Designers from RIT's industrial design department are collaborating with the design team DS7, short for Daylite Super 7, on a project to produce one-of-a-kind tables called "ants." DS7 is a design team from ArcWorks, the manufacturing division of Arc of Monroe County.
An individual with developmental disabilities makes each ant, which bears a tag telling the story of the product's creation, and the story of the DS7 member who made it. Stan Rickel, associate professor and director of RIT's industrial design graduate program, says that just like the individuals who make them, the ants are each unique.
"It's more than just a product—it's a philosophy," says Rickel. "We've become a disposable society and we want to figure out how to get consumers more invested in what they buy. These products have meaning because you know exactly who made them."
The ants are made from sustainable materials, including rough, spalted maple, and they are not produced on an assembly line, making each one different. The intent is to form an emotional attachment to the products in the mind of the consumer, thereby reducing the chance that they are thrown away and replaced. Rickel and DS7 strive to promote a change in the behavior of consumers.
The long-term goal of the collaboration is to enable ArcWorks to become a viable business that will invite other designers to collaborate with DS7 on new products. There are plans to open an online store soon, where the ants, and future products, will be available for purchase.
"We always wanted to have a sustainable product we could call our own," says Kathy Moylan, senior administrator, transition services at Arc of Monroe. "This is a dream come true."