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Global Innovation Design (MA)

Hanne Viehmann

Design is a discipline which offers the opportunity to deal with complexity and multiple fields of action.

I studied industrial and communication design at the HFBK Hamburg in Germany and at the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands. GID arranged the surrounding of a cultural blast to reflect on our collective responsibilities of global innovative designers. I concluded in a commitment to a new design perspective on sustainability and with the motto “a bit more complex, please”.

Professional experiences:

  • Freelance designer at Design Studio HVN (since 2015)
  • Editor Assistant at Form magazine (2018)
  • Industrial designer at Yellow Design (2017)
  • Art director at Performance Media (2016)
  • Visual designer of the marketing department at Der Spiegel (2014-15)
  • Trend researcher at Trend Büro (internship 2012)



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LinkedIn Profile

Design Portfolio

Project: How sustainable is bhar?

Design Tool: Sustainability Fader

Degree Details

School of Design

Global Innovation Design (MA)

We, as global innovative designers, share a collective responsibility for our actions and global reactions. We are impelled to commit to a design practice which allocates a sustainable future for all connected cultures. This complexity means a re-understanding and reconnecting of design decisions.

The word sustainability describes the comprehensive approach from multiple perspectives. It includes the socio-cultural, environmental and economic objectives. Consumer goods play a significant role in our daily lives and contribute to our cultures and the way we consume, communicate and exist. Design is the discipline creating innovations and connecting all complex and sustainability relevant segments: people, planet and profit with products.

GID is the place which enhances the complexity of our environment we design in, and the strategies we think for. By that we are forced to focus and to communicate our designer’s Durchblick [German for 'the new vista'].

From theory to practice: I would like to test my conclusions through implementation as well to apply my knowledge to projects around the world.

Get connected and leave a comment with your design tag on Instagram #tag_rca2020. Find more information about my contact and press information in the last project.

How sustainable is bhar? An assessment of the sustainability compentence and future of the traditional cup called bahr — An introducing video, 90 seconds, outlining the goals, process and outcomes of the project "how sustainable is bhar".
3D file of a small bhar
The six characteristic design values of bhar

The six characteristic design values of bhar — natural material, biodegradability, traditional craft, efficient design, cultural heritage, and sensorial aesthetics.

Bhar's life cycle

Bhar's life cycle — a cup’s life lasts 1-2 days – beginning the moment the potter turns bhar and ending with the disposal at the local landfill in Kolkata.

What are the Indian needs for sustainability? — the policy think tank of the Indian government, NITI Aayog, is responsible for the individual and detailed sustainable development goals for India which create the framework of this project.

Podcast: How sustainable is ...?
Launch Project

Printed postcard, photo made by Amitava Saha — click on the image to find more photos, paintings and illustrations. A set of 5 postcards for only 14 GBP.

Printed postcards with paintings by Jothi Kanayalal

Cultural Sustainability: Future Prospects of a Traditional, Disposable Cup — save your ticket via eventbrite and join my workshop for a critical discussion about the concept to use a heritage, a traditional teacup called bhar, to build a culture of sustainable development in India.

In 10 to 30 years, some changes in general consumer behaviour and the production of consumer goods will have to be consolidated in order to react early to upcoming difficulties such as demographic changes, resource scarcity and climate change. The global sustainable development goals (SDG) for 2030 by the United Nations question different aspects of the socio-cultural, environmental and economic behaviour of a nation, industry, market or single product. Consequently, various traditions and products occur to have an uncertain future.


“What are the sustainability competencies and future of the traditional clay cup, called bhar,” is the question of the showcase project helping to develop a new design perspective and sustainability commitment.
The project about the traditional cup offered great opportunities to learn about a foreign culture and to elaborate sustainability relevant methods and approaches as well as changed my perspectives and resulted in a new design thinking tool.

To achieve the goal to preserve the cup’s culture, the project “how sustainable is bhar” builds an informative foundation and framework around the cup to assess emerging barriers and possibilities and to forecast developments to meet the UN sustainable goals in2030. The project visualises potential innovations and their impact on people, planet, profit and the product itself.

Preserving the aesthetics of the cup's shape, I 3D-scanned two sizes of bhar. Join the initiative “preserving bhar” and print your own cup. Find the 3D files on my website

The outcomes of the project are further suitable to communicate the conceptual idea of the project to create public recognition about the needed sustainable development in India and the global market. The findings of the research are collected in the Sustainability Catalogue to share the design perspectives and to grow connections to comparable consumer goods.

How to strategically implement sustainable possibilities and barriers of a concept in the design process? The Sustainability Fader was formed during the process to globalise design decisions and developed into a new design tool which assesses the level of sustainability of consumer goods. The comprehensive impacts of new concepts or design decisions are verified by 36 sustainability features within the segments people, planet, profit and product. The Fader includes the perspective of the researched products which contribute to our cultures and the ways we consume, communicate and exist.

Please find further information on the Sustainability Fader in the next project.

