Rethinking Design, Thunderbird Style

Courtesy: Deepali Ramaiah

Walking into the storage area for ReDesign, fellow T-birds Howard Chao and Richard Dennis animatedly launch into the furniture and storage prototypes they’ve been working on for the past few weeks. It is easy to see their passion for what they’ve created and very easy to get swept into helping them!

So what exactly is ReDesign and how did it come about? ReDesign define their venture as “Modular, Green, Designer” furniture, with the “Re” in their moniker pointing to their use of only reclaimed and recycled material. It all started 7 years ago when Richard found that his undergrad friends’ furniture often broke whilst frequent moving across residences and he thought it’d be far easier to have furniture made out of moving boxes that would be far easier to break down and move. The idea remained stagnant until the Spring of this year when Richard and Howard, in a Global Enterprise together, had to form an entrepreneurial opportunity assessment plan for the class, and quickly decided it was worth seriously looking into.

Despite modules abroad in different countries and travels across Asia and Europe putting the plan on hold till early summer, the pair kept in touch and worked on design concepts, market research and the business plan till early summer. They found themselves free (and on the same continent!) to meet for one day in June in San Francisco and lay the foundation to incorporate their company. It wasn’t all plain sailing thereafter though; issues like legal hurdles, acquisition of materials, a dearth of capital, dumpster diving (and even Foundations) kept popping up throughout the summer.

The biggest hurdle was finding a place to work on their prototypes without having to skip school, which meant converting a trailer into a mini wood shop. This was where Thunderbird stepped in. Not only did the school support the idea, they also found a place on campus for ReDesign to house their workspace. Both Richard and Howard are vehement in their gratitude to Thunderbird’s administration and security, particularly as they needed to have the appropriate paperwork, licence and insurance to even work on school property and needed them to be serious about the venture.

Right now, the entrepreneurial duo are working on materials like oriented strand boards which usually end up in landfills from construction jobs. They’ve created storage boxes and nesting boxes that can be transformed in a few minutes to a functioning desk. Next up is securing a highly important piece of the puzzle: the customer!

ReDesign will be showcasing their products this Tuesday, September 10th in Snell 29 between 6pm and 8pm, so come check out what they’ve been up to!

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