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An Interview with Posti

A couple of weeks ago I was given the opportunity to interview the two creative minds behind the Kickstarter project and brand Posti Plasto. Ariel and Vanessa actually went to UIC with me, they were a year ahead of me in school and they were always two people that I looked up to, so it was an awesome experience to be able to catch up with them and hear a little bit about their lives and this project.

Vanessa and Ariel have both been living in the Chicagoland area for over four years now and both studied Industrial design at University of Illinois at Chicago

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We will start off with you guys kinda introducing yourselves, so if you don’t mind stating your name, a little about where you are from and what you do. And then your projects name, what it was and what it means to each of you

 

Ariel

Do you wanna start?

Vanessa

Sure I’ll go.

So my name is Vanessa, Vanessa Rodriguez, I am very much in the design research side of things, that’s what I really enjoy doing.  Our project, for me was an experiment in kind of sustainability and design.  We were trying to figure out if we could make something cool and not just what you see out there right now in sustainable products.

 

Ariel

Yeah the project was called posti plasto, it was a kickstarter project, we are probably going to change it to just posti, because posti plasto, everyone was just kinda like “uh posti what?” *laughs* and we would just be like nevermind *laughs*

Yeah similar vibes, we did a project together, through this company called IDEO.org, we were trying to win a scholarship and we entered this competition with the topic of sustainability in design.

So we did this project with five other woman and we especially got really excited about the topic and were like well we want to do more with this. To me the topic of sustainability was pretty new, she (Vanessa) had been studying at UIC with a lot of drive around sustainability but I was still making stuff out of resin and not really thinking about materials for my products on a grand scheme.

Oh and Im Ariel. *Laughs*

Sorry 

Vanessa

As Ariel just mentioned, in 2011 I had taken a class in environmental biology and I learned that a lot of the things that we(designers) are making are like fucking up the planet.

I don’t know can we swear? *Laughs*

But a lot of the things that we are making are just having a lot of really bad consequences on the planet, and we see it every day.

 

Ariel

And industrial design is like the biggest contributor, like the field that we all studied does it.

 

Vanessa

Our sophomore year we had a design research course and taught by a woman named Trish, and I’m not going to remember her last name.

So anyway we had Trish for a design research course, and after that class I realized I was very driven by how a lot of people don’t know anything about design and that also becomes an issue.  We as designers can’t just make things that we like, we have to make things that people actually want to use and then that kind of changed my perspective.  I grew more interest in what people think about the products that we have now and then how can we change their perspectives. So maybe we can change the things that people are using without being intrusive to their current lifestyle. Which brings us back to posti.

Ariel

So Ive always been really interested in bio plastic and material science and more experimental aspects of design.  A lot of the projects I have done were material or form focused.  And so I knew I really wanted to do this and experiment with bioplastics.

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How did you guys come together?  Had you worked on projects together before posti?

 

Vanessa

No, we actually had never worked on a project together before in college.

 

Ariel

I mean we were friends and in the same kind of social circles

 

Vanessa

And then we were in the same classes together all four years

Then we both went to Copenhagen and became more personal friends, because it was a really small group that went over there. That whole experience was kind of what bonded us

After we graduated I was working over at Lost Arts and that was where Ariel was doing some of the production for Sindr (Ariel’s last kickstarter project) when we heard about the IDEO.org project about sustainability.


Ariel

The prompt was to come up with an alternative to single use plastics, through a product based idea.

 

Vanessa

The competition was worldwide so, everyone submits a project and they pick a winner

There was a bunch of women at lost arts who were interested and I approached her (Ariel) and I said hey, I think it would be cool if we meet like once a week and worked on this topic, see if you can come by and we ended up doing a little project together. Then after the IDEO.org project Ariel approached me about Posti.


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What is Posti?

Vanessa

Posti-plasto is a citizen science project built to disappear. Posti is a limited release product and project that will test how well a backyard compostable starch based plastic holds up in the home. The product we launched was a back yard compostable air plant holder for your home.



Why did you guys decide to continue to work together and with the topic of bioplastics after the ideo.org competition?

Ariel

and after working with you I realized that we kind of had a good team dynamic.  A lot of opposites you know where I’m really good at something she’s not and she’s really good at something I’m not.

 

Vanessa

It works really well

There was another woman at lost arts who was doing a bio plastics project through SAIC and her project was more science based, she had been working on it for like a year. Seeing her work on that furthered our interest in the topic.

 

Ariel

We knew our idea was going to be more geared towards education, to get people excited about an accessible alternative.

Before this project I didn’t really know much about composting.

 I had heard it as like this thing that hippy’s do.

I didn’t understand what composting was and I didn’t understand that when you buy something that’s biodegradable it wont just degrade if its in a landfill.  Biodegradable things have to be in the right environment and there were all of these things where like “I’m an educated person and I’m aware and I didn’t know this.”

Not that I’m representative of the population but, a lot of people can relate to these feelings.

So we just wanted to do this (project) in a really approachable and fun way.

And another issue we saw with a lot of things that are green or sustainable is that the materials they are using are like harsh RGB colors and they aren’t really thoughtful to design and consumer trends. Everything has to be made out of hemp and this color green and if you want to make thoughtful choices concerning the environment that’s your life now. Which is why we wanted to make (our project) more fun and more branded and accessible

 

Vanessa

Yeah we just sort of thought, well what would someone choose?

We wanted to make sure it was actually something that people aren’t going to be bothered to use it.



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How did you guys determine your product would be something people would want out of a product like this?




Ariel

We did a lot of trend research of what the spring colors were going to be the following year and we wanted (posti) to be contemporary and thoughtful to people.

Like when you go to the store you’re going too buy the pretty thing or the fun thing, you’re not going to buy the green thing if you have an easier choice in the matter.

 

Vanessa

 And we are designing it so its compostable and you don’t need to make a choice. 

with posti,

“You don’t have to choose between the good thing and the pretty thing, you can just choose.”

 

Ariel

Then when the trend dies or you’re just over the colors used on the product you can just compost it

 

Awesome, so you guys just answered a lot of questions,

 

Ariel

You’re like our victim, finally someone to talk about it with

 

*laughs*

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So you guys contacted each other, you started your research, and then how was it trying to create this new material, how was it creating this bio plastic?

 

Ariel 

Oh yeah, its like totally an open source online, you can find all sorts of bioplastic recipes that you can make in your kitchen.  Our challenge was trying to make one that was able to be casted.  So a lot of the ones online they create like thin sheets or they create blobs.

 

 

Vanessa

And then she (ariel) was in California while we worked on this project, she approached me at lost arts and then a few months later she was like moving.

 

 

Ariel 

Yeah so we did this project across the country together.

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So this was like a long distance relationship?

 

Ariel

Yeah definitely, But it was actually really useful because I was in this dry warm climate and she was in this cold humid-ish tests.

 

Vanessa

We also looked at a couple of different types of recipes since there are a couple of different ways to make bioplastics, we went with a starch based recipe, and then even from there there are a ton of different starches.

I think that was the most fun part for me, I love that, trying out a bunch of recipes

 

Ariel

 And then altering the different ratios

 

 How would you guys work long distance? Was it like a divide and conquer?

Vanessa

Yeah so we started off with trying out a few different recipes, so I would make a lot of the plastics and then send them to Ariel in California.

Ariel

Then I would test more of the composting aspects, we had these army men that we were covering with the plastic to monitor the composting.

 

how long did that process end up taking you guys?

Vanessa

I think it was like 3 months.

 

Ariel

Yeah I was out in LA for about 3 months and then I came back and we started working on more of what the form  concept was going to be and what the kickstarter was going to look like. 

 

Vanessa

 And that’s when we started to play more with the ratios and figuring out if we could make this in a form.  Like if its just a blob, its just a blob and it doesn’t really matter. 

And like you said, with the humidity thing, we had to test how much water we add and the starch and then adding glycerin and pectin and we ended up adding a number of things to our recipes and that process took a lot of trials together.