Story of bhar

Environmental problems are caused by industrial production and consumption of single-use products, such as those made of plastic. In some parts of India, tea drinkers use a disposable cup made of the natural material low-fired clay. Indian ministers see the traditional cup as a national opportunity to circumvent these environmental problems and to comply with the sustainable development goals through replacing chai cups made of plastic and paper. They highlight the ceramic cup to ensure an environmentally friendly future, but also revive their own cultural heritage: a wonderful idea with high expectations.

Kolkata is one of the places in Western India holding on to the tradition of making clay cups and drinking their thick sweet tea served in a “bhar” [Bengali for kulhad, kulhar]. I travelled to Kolkata to do an on-side research and to clarify inconsistencies as well to discover the cup's design values. I got supported by the local photographer Amitava Saha.

Please find further information about the cup's design values and the related sets of data on my website

I am pleased to share the most beautiful visualisation of bhar. Check out the RCA2020 shop and find 3 sets of printed postcards showing the authentically photographed, hand-painted and illustrated story of bhar.
# Natural MaterialsBiodegradableCeramicCircular EconomyCraftCultural heritageDesign researchDesign StrategyIndiapotterySensory / Sensorialsustainability

The cup's status quo visualised through the Sustainability Fader

The Sustainability Fader to assess the sustainability level of consumer goods

4 segments and 36 sustainability features — the Fader connects product design criteria to the sustainability 3 Ps people, planet and profit. Each segment is structured by 9 features which represent the main goals of sustainable development.

The Sustainability Fader visualises barriers and opportunities

The Sustainability Fader visualises barriers and opportunities

Comparing design concepts

Comparing design concepts — shows the changing sustainability competence of the product. The diagrams are easily understood and compared for an advanced and combined result.

Test the sustainability risks and opportunities through the Sustainability Fader — click on the image and save your spot to talk about the sustainable competencies of your concept.

The Sustainability Fader is a tool to connect sustainability features of the segments people, planet and profit to product related design features.

Design is an opportunity to deal with complexity. For example, designing consumer goods connects functions, features, qualities, and a lot more including the users', makers', and retailers' experiences. But the moment the project goes global and includes the sustainable segments people, planet and profit, the complexity can exceed to be difficult for the designer to make easy design decisions. A global overrun of industrial novelties brought some radical, environmentally and culturally impacting product solutions. Therefore, design needs to re-understand and re-connect this complexity for a sustainable future.
I developed the Sustainability Fader to make responsible design decisions for global innovative projects and to develop consumer goods into sustainable solutions. The Sustainability Fader is a new design tool to assess the sustainability competencies and sustainable future of consumer goods.


The tool translates the sustainability aspects of the SDGs and general product needs into 36 sustainability features. Five ranks indicate the level of sustainability from 0 (not sustainable) until 5 (excellent sustainable). The best possible sustainable solution would show a filled circle.
I used the Sustainability Fader in the project “how sustainable is bhar” to assess the disposable cup's status quo and to compare the impacts of different concepts like recycling, reusing, exchanging the material and exporting the cup.

If you are interested in testing the Sustainability Fader for your product or new concepts, download the image from my website
Cups disposed in bins
Cups thrown on the streets

Sustainability strategy: recycling low-fired clay — the cup can be recycled in various material solutions with material properties like sand and a fine powder.

Product solution: grog to enhance potter's clay quality and quantity — using the fine powder in a water-soluble wrapping allows the potters to wedge the product in the raw clay. For instance, this adjusts the humidity of the clay during the rainy season.

Material solution: slip and engobe — using the fine powder in different percentages combined with porcelain slip to create a rich and castable mass as well as engobe.

Material solution: engobe — Find more material solutions on my Instagram profile @by_hvn.

The concept "recycling the used cups", visualised through the Sustainability Fader, appeared to be the most potential and low culturally disrupting strategy.
Indian politicians intend to replace plastic and paper cups with the ones made of low-fired clay. They plan to produce 5 million cups per day, each weighing minimum 30 grammes, which causes a daily waste of 150 tonnes in total in India. Recycling this resource would generate a new economic value and of course a decrease of soil pollution.

CALL FOR ACTION: Based on my research, the material solutions include a great economic value on the European as well as Indian market. The materials can be used to support bhar’s culture or to contribute to a social foundation’s goals. If you are interested in a cooperation, please send me an email. I am looking forward to realizing circular bhar.

Scope of application of recycled low-fired clay

Different material experiments resulted in two material properties. I ground the used cups in two grain sizes, into a fine powder and a sand.

Fine powder
If the low-fired clay is ground into a fine powder, it can be used in the ceramic industry similar to the material called grog. This grog, mixed with clay or porcelain, has the effect of controlling a specific behaviour during the firing process: it reduces shrinkage and distortion of the ceramic product. This material option needs some further on-site experimenting, but it is for example a solution to decrease the clay quantity and to improve the quality during rainy seasons in Kolkata.
The new grog sold on the European market equals an economic value of around 36 million Euro per year. To demonstrate the possibility to combine the recycled bhar with porcelain, I conceptualized two types of reusable cups and designed prototypes.

