Upcycle Final Report: Countdown Desk Obstruction

Utility. Function. Upcycling for the sake of preserving the planet. My project has nearly none of those qualities. What little utility it has is eliminated as soon as you use it. Its function is better served with an app on a smartphone, and while it is upcycled, it is manufactured in such a way that you can’t replace integral components without severely altering the aesthetic, rendering it disposable.

Concerning aesthetic, it has some nods to bridge design. Large bolts in the rear, clamping the copper “cables” into the stem are reminiscent of the large rivets found on metal bridges. It goes without saying that the curve with cotton strings appears as a suspension system.

A less apparent design consideration is the brachistochrone curve (or the poor attempt at assuming such a curve). It has a subtle time element that supplements the intent of tracking time that the entire device is built around. The device tracks time with cotton strings. A brachistochrone curve equalizes time; two objects dropped at different points on the curve will roll to the center at the same time.

For fabrication, I had a difficult time finding materials for the arch that would hit the curve intended while still “bouncing back” to a vertical position. In fact, I never did find such a material. I went with copper wire because it was available and did have the ability to be bent into the shape desired. The rivets did not set well, and I had to adjust the strings through the arch wire multiple times (further altering the shape).

When we applied the aesthetics to objects in class, it was suggested to my group that we include the aesthetic of bamboo rod “swords” as they do in dojos (we drew “martial arts bicycle”). I liked that as a method of incorporating strings into the arch, so I wrapped the collection of wires in the coated wire used to create electric motors. Layers, Jerry, layers.

When it finally came together, I brought it with me to present to my pod. I said something similar to what I said in this post, I presented some images, I showed the curve, then I cut the strings. I cut the strings, the copper held its shape, and I had to artificially “spring” them back to the vertical. The aesthetic changed, the utility was gone, and I had not remembered to take a “before” photo.

The final aesthetic resembles the worst sailboat you could ever buy. Sharp corners, tall ragged sail, and heavy metal composition (KISS). It is now basically a paperweight. Not the worst paperweight I have ever seen, but certainly no Picasso. To be fair, I don’t think Picasso ever worked in office supplies.


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14 Comments. Leave new

  • Tyler unfortunately I wasn’t present during your presentation. However your project looks good and I enjoyed your story behind the project. After watching your presentation online I’m impressed with how thorough your design process is. The resemblance of the golden gate is appealing and the cotton strings were used well. I wish you could’ve found material which would bounce back. Overall great presentation I wish I could’ve seen in person/

  • Tyler, you brought such a different perspective to this project that was very unique. I like how you took a lot of inspiration from something so mundane as bridges(expect for the cool ones) into the design. I like your idea of a one use item but for me it sort of defeats the purpose of an upcycle project. I would’ve made the strings re- attach to the base so it could be used over and over again but that’s my take on it.

  • Joseph Coulombe
    February 18, 2019 8:59 am

    I enjoyed this take on upcycling something that can be used only one time. This concept could be applied to other everyday items that may have one extra purpose before being completely disposed of. This project in particular could attribute to stress/anxiety for an upcoming deadline and each cut being a release of some of that stress/tension building up to that date.

  • Nice job Tyler. Highly creative project interesting functionality. Great correlation of the Brachistochrone and the relationship between the bridges in the SF Japanese garden and your project. Regardless that it doesn’t “pop back-up” I think it is a great project and it is even better that you mentioned this failure as we learn from mistakes.

  • Tyler,
    This was a super creative project. I would have never even come close to how thought out and creative this project was. And I also think it’s interesting that you only wanted it to get one use out of it.

  • Hi Tyler I thought you had a very thoughtful project. I really enjoyed your presentation.

    Your ‘planned obsolescence’ theme was a cool take on the upcycle process, and I thought you folded the bridge/nature aesthetic in nicely. The having something that changes cross section (like a piece of wood that is thinner the father from the base) might give you the elastic profile you are looking from. Just something to think about.

  • Ibrahim Alhajji
    February 11, 2019 2:18 pm

    I really liked the inspiration part of your project. The idea of making a one time product was unique. Also, I liked the look of the end results. However, it would have been much cooler if the worked.

  • Very unique upcycling project! I understand the art within your product, but I would never buy or make it. I believe that aesthetic is all about understanding so your product would have an approach to people better if it was understandable in terms of functionality.

    • I mean the level of aesthetic can be lowered if flaws in different area like functionality can distract the expression of the aesthetics

  • Ambrogino Depolo
    February 11, 2019 1:50 pm

    Really cool inspiration with the bridge in the background and the tree in the foreground. I certainly got a good idea about your overall project and the form that you were aiming to capture. It was really cool to see how this all came together even if it was not the finished version. Is this something that you would ever return to? You did seem satisfied to call it quits on this one but is there a chance for a revival? A sequel?

  • I like how much thought you put into your project, and how it very much recollects the look of the golden gate bridge. Maybe you could’ve attached shorter length strings to help the springiness, or used springs like you’d discussed. Overall, I think you did a great job. With the presentation, you could’ve had more progress pictures, instead of stock photos, to help relate your words more to your experience.

  • Brittany Callin
    February 11, 2019 1:46 pm

    Tyler, this was a very well thought out project. You had a lot of different ideas go into this one project and it shows how carefully you thought about this. I admire that! Your design process is very thorough. I think using a different string would have given the object a better look. I don’t think the current string on the object gives it a very pleasing look, but I think a different color or material string would make it a more attractive object for a desk.

  • Taylor Whittemore
    February 11, 2019 1:44 pm


    I really enjoyed the idea behind your project. The idea of reusing something for a finite amount of time really points out many flaws behind the whole “reuse” idea. You show that even if you are reusing something it will eventually become useless once again. I also like the idea of tension and time. I was wondering what you thought about the usefulness of your project. I agree that artistically and symbolically it is well done, however, the purpose of it is a bit lost on me (not that it really needs a purpose, I like that it is art and has a cool meaning)

    • Taylor Whittemore
      February 11, 2019 1:47 pm

      Also you should check out Trey Duvall, he is an artist in Denver that does stuff related to time and destruction etc.


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