How three friends launched London design studio based on sustainability

When Bibiana Farenzena moved to England to study a Masters course in Design for Communication, she never expected to run her own design consultancy business eight years later.

The Brazilian-born designer is the co-owner of Upcircle along with friends Ophélia Gisquet and Mercedes Alvarez-Fojo.

Upcircle, which was launched in 2017, is a design studio based in London that offers sustainable design consultancy services in digital, graphic, furniture and interior design.

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Mercedes Alvarez -Fojo, Bibiana Farenzena and Ophelia Gisquet

“We are all friends and we bring different skills to Upcircle. The idea behind our business is to promote the circular economy and the tree pillars of sustainability: economic, environment and social”, says Bibiana.

“Ophélia went travelling to South Africa when she discovered places and people that had the ability to design and create from very little resources, recycling and upcycling materials.

The community had a creative and very clever mindset and it was then Ophelia had the idea of applying this into her designs too.

“The three of us decided to set up Upcircle using our different skills on projects, which support sustainability and recycling.

She said Upcircle’s approach to projects focuses on design, the type of materials used, how they are manufactured and the impact it has on society.

Bibibana studied a BA in Visual Design at a university in Brazil, going on to study Digital Print in Textiles at Saint Martin’s College in London. She has also completed a Masters in Design for Communications at the University of Westminster.

The 32-year-old has a wealth of retail experience and has worked with Marks & Spencer, Asos, Body Shop and TKMaxx, to name a few.

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Asos Activewear campaign
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Asos Activewear campaign
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Asos Activewear campaign

Ophélia, 32, was born and studied in France where she did a foundation year in design in Toulouse, followed by an interior design course.

She studied a Masters in interior design and architecture and has worked on projects designing offices, homes and hotels across the globe.

Mercedes graduated in Business and Accountancy from the University of Barcelona and holds an MBA degree from the University of Westminster.

The Spanish-born business developer has worked in the construction industry for 15 years working on projects around the world.

Bibiana said: “Our extensive skill set allows us to work on projects together to promote sustainability and recycling.

“For example, we have worked on student accommodation projects where we use materials, which are recycled and sustainable.

“Many people do not realise but furniture in student accommodations usually have a life of five to seven years because the trend of interior design changes, so the contractors decide to refurbish it and the furniture ends up in landfills.

But if we design with a different mindset by reusing the same furniture or recycling it, we can create a big positive impact on the environment.”

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The trio are currently working on a project with PhD students at the University of West England to create a permanent installation to increase awareness about sustainable palm oil.

The set will include trees, ferns, moss and the furniture will be made out from offcut plywood (reusing common waste in joinery workshop). The joinery will be produced by a Bristol-based company who share the same values about sustainability.

Palm oil is one of the world’s widely consumed vegetable oil and it is used in everything from soaps to biscuits and cosmetics.

Bibiana said: “The aim of the project is to raise awareness about sustainable palm oil because production often comes at the cost of the rich of biodiversity in the rainforest.

“We want to change consumer’s decisions about palm oil and how it can be sourced in the future.”

Upcircle is also working on a project with the university to refurbish four external courtyards, adding manifestations on the floor which is an affordable and sustainable solution. Some of the furniture will be supplied by an outdoor furniture company named Vestre that has “strong sustainable values”.

Bibiana said: “Some of the furniture will be produced by Bristol Wood Recycling Project, who use recycled elements.

It is a charity that offers free training to people who want to learn joinery or develop their social skills.

“We are also designing three new student accommodations with the aim to implement as much sustainable product and finishes as possible.”

In addition to the university projects, Upcircle is gearing up to take part in the London Design Festival in the summer.

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Installation for London Design Festival 2017

Last year they had an installation called Roots Grow Love, which was a striking wooden structure ​containing plants to celebrate the love of gardening, to promoting Loughborough Farm and bringing the community together.

Upcircle worked with Loughborough Farm and a group of volunteers from different associations to build the structure which was made of recycling wood and plants from the farm.

The last 18 months have been a whirlwind for the team at Upcircle and there is plenty of exciting projects in the pipeline for them.

Bibiana said: “Our approach has been well received by the industry and we are very happy to see more companies working with us.

“We believe that Upcircle will have a bright future thanks to the great collaboration of each business partner and the hard work.

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Palm oil project at the University of West England

“Our values at Upcircle will be a plus for our designs and our clients. By producing a great design and having a positive impact in our society, we hope our studio will make a difference in the creative industry.

“At Upcircle we want to be part of this movement of start-ups that have new ways of working, changing lifestyles and perceptions about work.

“It’s time for us designers but also consumers to change the way we live and produce things. Slow design is about time and so is Upcircle.”

