When designing we consider:darning mushroom

  • the human body
  • materials toxicity
  • materials efficiency
  • resource use
  • embodied energy
  • fitness for purpose
  • durability
  • repair-ability

Ultimately it has to be a useful thing
…and beautiful too

We make stuff and arrive at forms, materials, and processes to meet specific needs. Shaped by the skills, equipment, materials, and processes that are available. There is an overall sensibility, but ideas and inspirations are in flux; the more we do the more we understand or can express usethings design – in words and in objects.

How we think about design at usethings:

Relevant design

It’s personal and meets your needs. Home made, maybe local design or autonomous design would fit here, or vernacular design. These concerns may be idiosyncratic but if you can make (at whatever skill and resource level) something that meets your needs, this is good, this is design. There is no “right way”. It’s almost diametrical to industrial designs mass market approach and the broad tastes it tries to serve.

Inevitable design

Some things are inevitable; a chair is stable with four points of contact with the floor. Many designers are pushing these boundaries; we all want recognition, but simple functioning objects will do. Especially if you look at the impacts embedded in some design decisions. While we love a beautifully shaped chair but if 50% of the timber has been wasted to arrive at the form; why push the boundaries just to escape inevitability.  It is humble design.


“… a generic system, with the function of taking on a new status within a profession, in this way breaking free of the limits implied by the discipline.”

We love Martí Guixé who call himself an Ex-designer This resonates not so much challenging limits of the discipline, but breaking free of expectations and aspirations in design. It somehow frees us to do what we do. Frees us from seeking external acknowledgement other than making relevant stuff.

Local design

Having spent an entire day in Melbourne traffic chasing down veneer and linoleum for the All-ply tables we began to question the balance of time and resources going into a specific part or function of a design. Would local design be working with what is near-by – not seeking exotic materials and processes. Some of which could make sense in large scale production but we are not large scale. Is it like the 100km food thing? Would that be too limiting? What does design look like if oil (transport fuel) is scarce or too expensive? And is what we make relevant to our community like Designo Patagonia who are engaged in local design.

Slow design

This has all the connotations of the ‘slow’ movement but we’d like to add to this the time it takes to understand and evolve a design, for example prototype work-stools are in our office and we felt what it’s like to work on them for hours, and even the changes to the body from using them for years – with no back the balance and strength of the body changes. This experience takes time to embody and feed back into iterations of the design. The original leg sockets loosened after a year requiring a redesign with a leg brace. Then there is production — you only begin to understand a design once you’ve made it ten times — then there is more to discover in the next hundred. This feedback informs design so it becomes a slow evolution like the Windsor chairs we have in our store.

Hand made

We’ve been trying to find a way to express the resonance in an object that results from being hand made. Even simple forms that could be entirely machine produced seem to be different when made by hand. There is so much more to this than the term implies. Perhaps it is a quality without a name;  Christopher Alexander talks about this in “The Timeless Way of Building”. There are vague hints of animism: consideration of the spirit of things, materials, and tools, in the making.


Probably the closest and more broadly understood term that fits usethings design. It has reference to the hand – ie we make our own designs and the informing of design in that process is present in the objects we produce.

Furniture design

Should be about the body, we’ve recently been inspired by the work of Dr Galen Cranz, and the requirements of a healthy body in furniture design, body conscious design as it is known. The body seems to have gone missing in furniture design, subsumed by cultural and disembodied design concerns like: materials, fashion, ego, and production engineering.

We’ve been thinking lately about meaningful work, since seeing the film Economics of Happiness, we’re quite happy doing the repetitive operations involved in the drying rack as it’s our product and we have a direct relationship with the people who buy them – this is very satisfying. To be on a wage and disassociated from that relationship – just clocking-on and doing the hours, the work would be pretty boring. It makes us think of local economies, cottage industries, and real relationships in production and consumption. We hope usethings will be a vehicle for meaningful work as we grow older and that we can maintain some value to the community – not being shunted out by retirement.

usethings also offer a design service, to assist others meet their needs with relevant objects rather than choose from the available compromises.

Make an appointment to meet at our store and we’ll take you through a design process reconciling your needs and budget with materials and processes to arrive at your very own useful thing.

Make an Appointment