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Lance Han from Dot Design: Sustainable Products Are “Often Treated With Disdain”

This brand-new series "Discover Good Design" tells you stories behind the iF winning products sold at the iF design shop. To start with, learn why "Re-ing" from Taiwan has become our first collaborate brand and how their bamboo fiber plates make sustainable design possible.

"Re-ing Bamboo Fiber Plates", one of the award-winning products at the iF DESIGN AWARD 2021, is made of bamboo fiber. It implements sustainable design in ordinary people's lives at an affordable price. iF interviewed the man behind this design: Design Director Lance Han from Dot Design. He talks about the creative inspiration for these plates and provides insides in more sustainable design practices.

iF: Could you please introduce the brand "Re-ing", and talk about how you realized the importance of sustainable and circular design?

Lance: "Re" itself means a cycle, while "ing" represents an ongoing action. The brand wants sustainability and recycling to no longer simply be slogans, but instead an ongoing and happening events. Product design can have a decisive impact before things are produced. In addition to keen observations of shapes and trends, understanding the possibility of sustainability and the importance of a circular economy are also things that we as world citizens should practice in everyday life. Over the years, we have been exposed to many applications and designs for materials and have found that the choice of material is inseparable from the design. Therefore, we try to find more possibilities for the future in this process.

Lance Han from Dot Design: Sustainable Products Are “Often Treated With Disdain”

About Lance Han

Lance Han, the Design Director at Dot Design, has been active in the design sector for 25 years. and established Dot Design in June 2003. He has been teaching design courses at universities for more than 20 years. Teaching is one of his biggest pleasures and goals, and it also allows him to maintain a young and energetic mindset in design.

Re-ing launched two new projects in 2021. The first is a PET bag design project. Everyone knows that most PET bottles are made of PET materials. Taiwan has a high level of skill in weaving PET drawn yarn into PET cloth. This time we collaborated with a Taiwan textile factory to design a 100% PET bag. The stitching, buttons and zippers are all made of PET. The fabric is designed to involve no dyeing or waste, and it is made with Taiwan’s excellent fabric pleating technology. It is expected that in the second half of 2021, international designers will be invited to participate in the design of the bag. The other project is the pineapple fiber design project. Pineapples are widely grown in Taiwan, so we collaborated with Taiwanese farmers to collect a large amount of pineapple leaves after harvest. We turned the pineapple leaves into fiber cloth and further develop products such as shirts and bags without using any plastic fibers.

iF: What is your interpretation of sustainable design and circular economy? How do you plan to achieve a circular economy?

Lance: Sustainability is a popular theme in the design field today. As the international community places increasing importance on sustainable development, we, as designers, are also keenly aware of the changes and needs of the overall market. Taiwanese society has also attached great importance to sustainable design issues in recent years. We are honored to participate in, design and promote this development process. There are many different definitions for sustainable design. I think it can mainly be divided into two definitions: First, the product is 100% made of a single material and can be recycled. Second, the product does not contain non-decomposable materials, and the faster the decomposition time, the better.

Of course, in addition to materials, there are many other issues that require attention, such as the carbon footprint, energy consumption during production, environmental pollution, decomposable recycling, etc.

I believe that the realization of a circular economy requires the support of the market. Regardless of the duration of the time span or the types of industries, or whether it is a closed loop, all economies are built upon the market. Design must come before industrial mass production. That is to say, in addition to delving into the design for the appearance of a product and its mass production, examination of the design of the product’s circular characteristics is also an important trend. When we think about cost issues from a financial perspective, in addition to corporate and R&D costs, environmental and social costs must also be taken into account. We often say that a brand must have vision and depth, so the conditions for circular design to be realized are creating the correct design, having a forward-looking brand, and receiving the support of the people.

These plates are awarded with the iF DESIGN AWARD 2021 in the discipline "Product". They can be used as containers and tableware and are made of Taiwanese bamboo fiber, a patented and plastic-free material from circular economy.
Re-ing bamboo fiber plates

These plates are awarded with the iF DESIGN AWARD 2021 in the discipline "Product". They can be used as containers and tableware and are made of Taiwanese bamboo fiber, a patented and plastic-free material from circular economy.

Re-ing collected a large amount of pineapple leaves after harvest and turned them into fiber cloth and further develop products such as shirts and bags without using any plastic fibers.
Pineapple fiber shirt

Re-ing collected a large amount of pineapple leaves after harvest and turned them into fiber cloth and further develop products such as shirts and bags without using any plastic fibers.

