We’re in the Design Museum


Last week we made the trek from east to west London to visit the new Design Museum. The museum has a permanent gallery Designer – User – Maker and  we were thrilled to find photos of Machines Room illustrating the maker movement.

The role of the Maker in the design process is given a new level of attention; a giant Rep-Rap is busy 3D printing stools, and many of the startups and brands we work with at Machines Room are on display. In fact, three Maker Mile residents feature highly in the show; our direct neighbours on the display were Sugru and just round the corner there was a blinking display of creative tech showcasing Technology Will Save Us and Kano.

We thought we spotted SAM Labs but it turned out the be the Dieter Rams Lectron kit from 1967! It is good to be reminded that the conversations we are having now have been going on for a while, but also that themes we focus on at Machines Room are both historically and currently relevant.

The theme of disrupting disability through design is prominent in the museum. There were new ideas like an off-road wheelchair and a set of folding wheels, which in one gallery appeared to be attached to an Ikea garden chair.

We loved the Lego character in the Designs of the Year exhibition, who comes with a functional wheelchair that can be taken apart – Lego is where so many people first learn how to hack their environments. The judges featured the characters as they enable more people to identify themselves in the toys they are playing with. I like how it de-medicalises the wheelchair and normalises it as another wheeled vehicle – available to stick to other bricks to create new machines.


The second theme that Machines Room has given a lot of thought too is that of sustainability and the use and reuse of material, particularly plastic. We enjoyed watching our friend Sophie Thomas talk about the Circular Economy in an impressive 3 screen video projection (but were surprised she was the only woman in the film). Although the permanent collection highlighted big world problems facing designers (climate, working conditions, sourcing materials) it didn’t give many solutions – these were saved for the Designs of the Year exhibition downstairs.

Having invested so much time and thought into the Precious Plastics project we were excited to see the shredder and samples in the flesh, having only ever seen them on video. The ‘official’ plastic objects, it turns out, are lumpy and wrinkled… just like ours! This has given us renewed enthusiasm for the project and the direction we are taking. The samples we have made using our shop-bought toasty maker are far smoother than those on display in the museum.

The Adidas project which creates knitted trainers using waste fishing nets pulled from the ocean ticked a lot of Machines Room boxes….computer controlled machine knitting – check…recycled plastic – check. It is a goal of ours that we can start producing materials that can be used by our machines using recycled plastic – we are close to mastering sheets ready for the CNC…next up is making thread for Kniterate’s knitting machine.

Finally a huge congratulations to our friends JOTO whose internet connected drawing board won the people’s selection. We’ve been following JOTO since the team who make it – THOSE tested the prototype (called the Woodpecker) at Machines Room when we opened two years ago. We’re really excited about getting our hands on one and will be supporting the project on Kickstarter when it launches in March.