Plastic Beach Party Design Thinking Sessions


The Plastic Beach Party is an effort to develop a mini plastic recycling factory in Aruba, using machines designed by Precious Plastic and will explore the value of plastics and potential roles for new and meaningful products within the context of Aruba for its inhabitants. We are currently Crowdfunding the materials for the machines so please feel free to share and support us.

During this six week program led by designer Lewis Just, participants will be guided through the design thinking process from user engagement, to ideation, through to prototyping, manufacturing, and constructing powerful product brands with a strong business case. By the end of the workshop we will have collaboratively created 5 products produced from recycled plastics, with the aim to take them to manufacture when the machines have been built.

Beach Party Meeting | August 285D3_6564

Sunday afternoon was spent at a beach with a beautifully coloured wooden hut. This was an informal session and was used to continue the conversation about how the Plastic Beach Party will continue in the future.

Exhibition | August 27


Saturday was spent cleaning, lighting, tabeling and postering the Exhibition space at a frantic speed. Luckily thanks to the help of many the work was complete on time. We opened at 7pm to many people, both locals and visitors to the island. There was a great range of people from children to the retired, from businessmen to eco warriors. There was much interest in the products and some theme groups were even approached by organisations on the island to see if they could collaborate in the near future.

Elevator Pitches | August 25


This session was split into two parts. The first half of the night focused on the past: what we had achieved and how we can communicate that.  We started off by gathering around our final prototypes as well as some of the other prototypes which helped us get to the last one, and talked about what we had learned by making them. As each team had used different techniques, there was a lot of knowledge to share. Each participant then stood up and gave the group a pitch of their final solution. This was to help prepare them for the exhibition when they may find themselves confronted by business opportunities. The second half of the session was used to discuss how the group saw the Plastic Beach party continuing on from the Design Thinking workshops and was very a very valuable discussion with lots of interesting and complimentary points being brought up.

Exhibition Preparation | August 24


Wednesday we focused on getting all the information ready for our exhibition so that the posters could be printed early the next day. This session also helped the group to start reflecting on the core essence of their products and business pitches which will set them up for Thursday.

Prototyping with a Kiln | August 21


This Sunday we were very lucky to be able to experiment with a Kiln that was lent to us by the generous people of Terrafuse. The Kiln’s temperature can be set and monitored over time precisely so it was of great help to our plastic experiments. We made some casts and tried various plastics at different temperatures to see at what precise point it would melt. We also made some more 3D prints and finalised our prototypes which will be ready for our expo on Saturday 27th August. We also made some keychains as part of our crowdfunding perks, where if you donate to support our project, you can receive a great product that we have personally made.

Business | August 18


Following on from the branding workshop the previous night, the team went into full business mode. We started the session by looking at perceptual maps to get a clear idea of where our products were positioned both within the local market but also globally. This exercise brought up some interesting talking points within the group that were then built upon when we moved onto created “circular business boards”. These are based on Business Model canvases but also highlight circular principles. Writing down our business plans on one sheet helped clarify how we would deliver our recycled plastic products to market. At the end of the session we revisited the brand and continued to work on a strong logo and visual identity.

Branding | August 17


We were back at Beam on Wednesday night to discuss our umbrella brand of the Plastic Beach Party. Brands can be tricky things to nail down so we started the session with an in depth look at other brands and the techniques they use to communicate to their audiences. We then grew upon this by exploring what our core mission statement was as a brand. This led to an open brainstorm of who we are and how we want to communicate our distinct message to our customers. By the end of the session the group had started to explore logos and the visual identity that will be used after the Design Thinking sessions.


Final Prototypes and Testing | August 14

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We had an extended prototyping session on Sunday from 10 till 5 to allow the teams to get as far along with their final designs as possible. We also had a few visitors come along to our session to see the what we were up to and help give us feedback. It was especially exciting to have a live Boa snake brought along by the islands expert resident Boa Bob who let us test our Boa related products including a snake grabber, a combined boa/mouse trap and a “boa proof” birdhouse, which we quickly learned wouldn’t do much good against such a formidable opponent.

