The assignment was to design a sustainable product for Branch. The final designs were exhibited in a show at the end of the semester and a few have been earmarked for possible future production for Branch. Each student was forced to grapple with the challenges of sustainability, but even more significant for Donald, many commented that their involvement in the Branch project had already begun to influence their approach to their other work. "Designers have so much power," Donald says. "And the best way to solve a problem is to not create one in the first place."
Donald is keen on helping designers establish more sustainable practices, which sometimes results in an exclusive product line for Branch. For example, designer Derrick Chen of Urbana Design modified his popular resin-coated bent-plywood tray by creating a cork-topped version an item that has proved hugely popular in its sustainable iteration.
But for all of its cool, Earth-friendly appeal, Branch is still competing in a price-driven world dominated by the cheap and clever designs of Target and IKEA. "There's a big difference between getting the message and shelling out an additional 10 to 20 percent more for a sustainable product," Donald says. To his mind, it's going to be a long time before the Target shopper starts asking the tough questions. "We're like dogs," he says. "We need to have our noses rubbed in it before we'll change."
Visit Branch at www.branchhome.com.
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