Designing, creativity and adventurousness run in the family for Antonio and Lorena. Having an industrial designer as a mother and an astrophysician as a father, the siblings have a passion for design. They are inviting Montrealers to embrace their innovative products.
Not interested by traditional paths
Lorena studied ceramic and graphic design while Antonio went for sculpture and industrial design. They both started their careers few years ago in the corporate world and in design studios. However, something was wrong – a sense of uneasiness, lack of authenticity? Antonio decided to go back to studying and chose an environmental programme in design and architecture at Universite de Montreal and Lorena quit her job. Brother and sister decided to become partners and Co/Crea Studio was born.
We did not agree 100% with what the market had to offer, we needed to create ourselves something that aligns with our vision of the world.
Their conception of design is responsible and interdisciplinary, it embraces circular economy and has a positive impact of society while remaining viable.
Going against the grain: durability vs. trends
People are either graphic designers or industrial designers but studios rarely combine the two. Blending 2D and 3D is a way to provide richer experiences and mutually benefit from each other.
Lorena and Antonio work on the ideation process together, then, the lead will depend on the type of product or service. The focus is always on offering a sustainable product or service with an extended life – which is against the processes of the industry.
Conveying messages through products
They are currently working on a series of products called the “Fundamental Series”, to promote good habits: a book-end, to leave technology aside and go back to reading books, candlesticks to give more light to our lives…
To do so, they are partnering with Mexican artisans from a small village called Tecali which is famous for its expertise in marble and onyx craft. Unlike many manufacturers that go there for cheap but quality labour, the two Montrealers want to provide artisans with fair trade opportunities and… to come back to their country of origin!
Another product, “My Montreal, our island” was created after a call for projects inviting designers to reinterpret Montreal souvenirs (that are mostly made in China as we all know…). Using Montreal’s insularity, the designers created an original mug that showcases Montreal diversity and authenticity: it is made in clay as a reminder of the sand beaches on an island, it has the island of Montreal carved in the bottom, and the name is written just like you would write with your fingers in the sand.
Of course, if you don’t know the story, you might just see it as another mug in a souvenir shop, but this is why design is so important for us – it helps conveying stories in a durable and creative manner.
Elizabeth Coulombe and Valérie Laliberté are two Product Design students who made the choice of entrepreneurship to bring their innovative and sustainable design to the world. Elizabeth talks about human-centered design, sustainability and R&D.
Building on the recycling trend
The idea emerged as Elizabeth and Valerie were doing their Bachelor in Product Design, a new programme at Laval University (Quebec City). They had to work on resolving a social or environmental issue.
In Quebec City we do not have an organized compost collection system from the city. People who want to compost have to take lessons but it is not so well-known. We wanted to design a new product that would make composting easier.
A similar product was already designed in Korea – the Food Cycler is a machine that grinds food waste to reduce it up to 90% of it’s original volume and make it odourless. Indeed, food waste management is already well-advanced in South Korea, where the government initiated a “pay as you trash” policy: the heavier your trash bag, the more you pay.
Composting with style
Drawing inspiration from Korea, the two Quebec students started designing a smaller and more ergonomic product:
We want Tero to be like another household appliance, something that you will feel comfortable leaving on your kitchen table.
Closing the loop of the circular economy
The final product should turn one kilo of food waste into 100 grammes of fertilizing powder within three hours through a dehydration process – it is a quick and odourless process.
We worked with agronomists and academics to find the best way to recycle food waste. We did not want to burn it. The dehydration process allows to retain all the nutriments to use as a fertilizer for gardening
It is one goal to design an innovative product, it is a completely different one to launch your first company after only three years of studying! The two entrepreneurs are still studying today – Elizabeth is doing an MBA – and working with engineers to make the best and most affordable product (through partnerships with Solutions Novika and the Center for industrial research support in Quebec – CRIQ), But entrepreneurship is also about finding investments, selling products, marketing….
From designers to entrepreneurs
We remain designers – we always focus on putting the user at the center of conception and development.
When the product is finalized, you will be able to order it through a crowdfunding campaign. In the mean time, you can follow Tero’s adventures on their website or Facebook page.
