Project Review: Why thermochromic cork toilet seat might not be the best idea?

IMG_0339I remember this project as the most hands on project so far. I am exited to review it although it didn’t resonate in hearts neither co-students nor teachers.

It was in the middle of my second year when the brief was introduced. Live client who is a big cork distributor was looking for new applications for cork and different ways to combine new technology with cork properties to come up with exiting products.

First time ever I was introduced to a new range of exotic materials and technologies from mindsets. Among all other cool new materials and tech I spotted paint that is designed to change its color when heat is applied. There is already a whole rang of simple products like coffee mugs where a design appears/disappears when hot/cold drink is purred. Despite that I still sew a possibilities.  The fascination with the performance of this substance occupied my thoughts but unfortunatelly there was no obvious reason to combine it with cork.

It didn’t take long to come up with an instant solution. I thought about making a home item that we come across everyday, something that could be made from cork because of its pleasant to touch properties… Toilet seat! Brilliant idea I thought!

Next idea was even more creative: “Lets paint it with thermochromic paint I thought.” So I did! I designed toilet seat in solidworks that was more or less normal toilet seat. There was nothing innovative about it for sure. I stacked sheets of cork, glued them together and left overnight under press to dry evenly. Amazing I thought! Everything is going according to plan…



Next morning I CNCd an actual, real size toilet seat with all fittings and a final looking product. I was extremely happy with that, and was running around with it, showing everyone. Didn’t get much excitement back, but it didn’t stop me or upset me in any way. Hade a time of my life running around campus with a toilet seat around my neck.

I was caring and attentive to dateless. I send down by hand all roughness from CNCing. It was so nice and smooth and I thought that everyone would be happy to help me test it… I was wrong!


There was another step ahead. According to brief I had to make my cork toilet seat innovative, to combine it with the technology of some sort. Since I already felt in love with thermochromic paints. I thought it would be a marriage made in haven! And I was about to paint stripes of purple thermochromic paint on top of cork toilet seat. My concern was that due to the fact that paint was water based it would have been wash of or smudged by someones bottom, so I found some transparent wood lacquer varnish and mixed it with paint. And something unexpected happened! Paint changed its properties!

The normal effect of thermochromic paint is that when temperature is applied it changes from color to white. So I thought that strips on toilet seat would go white when someone used it. In my head it looked like a fun prank kind of project. Like a prank masterpiece to be exact! So I mixed thermochromic paint with transparent wood lacquer varnish and instead of turning white it started turning transparent. “That is awesome!” – I thought. I painted toilet seat and tested it. I set on it and indeed- from purple it was slowly turning pink and disappearing and then when cooling was turning purple again.

From looking back on this project I can say that there was not too much thought involved, no real value imbedded. So it was pretty much impossible to impress with this idea course mates or teachers.

I was working around one user case without looking at the bigger picture. I was unintentionally ignoring issues that might have appeared. The only problem that came to my mind was that paint could wash off and solution was found threw varnishing and resulted bit unexpectedly but it still served the purpose.

If I were working on this project today I would have used this opportunity differently. I believe I would have used other existing user cases for cork and focused on properties like easy cork decomposing, sustainability, rawness and renewability. And physical properties like thermal conductivity, electrical conductivity, acoustic resistivity, heat resistance, water resistance and thermal diffusivity. Using properties of cork to come up with product ideas consistent with newly emerging behaviors like social sustainability demand and anti-consumerism movements. Social paradigm is changing towards a responsible consuming and responsible living. Conspectus consumption has left huge carbon footprints and had an enormous impact on public health, wealth, self-worth and overall confidence in living in a good place now and in the nearest future.

Public sharing is a type of a new behavior that accrued from global crisis and paradigm change. That is something that would catch my attention now. And my project would involve more socio-political aspects of living and contemporary social problems that have potential to be resolved using new technologies, innovation and design thinking.

Saying all that I still looking back at toilet seat and see a fun, easy project that gave me confidence in experimenting and testing. I got familiar with mechanical processes like gluing and pressing cork sheets, 3D modeling, preparing file for CNC machining. Crafting part was fun and interesting and testing it as it meant to be used, was fun and exiting.

Growing up as a designer for me means adding layers of meaning to your design. If first my design thinking was straightforward: reshaping and restyling exercise, than now I would say that design for me is about observing a bigger picture and applying more layers of meaning to meat emerging behaviors and needs.

P.S. There is no wonder now that cork toilet seat was not impressive. But if someone would ask me “Why this is interesting” I would still defend it by saying: “Because it is fun!” No harm to environment done. In the end of the day there is a place in life for fun and stupidity, why wouldn’t it be tastefully imbedded in you’re personal time on the loo.


I took a part in openideo challenge:How might we ensure that young people practice their creative confidence today so that they have a shot at becoming successful leaders tomorrow?

