Tessa Steunenberg

MFA Design: Product and Furniture

I am a product designer who uses design as a tool to investigate and research design as a processes, to engage with emotional design and sustainability. Through co-design, I am investigating the potential to make product design more sustainable through socially engaged design, making and production

Research & Methodology

My research started with a classic research question: "What can we learn from social housing to make more social and sustainable product design?"  I used principles from social housing, with a particular focus on Elemental Studios 'Quinta Monroy' Chil (2003). After discovering that the architects involved the occupants in their design process which made it a successful project, I chose to use this strategy also for my project.

Methods & Process

I developed a set of basic toolboxes and raw material kits, to investigate the hypothesis, and assess how non-designers can be empowered to design and make their own products. Instead of giving them a manual I asked the participants questions about functions for products they might need, what places they might locate a new product, and encouraged then to re-use materials and products they already had readily available within their homes. Within this testing and development, I used Johnathan Chapman’s theory of emotional design to make the products more sustainable.


Through the use of project feedback questionnaires I was able to evaluate how people’s thoughts about product design became changed, and whether being part of the design process made them value their products more. Some of the more illuminating outcomes were: 100% of the participants said they valued the product they made more as they are involved in the design process, and 95% of the participants said their understanding of the product design has changed, and they now had a more insightful understanding of the time and value of the design and manufacturing process within the production of a product.