OCAD Series: T.A.G. (Take. Act. Give.)

T.A.G. (Take. Act. Give.) – by Heidi Mok

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The T.A.G. concept is a clothing donation system designed for the Salvation Army. It was developed to enhance the way clothes were given out such that it would be easy, dependable, and carried out in a socially-minded manner. The Salvation Army, as most of you probably know, have established their Thrift Stores where they collect used clothing donated by donors to sell in order to provide care for those in need of it. Problems arise however when the drop bins used to collect clothes are vandalized and treated as waste bins for garbage.

And so this is where the T.A.G. concept comes in. Heidi’s goal was to bring in a unique clothing donation system for second hand clothes within large organizations such as offices, community centres and churches. The T.A.G. service will operate primarily around Salvation Army Thrift Stores where they will equip these organizations with the materials necessary to alleviate the donation process. Reusable bags, collection boxes as well as posters and guide books will be distributed to donors through the large group organizations because it is believed that individuals who are part of communities will be less inclined to misuse these instruments. From there, donors will be encouraged to bring the bags home, sort out second hand clothing, and bring the bags of clothes to donate at the participating organizations.

Below is the conversation that we had with Heidi, to get a better idea of how this idea came about…

What made you decide to pursue your studies in design, specifically industrial?

I think that all humans have a desire to create things. We were all created and instinctively want to do the same – whether it be the creation of a memory, a friendship or a business. I chose the design field because I wanted to create objects and ideas. I didn’t fully understand what Industrial design was but I felt that it was broad enough to give me room to explore.

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How did you decide on what topic you would pursue in your thesis project?

I was driving past a gas station one afternoon and noticed that there was a used-clothing drop-bin. I started thinking about how I had always donated my old clothes in garbage bags to the nearest drop-bin by my house – and how i hated the experience. To me, the bins appeared awkward, ugly, and unfriendly to use. I also wondered where the clothes actually went and who were the people that benefited from them. That was how my thesis topic started and as I did more research and learned about the secondhand clothing industry, I realized that the the system is much bigger and more complex than I had imagined.

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What inspiration did you use to start and complete your project idea?

My final project is a system concept, however I also designed a product component that is a reusable donation bag to replace the use of garbage bags when donating your old clothes. For the design of the bag, I was inspired by the observation of how people carried things. I looked at the way people carried purses, backpacks, garbage bags – all sorts of bags. It really helped me determine the constraints/criteria that made the most sense for the purpose my bag needed to serve.

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What kinds of obstacles (if any) did you come across during your product/services’ development?

I was stumped by so many obstacles I can’t even begin to list them! I think that the BIGGEST obstacle I had was actually getting past the mental road block I had of wanting my project to result in a tangible/physical product instead of a system. When people think about ‘design’, they usually associate it with a product like a chair or a cell phone and I wanted to direct my project towards something that could be produced and made (systems seemed so complex and not what industrial designers were “supposed” to do).

I had to get over that misconception because design isn’t about the designer but rather solving the problem in the best possible way. That could mean designing a product, an experience, a film, an event, a sound… Now that I look back, I realize how silly it was for me to think like that. I learned that if you do your research and identify the right problems, the appropriate solution will come.

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In your perspective, what makes for a ‘good’ design?

I think that good design should be holistic. By that I mean that the design considers not only the person it’s designed for, but all the people potentially affected – the environment, the consequences, etc. If we are talking about the design of a soccer ball, a ‘good’ design would consider factors beyond how it looks and performs. It would consider how and where it’s made, the amount workers were paid, how much energy was consumed, and other social and economic factors that we don’t usually think about when we buy a soccer ball.

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What tips do you have for individuals considering a career or planning to pursue industrial design?

  • Don’t get too personally attached to your ideas – separate your project from yourself
  • Go over your presentations multiple times before you present it or you’ll look like an idiot (it’s easy to tell)
  • Learn about business because design and business co-exist
  • Spend more time in the shop making things for fun because you might not have the same opportunity/access when you graduate
  • Attend guest lectures

It is great to see such a thoughtful idea put together for a great cause. We hope to see Heidi’s wonderful concept implemented with The Salvation Army’s clothing donation strategy some time in the near future. Thanks for taking the time to speak with us Heidi! Best of Luck!

Visionaries: Amy McLaren from Write to Give
Create for a Cause
Dream Ball and Eyesight by Unplug Design
The Perfect Hoodie
  • Jesse

    interesting insights – it will be cool to know how this turns out… keep up with the good work!

  • http://www.rothco.com/general/index.cfm army clothing

    Interesting, its good to know that's how it goes. I hope that cause will continue, because its really a big help!