See more from Upcricle over at their website – www.upcircle.co.uk

 

Copyright: Upcircle

 

How junior designer went from film sets to digital media

We have been chatting with junior designer Jafor Abu. He tells us about being a landscaper on films including Star Wars Rogue, getting “hot and sweaty” in his project work and a part-time job in Sainsbury’s.

Jafor studied Film Production at the University for the Creative Arts, graduating in 2014.
A year later, he started work in the film industry as a landscaper working on films such as The Huntsman, The Winter Soldier, Star Wars Rogue One, The Mummy and
Kingman 2, to name just a few.

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Jafor Abu

“I have always had a passion for the film industry and because of this, I always brought the digital software into every small film project I took part in”, said Jafor.

“The film industry days were very hard as it included waking up early and coming home late but I never complained as this is what I wanted to do and eventually I wanted to work my way into the art department at Pinewood Studios or Warner Bros Studios Leavesden.”

 

At the time Jafor was also working in Sainsburys part-time but he soon realised it was becoming difficult to juggle his personal and work life.

He said: “I was working at a film studio for five days a week and at Sainsbury’s for two days, which left me with no time to relax or spend time with family, which is really important to me.

“I had to keep my second job at Sainsbury’s because the film jobs were only available on contract terms. When there was a job, I got a call otherwise I was waiting around for at least a month for a call.

“As much I loved the film industry and the people I had worked with, as an individual I could not rely on just hope or getting by.

“I really had to find something and go hard at that and work my way up.”

Jafor then decided to take a step back from the film industry and delve into the world of freelance.

 

For almost two years he worked as a freelancer on short-term contracts until he was appointed as junior graphic designer at Inner Media, a digital agency, this year.

Jafor said: “In my role, I love the freedom of creativity, which leads me to show my full potential of my skills when designing.

“Sometimes it gets too hot and sweaty when you are up to your eye balls with work but that is in any work place, I prefer to get all hot and sweaty at something I really enjoy.

“I have always found the digital software’s such as Adobe Suit very interesting.

“No matter what problems I may face when dealing with a project, there is always assistance and help from my fellow work peers, I work with a beautiful team.

“My goal for the future is to keep on going with design and never look back. I want to ensure that whatever I do, I want to leave a smile on everyone’s face.”

 

 

 

Copyright: Jafor Abu

 

Illustrator Laura Parker on using her Illustration practice as a platform for social issues

London based Illustrator Laura Parker’s colourful portfolio is filled with drawings, installations and paintings of insects, birds, abstract sculptural creations; whether it’s sewn-like human bodies hanging from the ceiling or ceramic sculptures of human bodies with a bird’s head. It’s fair to say Laura’s work is instantly recognisable, due to its unique and personal approach.

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Born in rural Norfolk, Laura uses her Illustration practice as a platform for social issues and campaigns she feels passionate about. An example of this is one of her most recent projects ‘Grow Wild – As free as a bee’. Grow Wild was created and motivated by our need as a society to help our Bumblebees in the UK since being listed as an endangered species.

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The importance of bumblebees is often overlooked, as their population has plummeted nearly 90 percent. The threats facing the population of bees are argued to be a result of: loss of habitat, diseases and parasites, pesticides, and climate change. This is a big deal not only for bees but for people, too—after all, bees pollinate a lot of our food.  “Bumblebees are among the most important pollinators of crops such as blueberries, cranberries, and clover, and almost the only insect pollinators of tomatoes,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Laura was funded to create a body of work as part of the Grow Wild Get Creative Takeover at Summer hall in Edinburgh. She aims to use her talents and unique illustration style to bring awareness to this significant issue and encourage people to take action. “For this exhibition I didn’t just want to highlight the issue, but also help towards a solution, so as well as this installation people were also encouraged to take home a pack of wildflower seeds, to grow.”

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Get Creative Takeover MFG

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Laura incorporates a wide variety of media within her work and enjoys the challenge of combining illustration with textile processes. This enthusiasm to combine different materials and mediums ensures each project she works on is unique to the other, whilst keeping her distinguished style. Laura’s unconventional drawings and unorthodox compositions expand the viewer’s creative muscles. Her drawings prompt us to acknowledge the issues she highlights. Her work challenges conventions and offers new forms of visual expressions that have not seen before.

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You can see more of her projects here – https://www.lauraparkerillustration.com/

 

 

 

Product Designer Nathan Hulman on Upcycling and Sustainable design

Nathan Hulman is an upcoming and talented product designer, specializing in upcycling and working with found materials, which he brings back to life by giving them a new purpose.