Last week in Mexico City, I got to discover new innovations, which triggered back my inspiration! Did you know that Mexico City, this giant urban territory, used to be a lake but it was drained by the Spanish in the 16th Century? Yet, today, it is facing one of the most serious water shortages in an urban space but fascinating projects are being launched by civil organizations to help people access water. One of them. Isla Urbana, has developed a system that collects rainwater and purifies it for drinking purposes and more generally for all other uses in the house, and it is equal or better quality than tap water in Mexico City!
Designing for communities
Is drinking rainwater innovative? It was probably one of the most ancient ways of surviving, but today with pollution and air contamination it has become dangerous. Thinking of sustainable solutions to water shortages in Mexico City, the team at Isla Urbana came up with a system designed to harvest rainwater and purify it.
Today, 36% of families in Mexico City do not have adequate access to water and spend up to 20% of their incomes to buy trucked water. United Nations
A team of young engineers, urbanists and ecologist decided to come together and develop a new industrial design system for rainwater harvesting: a blue tank collects and filters rainwater which is then pumped into a house. The household system is $1,100 for the complete installation and $150 annual maintenance costs.
The average harvesting in the city for a 60 m2 roof is 45,000 Liters (11,888 gallons) per year to harvest de average rainfall in the city of 750mm per year, which covers an average of 5 to 8 months of water needs. Renata Fenton, Director of Design, Isla Urbana
Beware of the “megacorte”
This will definitely be useful next week, when the public water service will be completely suspended for three days (this is the “megacorte” or “mega cute”). Starting 31 October 2018, 13 boroughs of Mexico City and 13 municipalities of México state will be completely dry. This is to allow maintenance and repair work on the Cutzamala pipe.
Earning trust for the future
So far, and after 10 years, Isla Urbana has installed about 8,700 systems, which provide water to more than 52,000 users. The kits are designed to provide different types of water quality (from water for toilets and washing up to purified water for drinking), for different types of buildings and roof sizes and for both the urban and rural context.
The real challenge now is to change the community’s perception of rainwater, teach them to trust the rainwater collected, to use it. Renata Fenton
Also, by storing increasing volumes of water, families can then become completely independent from unsustainable sources of water. The empowering nature of the benefit is crucial.
What makes this project so innovative is its realistic nature. Isla Urbana does not aim at solving the water issue in Mexico City in one day, it aims at providing solutions to everyday problems.
Last Thursday, if you were walking on Monk boulevard in Montreal and passed by the beautiful church on number 5959, you would never have imagined what was happening inside… 100 Montreal startups were presenting their products and services to media, corporations, influencers and the general public.
In an old church transformed into Theatre Paradoxe, you could discover various innovative ventures in the food, travel, services, marketing, design or fashion industry. This 3rd edition of the Grand Messe was organized by Montréal inc and presented by Bell. Startups were pitching their ideas in confessionals to the media who symbolically awarded a benediction to their favorite emerging startup.
Innovation Montreal’s team was on the ground and discovered 5 innovative products:
Brwski, the first in-store digital beerologist that simplifies how grocery customers discover beer in-store. They invented a unique machine to help beginners and beer geeks look for the perfect beer in store.
Sagafrika, offering the first range of African frozen dishes cooked in Quebec. We met with Sandra, the founder, and tasted a delicious cassava leaves sauce from Congo.
Perla Paletas, bringing typical healthy Mexican ice-cream and Popsicle to Canada. Made with real fruits and no additive, they offer an original healthy snack for summer days. We tasted their lime and cucumber Popsicle and their chocolat and raspberry frozen yogurt. Perla has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Ulule to extend her product line.
Reunion D Sens
With the same healthy concerns in mind, we got to admire a bicycle made of wood, Picolo Velo. The wooden bike frames have been designed and built in Montreal with social, environmental concerns. We also discovered that the same sustainable concern was shared by corporations : Reunion D Sens offers companies two innovative locations in the heart of Montreal to organise meetings. These locations offer a unique experience that stimulates creation and helps to lower stress levels and increase confidence.
Stay tuned for more in depth stories on some of these innovative startups!