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Ariel

Then after that we tried a number of different mold types, like we made some out of tera cotta clay and we were trying to keep this all circle economy, so even when we were prototyping we tried to make sure that nothing was wasted, nothing went to landfills.

One thing that wasn’t great though, was that we used like a silicone ice cube tray, but that’s reusable so we were kind of flexible with that. 

 So we did our best considering we don’t have a huge budget.

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So after you developed the plastic, did the material end up dictating how the molds were made and the shapes of the final products?


Vanessa

 Yeah it did, we quickly realized that size was an issue, when we would try to go really big, the plastic wouldn’t cure.

 

Ariel

Yeah or it would warp, it was very difficult to get it to work large scale.  That’s why we went so small with the shapes

 

Vanessa

And then time too, how long it would take to cure and mold, ended up being a major factor in the production. 

 

Ariel

Yeah from now on I will outsource everything.  It takes so much longer than you think it will.

 

Vanessa

 Its been a really fun process though.

 

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Was kickstarter the goal from the beginning?

 

 Ariel

 Yes, Kickstarter was always the end goal, we knew from the beginning that this was what we wanted to do.  We thought about indiegogo too

Vanessa

We both have had successful kickstarter projects before too.   

I do have to give props to ariel to, I feel like I wouldn’t have launched when we did without her, I think I could have just tested forever. 

 

 Ariel

 Yeah I definitely think that she’s good at details and hyper focusing on stuff, and I’m just like no lets go lets go lets go!

 But then other times she will slow us down and remind us that we need to do this and this will help us long term. 

 

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So where are you guys in your kickstarter? When did it fund?

 

 

Ariel and Vanessa

It funded last summer

 

Ariel

So we are working through production now, all of the DIY kits are out and we are working on some of the air plants out for the multi kits and the single backers.  We are just chugging through it.

 

 How do you guys balance manufacturing with your regular life?

 

Vanessa

We schedule it in *laughs*


Ariel

And then at least for me I really value when we can work together, because when I’m alone its very easy to just shove it to the side. 

 

Vanessa

I’ve learned A LOT from Ariel just about being committed and following through

So I schedule it and I try really really hard not to skip it.

 

Ariel

 I can also be kind of mean when people don’t follow through *laughs*

 

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Vanessa

We definitely just have to make stick to the plan as much as possible, I mean we thought we would be done by now, but we had to make a lot of adjustments because of the weather.


Ariel

 I mean just in her apartment alone, this is wild, so shes better at actually making the plastic, but we have to demold them here because her apartment will actually make them warp but in my apartment they cure fine.

So she will make them and then we have to transport them over to my apartment to remove them from the molds.

 

 

Vanessa

I’ve had to just compost so many batches because they just warp, but it works.  So I cook on Wednesdays and bring them over on Thursdays

 

Ariel

Yeah and I ended up getting the most excited about the DIY kits, so I’m curious to hear about how the DIY kits will end up going.  To see how someone in Chicago vs. someone in Texas, if they ended up trying different ingredients or if they could get it to cure. 

 

Vanessa

Specially if we are experience completely different things in our two cities. Like we are 20 minutes away.  We are really excited to see how the project does in other peoples homes.

 

Ariel

That’s definitely how we will move forward too, like we will move forward with the kit and set up a website and we want to do a podcast

 

Vanessa

And then try other materials too because why not?  Why should we stop the suffering here? *laughs*

 

So you guys are planning on continuing together? Are you guys pretty open?

 

 

Ariel

We want to try a bunch of different areas.  We want to explore and try a lot of different materials and do it in kind of a citizen science way where other people can participate and that would kind of be the point of the podcast, people could learn about it and engage with people interested in the same thing.

 

Vanessa

Then we always want to keep design in mind, we want to make sure Posti stays a brand and has products that people are excited about and that was something that we loved about this project.

People didn’t know that it was a compostable product when we would bring it to events 

 

Vanessa

Which was our goal, for Posti to always be made with design in mind. We want to make sure we are making something beautiful.

 

 For more information about Posti and their story I have attached a link to their kickstarter below!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1168644851/posti-plasto-compostable-air-plant-holders?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=posti%20plasto

 

Marisa Savegnago