Yo-Yo 2020: Circles and Cycles

Perhaps the oldest tradition at Phoenix Design meets the new ritual, a modern philosophy of design. The result is a material study as a continuing part of our coffee system nunc.: a reinterpretation of the yo-yo as a prototype of human-product interaction.

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  • Text: Florian Czak
    Co-Author: Franziska Warnke

    It is probably one of the oldest traditions at Phoenix Design. Since 1988, interns have been given the task of designing a yo-yo as a parting gift. This gives them the opportunity to realize their own project in close cooperation with experienced designers and to learn from their expertise. It's quite amazing - new design approaches have emerged again and again over decades. Although the task always stayed basically the same, the results differed significantly from one another.

    The 2020 summer internship was special. Not only because of the pandemic and the virtual collaboration it entailed - but also due to the development of the new ritual, a modern design philosophy, developed by Phoenix Design in the course of planning the nunc coffee system. But the new ritual is not limited to coffee, it is particuarly about a mindset: the conscious experience of interactional processes, the tangible interplay between people and product. In this way, the result can be celebrated as one's own achievement.

  • At first glance, yo-yos appear to be the exact opposite of this principle. They are supposedly useless, as the interaction with the product remains without a tangible output. At the end, there always is the same beginning. This endless and fruitless cycle begins often with an artificial material, contrary to our conception of sustainability. The usefulness of the useless begins at the point where the product cycle itself becomes part of a larger material cycle – when the yo-yo itself emerges from the recycling of a seemingly useless end product.

    This is where the idea came in, to use a material for the yo-yo from an already existing raw material: Coffee grounds, the supposed waste product. However, it is at the same time the end of the ceremonial process of making coffee, signifying the beginning of something new. It can be used in a variety of ways and it is available in vast quantities, making it a perfectly suitable material base. It is thus transforming something apparently useless into an elementary component of a new product. It closes the circle to the new ritual and to the coffee system nunc.

  • Felix Mattes, Design Business Manager at Phoenix Design: "Our biggest impact on the climate is certainly in our daily work. Considering a waste product, such as coffee grounds in this case, as a raw material and keeping it in the cycle, i.e. recycling it without detours, is something I find extremely attractive from a design perspective, since the material brings a story from its previous "life". As innovators and designers of future products and services, we are in a central position: at the beginning of a product development cycle. We have a responsibility and the goal - together with our customers - to actively contribute to solving the climate crisis."

  • After days of trial and error, and experimentation with a few setbacks, there are four yo-yo concepts from our four interns: The Coffee Classic, based on a millable material made from coffee grounds combined with starch, cellulose, honey and wax. The Washy Washy's base material is actually a soap created by mixing coffee grounds with sodium hydroxide and various oils. Then there's the Phoertilizer, a yo-yo turned seed bomb with rice as the binder. Rounding out the ensemble is the Decaffeinated, a digitally programmed yo-yo for our increasingly important, virtual parallel world - though not made from coffee grounds, it nonetheless represents, without a physical presence, a resource-saving reinterpretation of the yo-yo.

    As the internship began with the new ritual, it ends in a reinterpretation of the oldest ritual at Phoenix - but that's not all. The entire process of designing the yo-yo ultimately reflects the new ritual: an intense engagement with a product, at the end of which is a rewarding moment. Indeed, the yo-yo is by no means useless - rather, it prototypically illustrates a process of interaction between human and product, while at the same time creating a moment of deceleration, just as nunc. And here the circle closes - from the hot drink to the material, from the new to the old ritual, from nunc. to the yo-yo. And again from the beginning.

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Franziska Warnke Communication Manager
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M +49 173 7294632