The brief: As young children, we’re all creative. We draw, sing, build, and dream. Yet somewhere along the way – due to the influence of others or our own insecurity – many of us put down these creative instincts. Together with IDEO and our partners – and in celebration of Tom and David Kelley’s new book, Creative Confidence – we’re asking the OpenIDEO community to design fun, inspiring and new ways to help teenagers and young adults around the world preserve and nurture their own creative confidence. At a time when our world faces unprecedented challenges, how might we ensure that young people practice their creative confidence today so that they have a shot at becoming successful leaders tomorrow?


I have an idea for a creative online space where people get tips and tutorials and are challenged to put their knowledge to practice.


Young adults who have forgotten that they were once totally creative. There is a technic to gain confidence that: athletes, public seekers, entrepreneurs and many more professional adults use to overcome their anxiety to accomplish their tasks.

The corner stone of this practice is repetition. Threw repetition they can gain confidence in their knowledge within a subject. But that is not everything. A young person could be brilliant at memorising poems, but may not overcome the fear for stage performance.

This is where second technic is coming to play, which is “Baby steps approach”. Psychologists use this technic to overcome phobias. Gradual exposure to phobias can cure minds from disturbing thoughts and builds comfort around the subject of fear.

Third, but no less important is a reward system. The young person must get rewarded in order to build confidence. They must feel that they are succeeding and not forget about this. Recognition in online space within networks is a powerful tool to keep young people going on his path to perfecting their skills, which on its own is a powerful driving force.

A lot of young people reported that their peers destroyed their creative confidence. “In school a girl told to a boy, that his project clay horse looked nothing like a horse. He threw it in the bin and never again took part in creative project like that.” An unaware punishment from a girl’s side destroyed the little boys creative confidence, but it didn’t mean that his creativity was injured. If there was a way to make the boy believe that he was still creative and that his failure was not due to his lack of creativity, but lack of motivation and confidence.

In my opinion the way this child should be treated is he should be exposed to small portions of public judgment to be cured from fear of it. So the system should provide “safe” options and a reward system and graduatelly take the “safe” out of context so it becomes “real”


Like on YouTube you can find tutorials on anything, this space will share tutorials with challenges so the user could put to practice his new skills and receive a rewarding certificate that is downloadable, social network sharable and a collectable item that you can display on your board alongside with pictures of your brilliant projects.

It has to be a support group

It has to have a reward system

It has to be error proof

It has to be mobileIt has to be responsive

It has to build a relationship with the user

It has to give answers

It has to help ask questionsIt has to store data

It has to link and group people


Avatar creation – you are asked to build your avatar from parts. Chosing from a list of features you can build a creature surrounded by symbols of interests. More challenges you take the more objects your creature gets. This will encourage young users interest and encourages them to reflect on their personality.

Selecting a skill that is in an area of interest is the first step in mastering skills. This allows for a narrow, error free path that might lead to a brilliant project and ticking a skill box and getting proof of success.

Tutorials are kept in the same format, challenge to challenge.First is an introduction to skill-Who? Why? When? This gives confidence and a clear understanding.Tutorial itself. Show and tell is the best way to explain the mechanics of different skills.Challenge would be something fun, easy, and use tasks that require skills shown in the tutorial part of the video. It would help master the skills threw a hands on approach and repetition with a no confusion slogan.

Submitting is another big opportunity to share success stories online within social medias (twitter, facebook, linked in, instagram, pinterest, flicker…) As well as this, the only way to unlock the next step and gain access to other peoples work is through completing the challanges.

Evaluation is another bonding mechanism that allows users to be a part of a group and a possibility to reflect apon themselves on their success in a group context. Evaluation is feedback based threw commenting with respect and positive mindsets. Having evaluated fellow challengers next big thing is unlocked.

Graduation and certificate ceremony is a minute screen lock with a video representing achievement. Certificates from one heaven of a challenge will pop up on all social medias that are connected to profiles as well as a downloadable version. I hope to see certificates popping up on social media and profile walls.

In this challenge, we want to create ideas with young people, not for them. Outline how you’re planning to involve young people or other end-users (parents, teachers, etc) in designing, iterating or testing your idea during the Ideas phase.

Using existing platforms for video sharing like youtube or pinterest we could create a space, where challenges with videos, step by steps and tutorials are published. Tis way Idea can reach target audience within the platform and build its whey towards independent platform.Not only user learns new skills he builds up his portfolio and eventually will be confident in introducing his skill and posting his own challenge. This way system can become self

How might you envision your idea spreading across geographies or cultures so that it inspires young people around the world to cultivate their creative confidence?

This is the best part of it! Every culture has its own signature craft or stile of DIY. Spreading the knowledge of ways other cultures create stuff is one of the main values of this project. So any person would get the best possible explanation on the subject of his interest as well as support group and grate experience in making and sharing. I believe it could be a whole new field for people to show and tell.

follow the link to the challenge to support my idea: