In order to come a step closer towards “tools for the future”, the group brainstormed existing tools, possible metal sources of the future, various recycling aspects, as well as trends of the future. The tools ranged from hammers to air pumps to toothbrushes. The possible sources of raw materials for the future consisted of examples such as disused tracks, dental gold or old aircraft turbines. When collecting the various recycling aspects, however, difficulties such as the disassembly into manageable single components or the energy required for dismantling and the profitability of recycling became particularly clear.

When thinking about possible social, economic and political future trends, not only realistic but also utopian and dystopian scenarios were thought of. At the same time, these scenarios raised questions such as: “Which tools will no longer be needed in the future?” or “Will future trends require new tools?“. Inspired by the four categories (metal sources, tools, recycling aspects, future trends) quick mock-up ideas for tools were outlined on paper in small teams.
Based on the compendium “Mind the Future” by the Web for Interdisciplinary Research and Expertise (W.I.R.E.), which summarizes the most important future developments and trends in the fields of economy, demography, society, technology, politics and ecology in an index card system, every student wrote three short stories inspired by these cards. The stories all play in a future dealing with exhausted geological deposits of metals and describe everyday life with a thematic focus on future tools and urban mining.

For each of the three stories different existing manual tools were collected and characterized in terms of:
• manufacturing process
• intended use
• ergonomics
• usefulness
• recyclability (1).

Later during the workshop, we also compared different tools regarding:
• usability aspects (2)
• aesthetics (3)
• marketing dimensions (4) and
• material veracity (5)
and concluded important key aspects.

1. Recyclability: The fact that a number of different concepts are covered by the term recyclability makes a precise definition difficult. Important aspects are the type of material, the disassembly and labelling of individual parts, the number of different raw materials, but also the general reparability and repairing possibilities (such as return guarantees, repair cafes etc.) of a product. The recycling process should already be taken into consideration during the manufacturing process, e.g by further processing die-cuts, edge off-cuts or other thread remnants. Products manufactured from a mono material however are the easiest to recycle.

2. Usability: Not only the material and the aesthetic appeal of a tool play an important role when purchasing a product. The features of a tool should take good ergonomics, low weight, a variety of functions and comprehensive safety aspects into account. The handling of the tool must be easy for the user to understand and should represent a real added value.

3. Aesthetics: The shape, the surface and the material of a tool are key factors of the aesthetics of a design. At the same time, aesthetic opinions and demands differ from culture to culture and from the age of fashion. Colour effects or pseudo-applications can be applied to make an inferior product appear more qualitative or more expensive.

4. Marketing: The right marketing of a product ultimately determines its success. Marketing always depends on the target group, the consumer’s needs and expectations of a product. In addition to technical factors, psychological factors play a major role. Products inferior in quality can thus gain popularity through an appealing marketing campaign, triggering positive memory functions that can effectively win over the customer.

5. Material veracity: Does a function require a specific material? Is the choice of material appropriate in terms of function and form? These are aspects that have to be examined when regarding the suitability of a material. However, depending on whether the product is made for mass production or a single customer, the weighting of aspects such as good ergonomics, low weight, a variety of functions and comprehensive safety features are important when making a purchasing decision. The handling of the tool must be easy for the user to understand and should represent a real added value.

text: Johanna Abendroth, Anna Freudenberg