Plastic Experiments on Final Prototypes | August 11


Thursday evening was a continuation from Wednesday’s hands on session. We started by first discussing the final idea that we want to concentrate on and will display at the exhibition on the 27th August. Following on from this,  a short lecture was given focusing on the machines that we will build in September and the machines that we have right now to work with. We then broke down into our groups to discuss in finer detail the best method for final prototype production. Groups will use a variety of techniques from plaster of paris casting to 3D printing and from using CNC moulds to plastic dip coating.

  • Slides from the Plastic Production Processes lecture
  • Questions to ask for development of Ideas
  • Sea Chair video as an example of production techniques
  • Video from Precious Plastics machines

Plastic Moulding and 3D printing  | August 10


On Wednesday night under the light of the moon (and some floodlights) the teams started to work with HDPE and PET plastic to melt, form and sculpt it into new shapes to form our products. Some teams also started to create their own tools and moulds in order to create their finished product prototypes. One team also took a masterclass on 3D printing at Brenchie’s Lab with a very successful plastic shell being manufactured by the end of the session.

Expert Feedback session  | August 7


By Sunday the groups were moving onto material experimentation with plastic over at the new Plastic Lab across the street from the Academy. We were also grateful to have experts from the various themes come along to give more direct feedback on the ideas. At the end of the session each group gave a presentation on where they had gotten to, their key failings/learnings along the way and their next steps. We had many great insights from the experts who came who included sustainability managers working in the tourism industry, designers based in Aruba and a wildlife conservation expert.

2D to 3D Prototyping | August 4


On Thursday we started the session with a lecture focused on exploring both plastic as a material (its properties, how to identify it, what manufacturing processes it can handle) as well as prototyping in general.  We then got into the hands on work and moved from 2D to 3D by constructing “dirty” prototypes from cardboard, paper and plastic to explore various challenges that the designs were trying to solve. By the end of Thursdays session we even had some plastic bags melted into plastic fabric.

  • Slides for Prototyping Lecture
  • Melting temperature poster from Precious Plastics.
  • If you want to get into the specifics of plastic additives this is a good resource. Generally the Plastipedia has a lot of information on plastics.
  • Prototyping and Modelmaking for Product Design is a great overview of many techniques for model making/rapid prototyping
  • For a more in-depth look at manufacturing techniques Making It is good
  • If your concept has a service, you can prototype that too. SDT is a great website with many quick ways on how to do this.

Idea Development | August 3


We started on Wednesday by taking our top ideas and applying some of the circular economy and sustainability strategies that we learned the previous week. We briefly looked at business models and how we might keep the materials at their highest value whilst still manufacturing new products. From the groups started to sketch out multiple versions of their top ideas.

Evaluating Ideas | July 31


We started the session by having a deeper look into the many ideas that we had come up with and collectively coming up with 7 key evaluation criteria. These included the previous desirability, feasibility and viability as well as adding sustainability, level of innovation, how easy it would be to manufacture and how much it reflected the context of Aruba. We used stickers to first feel out the top seven to ten solutions per theme and then ran them through the evaluation matrix. The top ideas per theme were as follows:

  • Beach Chair (plus repair)
  • Ice Cooler (product / service)
  • 3D printed beach shell souvenirs
  • Tote bag
  • Solar Dehydrator (produces dried food)
  • Rain Water collection system
  • Hydroponics/aquaponics Kits
  • Tote bag / food delivery system
  • Lionfish Traps
  • AC gardens (use water from Air con)
  • Boa capturing/ prevention
  • Reusable Bottles
  • Eco Currency (incentivise recycling)
  • Toy swap shop and hack centre
  • Construction Bricks
  • Roof tiles
  • Insulation

Circular Economy | July 28


We started with an introductory lecture about the circular economy, it’s division of economic flows into biological and technical components, the concept of designing products to maintain value and have renewing life cycles, and the tremendous opportunities that lie in recovering resources that are wasted in the linear economy.