This reusable tableware can be used in environments from -20°C to 120°C. Being easily decomposable, this product is perfect as temporary tableware or for outdoor activities. It can be washed with water and will not soften as easily as a paper container.
Bamboo fiber tableware

This reusable tableware can be used in environments from -20°C to 120°C. Being easily decomposable, this product is perfect as temporary tableware or for outdoor activities. It can be washed with water and will not soften as easily as a paper container.

This product was realized in collaboration with a Taiwese textile factory. The stitching, buttons and zippers are all made of PET. The fabric is designed to involve no dyeing or waste, and it is made with Taiwan’s excellent fabric pleating technology.
100% PET bag

This product was realized in collaboration with a Taiwese textile factory. The stitching, buttons and zippers are all made of PET. The fabric is designed to involve no dyeing or waste, and it is made with Taiwan’s excellent fabric pleating technology.

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In 2020, we started to try vacuum forming on the bamboo fiber material and portable tableware, and we have made good progress. This tableware can be used in environments from -20°C to 120°C. It can be washed with water and will not soften as easily as a paper container. It is cheap and reusable. The disadvantage is that it can break easily if it’s pinched too hard. It is designed to decompose in 90 days after being buried in soil. This thin, easily decomposed product is suitable as temporary tableware or outdoor activities.

iF: What difficulties did you encounter in the development of sustainable design products?

Lance: The challenges were twofold: the first came from the research and development of technology, and the other was finding the courage to devote myself to this path. Product design itself is not difficult, but when products involving new concepts are first released, they are often treated with disdain. For most products worldwide, the focus is on cost and marketing. Most people feel that circular design is not directly related to them, or that environmentally friendly products are expensive and impractical. However, as the issues of sustainability and circular design become more prominent worldwide, the public has gradually started to understand the concept of circular design.

Design companies have to bear the costs of product development, molds, and mass production. This is a heavy burden. Therefore, it has always been our goal to create meaningful and sustainable products based on offering profitable services. I am very grateful for the assistance from many benefactors along the way. We will continue to stick to this road, regardless of how difficult it is, and promote Taiwan as well as the spirit of sustainable design.

iF: What was your most memorable example of sustainable design product development?

Lance: In the early stages of the development of plant fiber products, we needed a lot of agricultural waste fiber, but a large truck full of agricultural waste fiber is only enough to produce a small box of finish products after processing. The process of agricultural waste removal left a deep impression on us. In addition, the development of bamboo fiber products is not suited to general product design thinking, because different materials have different properties and restrictions. Therefore, we needed to have a deeper understanding of the characteristics of new materials. Of course, there are many misconceptions circulating in this industry. For example, certain materials that cannot decompose naturally are mistakenly seen as being capable of natural decomposition, or the promotion of mixed plastic materials to achieve the goal of plastic reduction, but ignoring the problems associated with mixed plastics. We are not materials experts, but we are full of ideals and passion for materials, and we hope to change the world through design. Therefore, we put our trust in our professional partners to verify possible misleading pitfalls so that we can truly implement our designs in everyday life.

Lance Han from Dot Design: Sustainable Products Are “Often Treated With Disdain”

About Dot Design

Dot Design is good at using a variety of materials and combining different crafts and designs. It is home to 5 brands: Re-ing, DOTdesign, Coloop, ChosenTea 1869, and Goods Hualien. It also has a cooperative brand, MUKKI. Dot Design adds design value to brands, products, spaces, packaging, and other design projects. In 2015, a design style laboratory was established to try to integrate everyday elements such as food and tea with design. In recent years, the company has also focused on circular sustainable design, developed and realized many products, and assisted customers in creating more circular design possibilities.

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iF: Please give some advice to young people who are considering learning about sustainable design.

Lance: I think sustainable circular design is a new trend, and you have to be very enthusiastic about it and truly believe in it. Design is a beautiful calling, and involves creating beautiful things, believing in brighter ideals, and facing every challenge with care. This new field requires more young people to collectively build a better future. I believe that more companies and brands will also support sustainable design. All design work, regardless of field, should require a basic understanding of sustainable and circular design.

(published in August 2021)

Explore the iF design shop:
You can purchase the Re-ing bamboo fiber plates, available in 3 colours and 2 shapes, at the iF design shop. As the shop is currently based in Taiwan, the cost of shipment only applies to local buyers. For overseas buyers, please contact service@ifdesign.tw.