Design Indaba ||Day1 || 5.5

The 5.5 designers are Vincent Baranger, Jean-Sébastien Blanc, Anthony Lebossé, and Claire Renard – a group of young french designers.


Here I have to admit a strong prejudice.  I found their presentation intensely irritating.  Even so, the work was interesting and looking through their site there is much to see.

Part of the problem with the talk was their difficulty in expressing themselves in English.  Quite a few other presenters at the Indaba struggled with English, and in most cases this actually added to the clarity of their message as they picked odd and fresh combinations of words.  In this case, I felt that I was being preached at in quite a didactic way.

“Where does design fit in the process bla bla bla”  But this is not entirely fair…

Some of their work:

Various products that could be used to “rehabilitate” old furniture.  Furniture prosthetics, if you will:



The intent here is obviously not serious at all, but a tongue in the cheek way of looking at consumer culture.

In another project, a company that they had worked with to design a range of tableware decoration pulled out at the last moment – after the entire range had already been manufactured, packaged and labelled.

Rather than allow these to be destroyed, as was the intention, 5.5 bought up the entire stock of 45oo objects and proceeded to create a hype around them.  “Save a product” !  And sold them for 1 euro each at a publicity event.


The “save a product” project was probably my least favourite.  I’m not attracted by hype, and to me, this was very much a wank.  Other projects were much more interesting though:

In an probably unconscious echo of early 20th century Russian Constructivism , the group asked themselves what would happen if  workers in a factory were granted more creative licence.  They were allowed to create an intervention in the Bernardaud’s porcelain factory.

Usually, each worker in the chain that produced the porcelain products – cups, jugs, vases etc, did their little piece of work in isolation.  Adding a handle, gilding, joining.   5.5 allowed the workers to make absurd decisions about their step in the process.  Why not put the handle inside the cup?  Or upside down?

What I liked about this project was their observation that it lead the workers to interact with one another in ways that did not usually happen in the normal assembly line.  “Oh, so you have placed the handle on the bottom of the cup?  Where should I place the gilding?”

The result is a deliciously absurd series of events and unique objects.  This is probably my favourite 5.5 project:



Another rather charming project was done for Scotch Brite, to celebrate their anniversary. A set of sponges that advertised their function by their shape.

“After all, you would not want to end up using the toilet sponge for the dish”


I seem to be alone in my irritation at this group.  Many other people around me really loved them.  I think I’m a old traditional dadaist.

“So if its about absurd mocking of consumerism…what are you doing, working for Scotch Brite?  And…what happened to all those “products” you sold for 1 euro?  Hmmm?”

Ah well.

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