Continuing on the path of the previous evening, we downloaded a few more insights from further interviews we had done, and churned out four walls full of product concepts to fit our themes, totaling over 120 sheets by the end of the night and with people already starting to discuss circular economy approaches! It was very impressive.

We finished by evaluating as many concepts as we could in terms of feasibility, desirability, and profitability, and listing the pros and cons of each one. This will give us a way to compare different ideas so that we can zero in on a few to focus on in the coming weeks. Anyone with more ideas in the meantime should write them down and add them to the list on Sunday.

On Sunday, we’ll take all these great ideas and try to focus on the best 3 ideas for each theme, and develop them further into refined products (including service / strategy / circular business models if applicable). We will decide in theme groups and collectively which we think are the strongest ideas. These ideas can then be quickly prototyped and shown to experts / users to get some early feedback. Eventually we will aim to take 1 idea for each theme through to fully manufacture and display at the exhibition at the end of the month.

Slides from Circular Economy presentation.
The Ellen Macarthur Foundation is one of the biggest advocates for the circular economy. Well worth a look.
The New Plastics Economy is their recent report specifically on plastic.
Circulate has podcasts and articles on the latest happenings on the circular economy.
Circular Design Cases has some examples of projects that aim to apply circular thinking.
Cradle to Cradle by M. Braungart and W. McDonough is a good read on a sustainable design approach.
Emotional Design by Don Norman gives great insight into how we personally connect with the physical world and objects around us.


Insights to Ideation | July 27


We shared the results of the interviews that we’d done, which produced a lot of helpful insights and interesting perspectives. With some interviews not yet done, we pressed on and picked out the nuggets from the interviews and information that we had gathered to use as the basis for our product brainstorms, and wrote them down on insight cards.

Continuing through the design thinking process, we took the insights we had gained and got a start on brainstorming some products, using what we had learned from people — their needs, desires, and unique perspectives — to come up with some tame and wild ideas of what products they could use in our five thematic areas.


Interview Questions and Planning | July 24

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We met briefly to nail down some final interview questions, and call and arrange times to talk to the people we wanted to learn from and design for.


Problem Definitions and Interview Preparation | July 21


We dove deeper into the people relating to each of our five themes, deciding on who we want to interview and defining our main problems in terms of “How might we” questions:

  • Wildlife: How might we bring human activities and spaces into alignment with the healthy functioning of the ecosystem of Aruba?
  • Schools: How might we encourage young people to take better care of the environment?
  • Construction: How might we diversify the Aruban construction marketplace with locally produced products that are sustainable, good quality and affordable?
  • Tourism: How might we improve the experience for tourists on the island and make their stay more comfortable while promoting sustainable tourism practises?
  • Food: How might we encourage more people to grow, preserve and distribute organic food on Aruba?

For the interviews we’ll need to find the key users we identified, and get into conversations with them to understand their perspective and bring out their stories and knowledge. Focusing on the “How might we” questions, we want to see the problem from their perspective. We’ll do as much documentation as we can, taking lots of notes, pictures, recording the interview, and taking opportunities to experience things when they come up.

On Sunday, we will be at BEAM in case anyone wants to work on setting up meetings, go over questions, or even hold interviews.

Slides from Users and Interviews presentation
Capture sheets to help prepare and conduct interviews


Introduction and Human Centered Design | July 20


We brainstormed positive and negative impacts relating to plastic in Aruba, and explored partners and people in the themes we identified: Food, Tourism, Construction, Wildlife, and Schools.

Slides from Human Centered Design presentation
IDEO.ORG use a human-centered design approach to help communities in need
Don Norman’s books are great reads and champion “designing for people”
TED talk by David Kelly on human-centered design
Precious Plastic plastic recycling machine designs