Designing, creativity and adventurousness run in the family for Antonio and Lorena. Having an industrial designer as a mother and an astrophysician as a father, the siblings have a passion for design. They are inviting Montrealers to embrace their innovative products.
Not interested by traditional paths
Lorena studied ceramic and graphic design while Antonio went for sculpture and industrial design. They both started their careers few years ago in the corporate world and in design studios. However, something was wrong – a sense of uneasiness, lack of authenticity? Antonio decided to go back to studying and chose an environmental programme in design and architecture at Universite de Montreal and Lorena quit her job. Brother and sister decided to become partners and Co/Crea Studio was born.
We did not agree 100% with what the market had to offer, we needed to create ourselves something that aligns with our vision of the world.
Their conception of design is responsible and interdisciplinary, it embraces circular economy and has a positive impact of society while remaining viable.
Going against the grain: durability vs. trends
People are either graphic designers or industrial designers but studios rarely combine the two. Blending 2D and 3D is a way to provide richer experiences and mutually benefit from each other.
Lorena and Antonio work on the ideation process together, then, the lead will depend on the type of product or service. The focus is always on offering a sustainable product or service with an extended life – which is against the processes of the industry.
Conveying messages through products
They are currently working on a series of products called the “Fundamental Series”, to promote good habits: a book-end, to leave technology aside and go back to reading books, candlesticks to give more light to our lives…
To do so, they are partnering with Mexican artisans from a small village called Tecali which is famous for its expertise in marble and onyx craft. Unlike many manufacturers that go there for cheap but quality labour, the two Montrealers want to provide artisans with fair trade opportunities and… to come back to their country of origin!
Another product, “My Montreal, our island” was created after a call for projects inviting designers to reinterpret Montreal souvenirs (that are mostly made in China as we all know…). Using Montreal’s insularity, the designers created an original mug that showcases Montreal diversity and authenticity: it is made in clay as a reminder of the sand beaches on an island, it has the island of Montreal carved in the bottom, and the name is written just like you would write with your fingers in the sand.
Of course, if you don’t know the story, you might just see it as another mug in a souvenir shop, but this is why design is so important for us – it helps conveying stories in a durable and creative manner.
What an exciting, exhausting, thrilling and inspiring 3 days… We did not know where to start, with all these conferences, workshops, networking opportunities, experiences. We tried to experience it at 200%. Here are our highlights from the most popular, selective and inspiring event that happens in Montreal.
1- To grow, you need to open your mind
The closing ceremony of C2 Montreal was long awaited by all. For this final act, world-famous rapper and weed entrepreneur, Snoop Dog came to talk about the blooming cannabis industry in Canada. As C2 aims at helping “established and aspiring leaders unlock their creativity in order tobetter face disruption and change”, mentioning cannabis growth opportunities was daring but undeniably adapted!
2- Empathy will save us all
Scientist turned robot maker, Christine Sunu showed us that robots could have a heart. Yes, they can make us feel real emotions, especially Mostly, her fluffy creation that makes sounds and purr like a cat. For mentally and socially challenged people, these robots can trigger emotions, feelings and empathy that even humans would not be able to express.
3- Design your solutions
Ideate for Impact was the place to be if you wanted to create something tangible out of your 3 days. This series of workshops allowed participants to design a real solution to make an impact on the ground. During the “Healthy Cities” lab, we learned how to articulate a design challenge, frame prototyping ideas, and implement them. This was a unique opportunity to help real people (Mark Brand and his team) on their mission to bring the homeless community upward in Vancouver through Save on meats.
4- Create with others
If you really want to bring something new to the world, you need to do it with others. Indeed, many inspirational speakers presented projects that were innovating because they were launched by a transversal and diverse team. Creativity came from the collision of their skills and personalities. Stéphane Garti is an artist and engineer that applies the tools of prototyping to dance and fashion projects. He founded Wearkit, a community of makers, coders, artists and designers contributing to open design.
5- Learn technology… or disappear
Again, this was on the mouth of several influencers such as Stephanie Carullo, COO of Box and expert in scaling tech companies: if you want to change the culture in your company, you have to excel in technology because digital tools will allow you to work towards customer centricity, diversity and… privacy!
6- Protect your data
Talking about privacy… Regulations are starting to emerge, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that went into effect on 25 May in the European Union. But beyond regulations, there is an ethical and democratic aspect to that issue. We had the privilege of listening to transparency activist Chelsea Manning talk about how marketing has turned into a massive surveillance system where it is more than ever urgent to protect our data.
