Experimental Product Design

By Percy Chen, Junior Project Manager Art-Science

Supported by swissnex China, Christophe Guberan came to Shanghai to attend a two-week long research trip with Neuni, a digital design and fabrication lab. On his arrival on September 9, Christophe hosted a workshop and a lecture to share his experience as an experimental designer.

As a 33-year-old product designer based in Switzerland, Christophe works with the fruit of material testings and observations. His interest in design started while studying architectural drawing and was cultivated further as an industrial designer at the Ecole cantonale d'art de Lausanne ECAL. Early on in his career, Christophe had opportunities to work and produce objects with several leading companies such as Nestlé, Alessi, USM, Steelecase, and Google.

In 2014, Christophe moved to Boston, where he started a collaboration with the Self Assembly Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The lab provided Christophe with a perfect platform to learn about and test on heavy duty, advanced industrial machines. Consequently, his recent projects all began as serendipities from playing with different devices.

Lyla Wu, CEO at Neuni, giving the opening speech

Lyla Wu, CEO at Neuni, giving the opening speech

Introduction by Christophe Guberan

Introduction by Christophe Guberan

Hydro-Fold is one of Christophe’s iconic design pieces. It aims to explore the properties of paper and how its structure can change with liquid. With extensive experimentation on a wide variety of paper types, Christophe found out tracing paper reacts the most vigorously to humidity. He made a water printing device by refilling depleted ink cartridges. Moreover, he set up the printing software so that he could change different patterns such as grids and shapes as well as determine line thickness and transparency to produce various bending effects. After papers go through the printer, they are left untouched, allowing moisture to evaporate, thus contracting paper fibers. The papers would eventually transform from two-dimensional sheets to three-dimensional structure in which lines become edges and surfaces become stable volumes.

Tracing paper going through the water printer

Tracing paper going through the water printer

As water evaporates, the paper transforms on its own

As water evaporates, the paper transforms on its own

The Hydro-Fold project lent inspiration to Christophe’s Active Wood project at the Self Assembly Lab. After he learnt that wood-bending, to a certain extent, works similarly to paper folding (both requires contraction of fibers), he attempted to find the perfect composite material for wood and ways to let it self-transform. And Christophe, with the help from the Self Assembly Lab, managed to do so.

Finally, Christophe pushed the boundaries one step further by engineering material in such a way that it transforms into complex daily objects. The result embodied characteristics of both an art piece and a functional tool: Active Shoes.

As the lecture came to an end, Christophe introduced more of his design projects. A common theme underlaid all of them - a sense of connection and growth. Throughout the years, Christophe’s design become more interwoven and sophisticated. His passion for experimentation as well as his constant growth mindset set him apart from the crowd. In fact, this research trip for Christophe will enable him to travel around China and learn more about Chinese industrial machines and practices.

We would like to thank Christophe Guberan and Neuni for this eye-opening event and we hope more people will be inspired to partake in the discussion.

Stay tuned for our next event!

Insight China visited swissnex China on 13 April 2018

Insight China is a prestigious project in its 17th year at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW) and offers ambitious students the opportunity to gain insight into China’s cultural and economic diversity.

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A delegation of 30 bachelor students of FHNW led by the Dean of School of International Business Management spent an interesting and insightful afternoon with swissnex China on 13 April 2018.

Felix Moesner, CEO of swissnex China, welcomed the students and introduced swissnex and its mission and activities in China.

Felix Moesner, CEO of swissnex China, welcomed the students and introduced swissnex and its mission and activities in China.

Lijun Zhang, swissnex China’s Project Leader for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, gave a presentation on innovation & phenomenal trends in China.

Lijun Zhang, swissnex China’s Project Leader for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, gave a presentation on innovation & phenomenal trends in China.

The afternoon continued with a presentation of Patrick Glauser, Head of Operation & Business Development China of M-industry. Also invited were his colleagues Lisa Liu, General Manager of E-commerce, who later gave a presentation on the e-commerce landscape in China, and Damian Bürgin, Trainee M-Industry China.

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Currently having shops on the e-commerce platforms T-mall and Kaola, M-industry set up its presence in China less than two years ago, providing authentic Swiss products to Chinese consumers.

We wish the Insight China delegation a successful trip and look forward to welcoming the next year’s delegation at swissnex China!