Nathan graduated from Nottingham Trent University, having studied a BA in Product Design and has been working as a product designer since. Nathan explains, whilst he always loved fixing and creating things, deciding his career path was a difficult choice.

“I’ve always been interested in creating new things and solving problems but took a while in deciding what career I wanted to go down. Having taken applied science, geography and product design as my A levels, I ended up doing an art and design foundation course before deciding on going to university to study product design full time. Since then I’ve helped Constellations, a furniture and interior design company, come up with new ideas for their range of storage products through a graduate internship.”

Bits ’n’ Bulbs Was Nathan’s final project for his foundation course. The idea behind this project was repurposing and upcycling to create usable lights. Upcycling is a way to transform old things in a way that turns them into something new without breaking the product down into its raw materials. Instead, upcycling gives new life to an old object, and this is exactly what Nathan achieved with his Bits and Bulbs project.

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Bits ‘n’ Bulbs

In today’s society, more and more young designers are diverting their focus on to sustainable design and recycling/upcycling. Sustainable design is a new method of designing objects, the manufactured environment, and services to conform with the philosophies and values of social, economic, and ecological sustainability. The purpose of sustainable design is to reduce the harmful impact on the environment through clever and thoughtful design. Sustainable design must use renewable resources, impact the environment minimally, and connect people with the environment.

Bits ‘n’ Bulbs was Nathans first upcycling project so he says he had difficulty adjusting to the organic way of working and not having entire control over the finished product.

“I already had the components to use and hadn’t much control over what the finished product would look like, so it was a fun play on “form follows function” since it was reversed.”

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Nathan adds the challenge was balancing the aesthetics of the components in a way that works functionally and had to overcome challenges to ensure the finish product not only looks good but is fully functioning.

“One of the lamps uses a kettle as the lampshade which was too heavy for the base, so I used the wire from the bulb to anchor it in down which actually worked well aesthetically. I learned to be a bit looser in my design projects and see where any mistakes or unintended outcomes take the project.”

Bits ‘n’ Bulbs inspired Nathan to continue his investigation in to Upcycling when he got to university and kept on working loosely without restricting himself. He explains how embracing mistakes can work in your favor, how you can capitalize on them.

 “I was prototyping a desk lamp using foam, and halfway through I completely changed the design. A dent in the foam looked as if it could be a nice visual cue that the base is touch activated, and the loose stalk gave me an idea for how the lamp could be adjusted. In the end it turned out much better than I expected, and I found the unintended outcomes in finding a solution that don’t seem ideal can actually really help with coming up with new ideas.” 

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You can keep up to date with Nathans work at https://www.behance.net/njhulman

Student wins international award for sustainable toy design

A product design student from De Montfort University has scooped an international award for her sustainable toy design.

Elly Skelton designed a durable scooter, called ‘1 Toy for Life’, which is plastic-free and suitable for children from the age of two all the way to age 12. The toy was initially designed for the RSA Student design awards.  The RSA Student Design Awards is a global curriculum and annual competition for higher education students and recent graduates run by the RSA. Each year the Awards challenge emerging designers to tackle a range of design briefs focused on pressing social, environmental and economic issues.

Elly’s design is a result of the ‘Fair Play’ brief set by the RSA, which focuses on creating a sustainable toy. Given the finite resources of the planet and increasing rates of consumption by a growing population, current levels of waste are unsustainable. Just ‘using less’ and recycling is not enough. Designers need to completely rethink the manufacture and life cycle of products and their components, and design them in a way that eliminates waste. Sustainability is becoming a huge issue in todays society and young designers are having to learn how to adapt and develop their work in order to ensure its sustainability.

Elly’s design can be adapted as the user grows, so it can last for their entire childhood. She was inspired to create a scooter by her childhood memories of playing on scooters with her brother. The third year Leicester university student won £2,000 by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce after winning the Student Design award.

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Elly from Milton Keynes said: “It’s amazing to have won the award. It is such an honour to be nominated and it was a great experience to go down to London to the RSA headquarters and present my design.” The toy is made from aluminium, which complied with Elly’s design brief.

She said: “I started looking into materials I could use for the circular economy and I thought of aluminium because it is so recyclable, 75% of aluminium ever created is still in use today, which is amazing.

“For both of my projects this year I have wanted to move away from plastics.

Elly aims to use her skills and experience in design to focus on sustainability and implements it in to other projects she’s working on. “My other major project is about eradicating plastic bags and hangers from retail stores. It all feeds into the anti-plastics sentiment.”

The  21-year-old was named as one of three winners in her category.

All the winners have been invited to an award ceremony in London on 27 June.

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Copyright: De Montfort University, Leicester