosystem. Ande showed us the below video to help us rethink about the circular economy.

Circular Economy 🔄

After watching the video, he gave us a small task to list 3 examples about the circular economy. Then, I discussed with my groupmates, we found out some interesting examples. The first example is a New York designer - Gregg Moore, who creates restaurant's tableware using waste bones from its kitchen. They are made from the bones of the every cows whose dairy and meat is served. They used an 18th-century recipe for bone china to design the tableware. (Hahn, 2020) The second example is about using biodegradable soybean fiber to design building in the World Expo - China. (Jordana, 2009) The third example is Italian designer - Emma Sicher, who designed eco-friendly food packaging from fermented bacteria and yeast. It provides a sustainable alternative to plastic. (Hitti, 2018) Below is the sketch that shows the loop cycle of each example.

3 examples about circular economy

Material 🧫

Through sharing and listening to different eco-cycle examples, we learned that designing renewable product consider not only how to go back to nature, but also consider the whole process of creating and producing them. After doing this task, Ande introduced "Material Lab" to us and invited Anoushka - the Material Lab Curator, who taught us how to use Algae as a material to design and how to produce them into renewable plastic.

Photos of Material Lab


Then, we followed the recipe to create the Gelatin plastics. The composition is 12 grams of Glycerol, 240 ml grams of Water and 48 grams of Gelatin.

The making of

Our output of Gelatin plastics


Moreover, we tried to create seaweed recipes by using 4 grams of Agar agar, 2.5 ml of Glycerol and 420 ml of Water.

The seaweed recipes

After creating the Algae materials, Ande gave us a task to design a new idea/ product that can help the ecosystem by using the Algae materials. Then, I discussed the topic with my groupmates. Yuki and Guang suggested creating some accessories by using Algae. However, Lili suggested thinking of using the lively Algae, instead of the dead Algae. We have some conflicts in this case. As the teacher taught us how to use Algae as a material to produce them into renewable plastic, so every team set a limitation of using the dead algae. When handling this conflict, I communicated with our team and encouraged them to think out of the box and explore different directions. Then, we divided our work to research in different areas. When I was researching the feature of algae, I found out some functions that algae can help to improve human life. The first is that it can capture and sequester the CO2, also can take the carbon dioxide in flue gas and turn it into biomass. This is all lively Algae can do. After we tested to use the lively algae to be the painting color for children, we successfully created a special idea and got a lot of unexpected results. The magical moment is that we found out every painting becomes unique when the algae color grows.


"Dealt with properly, conflict can be beneficial. It causes problems to surface and be addressed. Conflict can force individuals to search for new approaches; it can foster creativity and enhance the problem-solving process." (Clements and Gido, 2012)


1.💡DISCOVER (Salonen, 2012)

• the beginning of the design process

• an idea or a need to do something new or develop existing products or services

• exploring and gathering inspirations

• identifying the problem


So when we were brainstorming our idea together, we thought about the feature of algae and also the main purpose of using algae as a material to design something which is renewable. As we know, it is a photosynthetic organism that can be used to make environmentally friendly building, packaging and textiles. However, after we used the materials to design some accessories. We don’t want to just create a new biodegradable plastic product for selling. We want to include an interactive experience for humans and algae.

Algae Accessories

2.💡DEFINE (Salonen, 2012)

• filtering and analyzing the findings

• brainstorming

• visualization

• prototyping and testing

• selecting ideas for development


So we rethought about our main purpose, is to build a better ecosystem for our world. It is a long term planning. We thought about designing something that can educate the next generation by using lively algae.


To achieve our goal, we designed an “Algae painting kit set” to introduce algae to children. The kit set can teach children to create a unique and vibrant painting. It aims to encourage the next generation to use algae as a more sustainable component of their lives and in their creation. It is not just a renewable product for painting, but also a product that can give you an interactive experience. Below is the cycle system for the kit set.

Cycle Concept for the kit set (Sketched by me)

3. 💡DEVELOP (Salonen, 2012)

• prototyping and testing

• gathering feedback

• further visualization, brainstorming

• narrowing down offered concepts


Each painting has a color-changing process as a means of making the algae more aesthetically pleasing. As the color of the cells become more vibrant as the algae grow, it symbolizes the interaction of human and nature.


When kid uses the algae color to draw, it comes into contact with air it starts to oxidize, which means the green will begin to change color and the painting may look different from one week to the next, making every painting unique. Also, the benefits of using algae color are to reduce the waste of using harmful colors.


We wanted to create a design that would make the substance more appealing, encouraging the next generation to welcome algae into their home for decorative purposes as well as helping nature.


Below is the experience flow to show how to use the kit set.

Experience flow (Sketched by me)
Experience flow (Sketched by me)

4.💡DELIVER (Salonen, 2012)

• testing and refining

• stakeholder approval/rejection

• presenting or launching the product or looping back to an earlier stage


We presented our concept and prototype to the class. We imitated the kids drawing style and created 3 different paintings in order to show the concept. It explained how every painting becomes unique when the algae color grows.

The prototype of "Algae Painting Kit"

Project feedback & Reflection

We received some valuable feedback from our professor, classmates and Ande. They like our idea of creating algae color and educating the next generation. Ande said that it is a brilliant and possible invention. If we have a chance to further develop, he suggested us develop more algae colors, not only the green color but also red, yellow and blue, etc. He told us there are some designers already doing some experiments about using algae as color. Therefore, creating an interactive kit set for teaching children is a beneficial design for the future. In this project, I learned how to consider environmentally friendly materials when I am designing. Last but not least, I improved my project management skills when I was working with my teammates. They are all so helpful and we jammed a lot of good ideas.


References 📖

Clements, J. and Gido, J. (2012). Effective project management. [Mason, Ohio]: South-Western, Cengage Learning.


Hahn, J. (2020). Gregg Moore creates restaurant's tableware using waste bones from its kitchen. [online] Dezeen. Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2020/02/03/gregg-moore-bone-china-blue-hill-stone-barns/ [Accessed 18 Feb. 2020].


Hitti, N. (2018). Emma Sicher makes eco-friendly food packaging from fermented bacteria and yeast. [online] Dezeen. Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2018/11/13/sustainable-food-packaging-emma-sicher-peel/ [Accessed 19 Feb. 2020].


Jordana, S. (2009). Switzerland Pavillion for Shanghai Expo 2010. [online] ArchDaily. Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/30860/switzerland-pavillion-for-shanghai-expo-2010 [Accessed 19 Feb. 2020].


Pokoo-Aikins, G., Nadim, A., El-Halwagi, M. and Mahalec, V. (2009). Design and analysis of biodiesel production from algae grown through carbon sequestration. Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy, 12(3), pp.239-254.


Salonen, E. (2012). Designing Collaboration. [online] Designing Collaboration. Available at: http://www.designingcollaboration.com/ [Accessed 15 Feb. 2012].


Wakkary, R., Odom, W., Hauser, S., Hertz, G. and Lin, H. (2015). Material Speculation: Actual Artifacts for Critical Inquiry. Aarhus Series on Human Centered Computing, 1(1), pp.97-105.

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