7- A penny for your thought?
Have you heard of computer-brain interfaces? There are machines that allow researchers to read your minds or should we say, to “hack your brain”. At the “Reveries” lab, we got a glimpse of what happens in our minds through the use of neuro-technology. A unique visualisation of our thought patterns was offered to us after a set of electrodes was attached to our head. If today, these offer mysterious brain signals, tomorrow, tech giants like Facebook are working towards creating new devices around these computer-brain interfaces… for better or for worse!
The second day at C2 Montreal was long awaited as Chelsea Manning, world famous transparency activist was here to talk about her battle for a new democracy. But in some parts of the world, technology can be a new way of creating sustainable growth. Here is a glimpse at our lessons learnt for the day.
Data transparency in danger
Celebrating her first year out of prison last week, Chelsea Manning was on the big stage this morning to raise awareness on the risks of digital data collection and mass-surveillance from the government.
“Ten years ago, I was working on machine learning technology to find out how to better target people. Today, this has turned into aggressive surveillance. We have moved from a customer-centric marketing to a marketing for death.”
Indeed, it is more than ever urgent to create rules and work towards a greater transparency. Manning, who is a fierce whistle-blower and former US soldier got incarcerated for revealing classified documents. Today, she urges coders and software developers to assume their ethical responsibility to create more transparent tools.
If we already have encrypted text messaging or softwares like Securedrop that enables the anonymous source to upload information for journalists, the battle is only starting.
Building and scaling technology in Africa
If citizens are fighting for their privacy in our part of the world, others are embracing new technologies and creating new digital products that are both transparent and growth oriented.
Tunde Kehinde is a serial entrepreneur from Nigeria who disrupted the way Africans live and consume thanks to tech tools. He was one of the co-founders of Jumia, the “Amazon of Africa”. Despite the infrastructure challenge – Lagos was for decades among the top 15 worse cities in the world for traffic congestion (according to TomTom Index) – Tunde decided to listen to customers demand and innovate their lives.
To solve the traffic issue, he founded his own e-commerce delivery company, Africa Courrier Express (ACE). Today, his newest company, Lidya, provides African SMEs with access to credit and financing, even when they do not have a bank account.
“Africa is the next go-to market for mobile developers and a trade partner for the future for international companies.”
What we learned from this second day at C2 is that, as the theme of this year’s edition suggests, technology is definitely where the world’s privacy threats and economic growth collide.
Today was my first experience ever of C2 Montreal. If you have not heard of it, this is the most sought after event for innovation lovers in Montreal and in Canada. Here are some highlights of the first of three exciting days.
Founded by Sid Lee and Circle du Soleil, C2 – which stands for Commerce and Creativity – aims at reinventing the way international events are organized and making innovative ideas collide and burst into participants minds.
Recycling oysters shells into concrete and plastic
Introducing the “Visionary placemakers” session, Pauline Mure presented RaWMaterial, a company that works with oyster farmers and restaurants in the South of France to recycle oyster shells by designing new sustainable products: concrete for building new homes, plastic for making new toys.
Bringing love and empathy to architecture
Then we traveled to Brazil with Guto Requena. This architect from Sao Paulo made a touching presentation of his background and how he decided to dedicate his life to triggering empathy in the city through design. His Love project combines design, science and technology to transform people’s emotions into products of daily life and including them in the process. Participants are asked to tell the love story of their lives and as they speak, data is drawn and processed by a software that creates, a graphic representation is drawn and finally, objects are fabricated using a 3D printer.
The youngest VR developer
As part of the “6 under 16” presentations, we fell in love with young Sabarish Gnanamoorthy. With his brother, he launched The Knowledge Society to bring students between the age of 13 and 17 together to work on solving the world’s biggest problems through virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).
Design thinking to make cities healthier
For the first time at C2, a 3-day program, “Ideate for Impact”, is designed to get participants to work on solving the world’s most pressing challenges collaborating with changemakers from around the world. Using empathy and design thinking tools, we are mobilized to design, prototype and construct a vision for how these isnights and tools can be taken back to four different businesses.
As part of the Montreal Summit on Innovation organized by UQAM and Quartier de l’innovation, we experienced the Conversation market on collaborating towards social impact. Using color codes, participants debated on the urgency for social actors – NGOs, governments, corporations – to work together towards solving problems and make a difference in the world.
Stay tuned for our favourite findings for day 2 and 3!