In 2004, 5.5 designers were contracted by a large French glassware company to design a decorative melamine tableware collection.
“After a year of product development, and just before the official launch of the collection, the company’s new marketing department decided to destroy all 45 000 pieces,” says Marie de Cossette, of 5.5 designers. “The products were packaged, labelled and ready to be shipped to department stores.”
The reason given for this wholesale destruction was that the marketing team managing the collection was not sure how the market would respond to the new products.
When the company called in the designers to assist them in the destruction of the products, 5.5’s solution was to salvage their wares in the interest of the environment.
But the company wasn’t easily persuaded. “To them, the idea seemed ridiculous and reckless,” says De Cossette.
Roadblocks and impasses are not uncommon in product development, be they caused by technical, political or financial problems. All designers remember projects that have been called off.
But the idea that there are commercial alternatives for products that have been ditched, whether at the beginning or end stages of development, is new.
In this case, 5.5 were able to acquire the stock. They decided to tell their story in a series of public events in France and Italy, where invited visitors save an object by buying products from the collection – with each piece selling for 1 euro.
The actions of 5.5 demonstrate that designers can act as guardians of their products.
“We want to prove that a designer’s function is also to take care of the commercial viability of products,” says De Cossette.