Design is about making things – the process, understanding the problem and effecting change, but this does not always have to be creating things from scratch. Fixing is definitely a big part of the future of design and last Friday, representatives from the Product Design department travelled up to London to be part of the London Design Festival on the Brompton Pitch – under the fabulous Fixperts banner. Alongside Brighton designer and Sussex Associate Claire Potter, we were on hand between the hours of 12 and 7 to do on the spot fixes for anyone with something that needed fixing.
A completely FREE design and fixing surgery, where we did not know what the problem was until we chatted to people and found stuff to fix. Designers thinking and designing on the spot, flexing our creative muscles.
So – were we successful? Did people understand the true power of fixing as an essential design skill? Were we able to actually fix things, with a relatively simple tool kit of bits and some sideways thinking?
Yes. Yes we did.
What was incredible about the experience was perhaps not the satisfaction of being able to hand something that had been fixed back to the person in question, it was that a lot of the time it took a bit of a conversation to make people realise that they actually had a problem that could be improved – and that we could help with our design thinking and making skills.
So, people that did not have a ‘problem’ that needed fixing eventually realised that they actually did. A bag with a hole in, a cracked iPhone screen (we fixed a few of these), a worn leather strap to a bag, arms of glasses that were rather wobbly. Even a key ring that was a bit too weak and needed a back up. And we were able to help. For free, with a good splash of design thinking and a bit of kit, a practical hands on approach, some conversation and laughs. We even threw in a lolly whilst people waited and watched us design and fix.
But the truly magical part? Yes, handing back the fixed thing, or a paper sketch of how to fix the thing (if it was elsewhere), but the best part was that pretty much everyone went away thinking – yes – I could try and do that too. That tiny bit of confidence that people need to realise that, a great deal of the time, they already have the basic skills that they need for fixing – they have just misplaced the knowledge.
This is perhaps demonstrated best with the final fix that we completed at the end of the day. A gentleman came to the stand and enquired about what we were doing. He realised he had a bracelet that had broken and he had temporarily fixed himself that needed attention. ‘Sure – we can fix that’, we said, and he nipped off to pick up his children from a cello lesson.
Five or so minutes later, he was back and we had already fixed his bracelet. He was over the moon and kept on asking ‘why we were doing this for free?’ He went and showed his two daughters, who were sitting in a wagon on the front of his bicycle. They were fascinated.
‘So’, the eldest asked us with a quizzical look, ‘if something is broken, it can be fixed?’
‘Not all the time’, we replied, ‘but a lot of the time – yes it can.’
‘ok’, was the thoughtful reply, teamed with a look of planning…
So we gave them a couple of packs of Sugru to go away with and we watched as they pedalled along Exhibition Road talking about fixing things. And we’re sure that the whole weekend, that family spent together, fixing things. That is how powerful fixing, and the whole Fixperts movement is. And here at the University of Sussex we are delighted to be a tiny part of that.
And watch this space for future collaborations with Fixperts and Claire Potter Design. We could be coming to fix again near you soon…
(images of people and their fixed things by claire potter)