Running from mid-December 2020 to early January 2021, Visions of The Future: Design in a Pandemic State of Mind was the first live exhibition held at the National Design Centre since the Covid-19 restrictions were eased. Eight emerging local talents presented design concepts that thoughtfully reimagined the new normal and addressed how design can help us thrive in a challenging time.

One of these concepts was Mass Production of Happiness, a curious glass apparatus multidisciplinary designer Yingxuan Teo invented to produce soap at home.

Yingxuan Teo

HOW DID MASS PRODUCTION OF HAPPINESS COME TO BE?

It was my graduation project at Design Academy Eindhoven in 2018. The school gave me the freedom to shape my design brief and to express who I was as a designer. My project addresses three issues: a happy mind, a happy body and a happy earth. I wanted to work with soap because it is an item we use every day. It is also fairly simple to make yet mass-produced liquid soap generates a staggering amount of plastic waste.

“The end product of Mass Production of Happiness is not the soap, but the ritual itself.”

yingxuan teo

The idea prompted by this apparatus is to imagine a future without the waste. I also like the idea of creating a ritual of making it at home. We tend to appreciate objects more when we are involved in the creation process and see ingredients and parts come together in a product instead of just seeing them at the convenience store.

TELL US MORE ABOUT THIS RITUAL OF MAKING.

The idea is to create a mini-factory of sorts with glass parts designed to process specific ingredients. This apparatus processes soapnut powder, water and aloe vera. I was inspired by how a press machine extracts the juice from sugar cane and used the same principle for the glass parts to extract the liquid from aloe vera for the soap. Some parts were made in the Netherlands while others were done here by a local company called UFO Labglass.

ANY PLANS TO MANUFACTURE IT COMMERCIALLY?

If I were to mass-produce this apparatus, it would probably need to be made of plastic, which defeats its purpose. I hope to customise more like it to offer the ritual of soapmaking with more ingredients, so you can customise your soap with more components like essential oils.

During the research for this project, I came across many different groups of people who didn’t trust mass-produced liquid soaps because of the chemical ingredients or the waste generated by the industry. Some opted to shower with just water while others chose organic soap bars or making their soaps. So different people in different countries have different ways to play a part in this sustainability effort.

WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES FOR MASS PRODUCTION OF HAPPINESS?

I would like it to inspire people to slow down, enjoy the ritual of making and using something they’ve made product, and to rethink the origin of the products and the ingredients they use and their impact on the environment. The end product of Mass Production of Happiness is not the soap, but the ritual itself.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU?

I am a full-time product designer with one of the local office furniture brands, and have projects like these on the side It’s a nice balance between experiencing the commercial side of design and the deeper environmental issue. I hope to continue doing both. 

Images courtesy of DesignSingapore Council