Loll Designs, the Duluth, Minnesota-based company in the business of turning recycled plastic milk jugs into stylish but sturdy outdoor furniture, has at long last ventured indoors.
Well, just barely.
For this year’s WantedDesign exhibition held during the week-plus-long design bonanza otherwise known as NYCxDesign, Loll Designs partnered with Rochester Institute of Technology industrial design professor Josh Owen and his first-year graduate students to execute a project that imagines what it would look like if the exceptionally eco-conscious company moseyed on in from the backyard or patio and stopped to focus on the entryway — you know, that oft-neglected area that bridges interior and exterior living spaces and where utilitarian concerns often trump aesthetics; a basked-dominated place where shoes are removed, coats are hung, umbrellas are stashed, and where dogs spend 70 percent of their time waiting. It's also a place of first impressions.
Using Loll Design's material of choice, recycled HDPE, Owen and his MFA students created a lovely assemblage of vestibule-appropriate furnishings and accessories, all “suitable for inclusion” in the company’s existing product line which includes everything from Adirondack chairs to planters to birdhouses. There's a chance that some of the products may be eventually produced by the company. And aside from the primary challenge of creating beautiful and functional entryway furnishings using post-consumer plastic, the Loll Designs + RIT ID project provided the students with the chance to engage in a working relationship with a real-world client.
In an email, student designer Bridget Sheehan explains some of the challenges working on the project:
I knew I wanted to develop a compact entryway bench that would be large enough to use as a sort of perch to take your shoes on and off. The biggest challenge for me on the Hi Bench was gaining an understanding of the strength of material and the existing Loll connection systems. By using MDF to create first generation prototypes, it was a challenge to develop something structurally suitable for production out of HDPE. With the help of the team at Loll, the second generation prototype was structurally more suited for the materials and with a little added ingenuity we were able to completely hide the connection system.
Sheehan goes on to describe what she took away from the experience:
The opportunity to work with a client and develop a product based off a professional brief has given me the skills and confidence to continue as a working designer. The project was roughly 8 weeks in length, from our introduction to the project to the photoshoot and presentations to Loll. I also had the opportunity to act as the liaison between Loll and my classmates as they developed our second generation prototypes, and worked alongside Professor Josh Owen to design the exhibition, which gave me a unique opportunity to continue building a professional relationship with the leadership at Loll.
It's also very much worth noting that the collaboration between Loll Designs and RIT is part of a larger industrial design project titled Activating the Vignelli Archives, a project that revolves around "decoding and utilizing design process from primary source material to inspire new products." Sheehan explains that "we used teachings, practices, and archives of Massimo Vignelli which are housed at RIT, as our initial inspiration in the development of our products."
Coincidentally, Vignelli, the Milan-born modernist designer best known for his graphic design work including New York City's iconic 1970s era subway map which positively blew people's minds back in 1972, passed away today at the age of 83. His legacy will no doubt live on at RIT, home to The Vignelli Center for Design Studies.
Below, you’ll find the student-designed entryway furnishings and accessories selected to show at WantedDesign as part of Loll Designs + RIT ID along with descriptions from the designers themselves. Owen's professional work for Loll Designs including his Mailbox and Plantstand were also on display — that would be them pictured at the top of the page. In addition to the students listed below, Boyuan Ling, Qi Liu, Erica Nwankwo, Zimo Pan, Bijal Patwa, Abhishek Swaminathan, and Henry Tao also participated in the project. You can view and learn more about all of the furnishings and accessories resulting from the Loll Designs + RIT ID project, including those not on display at WantedDesign, here.
Elevate by Austin Fagot
“There is just something in outdoor air that transforms one from a slumbering sloth to a lollygagging lemur. We thought plants might have something to do with it so we created an indoor planter to heighten your lollygagging year round. This planter was built to grow with your amusement, four snaps and a slide brings you to the next level. Constructed from recycled milk jugs, they will keep water and your plants in an exclusive relationship for life. Elevate is designed to allow water to cascade and nurture your greenery spirits on every successive row, safely catching the leftovers on the bottom for you to reuse or throw out. Whatever your wall space, Elevate your lollygag.”
Hi Bench by Bridget Sheehan
"The 'Hi' Bench serves as a friendly greeting as you walk in the door. It provides a spot to hold your keys, shoes, spare change, and umbrella. There is also a space to sit down to tie your shoes. Durable and waterproof Loll HDPE materials are ideal for this product as it requires no maintenance and withstands heavy traffic. The “Hi” Bench is a perfect fit for any entryway."
Cobbler by Brendan Gordon
"Entryways are bivalent, posing no clean break of space and time and demanding a moment of pause. A traditional piece of utility, the cobbler’s bench is also bivalent in nature. Not simply chair or desk, bench or table, it is a fusion of two basic needs — space to work and space to sit. Cobbler honors Loll’s legacy of historical reference, re-envisioning a shoe-maker’s tool, designed for linear work and attention to the more intimate objects in life. It is an aid to a doorway’s pause."
Bike Buddy by Casey Kelly
"The Bike Buddy is a storage rack that aims to secure both bike and belongings. The bike top tube sits on two side panels and a lock wraps through the bike and the storage space. A water bottle cage serves as a clever handle. Durable HDPE Loll materials support the bike and provide a sense of safe storage for belongings."
Chalker by Lei Hong
"A chalkboard is a traditional public communication channel. In an increasingly digital world it is a nostalgic and highly personal statement. Chalker is a space for reminders, and a special home communication device for family members, which creates a warm and sweet link between public and private worlds. The design of Chalker is based on the manufacturing capabilities of Loll Designs."
In addition to coming together for WantedDesign, both Loll Designs and the Rochester Institute of Technology maintained presences at NYCxDesign's main event, the International Contemporary Furniture Fair. An ICFF regular, Loll Designs was on hand to showcase its newest recycled milk jugs creations including new additions to the Lollygagger collection. Additionally, students from RIT's BFA industrial design program collaborated with venerable American furniture manufacturer Herman Miller for the fourth annual Metaproject student design competition.