If the low-fired clay is ground into a fine sand, it can be used in different consumer goods for various sustainable solutions similar to the material gravel. To control air or water quality, innovative products use sand to filter the medium. Sand is also one of the most precious resources and is used in certain qualities in construction to build houses. A single-family house needs around 150 tonnes of sand mixed with cement. Because of the fast-growing cities in India, the sand business turned to be highly political and resulted in an illegal business, the Indian sand mafia, which is the biggest criminal organisation in India.
The new gravel sold on the European market equals an economic value of around 14 million Euro per year.

Fillet palm leaf sheath — the fibrous, woody material includes multiple properties.

Design approach — an aesthetical collage of Palesh to visualize the new materials and to help designing product solutions.

Sandal — materials: palesh leather, teak, polyester band. The sandal is inspired by the traditions of wooden shoes made in Indonesia.

Palm textile — the sheath is treated with a solution made of glycerine to soften the texture and strengthened by a layer of interlining.

Strong leaf sheath — the palm is naturally peeling off the sheaths and leaves in an organic interval. The sheath on the picture is untreated with a curled surface.

Shovel and broom — materials shovel: leaf sheath, teak, rubber band / material broom: midi (palm leafstalk), cotton threads, rubber band. The set is inspired by traditional products made in the Philippines.

Royal palm, Singapore 2019

Fibrous, woody material

Colourful top layer — the structure is between textile and veneer

Palesh mache — treating the cellulosic fibres like wood to create paper and wood materials.

Palesh plastic — shredded fibres combined with a flexible bioplastic based on potato starch.

Textile dye

Nanyang University Singapore, 2019

The project Palesh is an experimental and on-side research about the natural material “palm leaf sheath”, a part of the royal palm tree. The outcomes are different material solutions, an overview of Southeast Asian crafts, two designed product solutions and an exhibition about the global designer's responsibilities introducing new material utilisations.

My process was divided into two research directions. The experimental part of the project was guided by the question: “how might we create new materials out of palm leaf sheaths and based on traditional techniques”. The theoretical approach which reflects my designer's responsibilities asked “how might we include a new material into valuable traditions and cultural aesthetics while creating an innovative impact”. The combination of innovation and culture described an “give-and-take-relationship”.
Please find the theoretical research in the next project.

What is needed to create an innovative product using the new material and local capacities?
My material ideas and solutions provide an innovative perspective on the sheaths with a focus on the beauty of the natural resource. It supports traditional crafts, as well as new opportunities for designers and the craftspeople to develop creative products. In Singapore, as much as in other countries, Palesh is treated as waste or with a low value.

What are the material properties of palm leaf sheath?
The largest leaf sheaths can be found on palms with a distinctive crownshaft like the Royal palm and the most colourful ones come from the Juçara palm with its bright, orange-red-purple shaft and leaf sheaths. The leaf sheaths have a similar colour to the trunk on the outside but show a beautiful range of brown, orange, red, and purple on the inside. The fibrous, woody material includes multiple properties and vivid textures: a strong, wooden stalk in the centre, turning into a fibrous veneer-like texture, and becoming thinner on both sides which reminds of parchment or leather. The varying and difficult properties of the natural resource used to be a hesitation to include the material into the cultural portfolio of handmade products in South East Asian traditions.

I experimented with all parts of the sheath to create new and innovative material solutions which refer more or less to the natural appearance of Palesh: a textile, a veneer, a plastic, a compressed wood, and a textile dye. During the practical investigation, I combined the natural resource with supporting eco materials like plastic, based on potato starch and Kombucha.

New materials, made out of the still unexplored part of the palm tree pose a great opportunity for South East Asia and other tropical regions like South America to develop and contribute to the global sustainability achievements.

Rain hat maker, Cebu, the Philippines

Cutting bamboo into thin strips

Weaving the strips into a rain hat

Material market, Tasikmalaya, West Java, Indonesia

Baskets and mats made of bamboo, Tasikmalaya

Traditional weaving techniques, fashion department of Bandung Institute of Technology, Indonesia

Local market, Cebu, the Philippines

Weaving with the natural material Pandanus, Dumanjug, the Philippines

Cutting the grass into fine strips after drying

A knotted basket

A handwoven traditional mat called banig, Dumanjug

Where does royal palm grow and how do local craftspeople work with natural materials?

I travelled to two areas around Singapore where royal palms naturally grow: West Java in Indonesia and to Cebu in the Philippines.
In both regions craftspeople specialist in weaving and knotting the materials bamboo and grass. The stiff material bamboo or dried grass is cut in long and thin strips which are woven and knotted using different techniques and structures. The craftspeople produce mainly mats, baskets, and hats, according to the local market or international orders.

The fashion department of the Bandung Institute of Technology in Indonesia researched on the different techniques used by special regions and cultural groups in Java. They study the long-time developed and beautiful structures and apply this knowledge to their designs.

Compared to the traditional materials bamboo and grass, Palesh can be cut in similar shapes and produced into comparable products using the traditional techniques.

Today's understanding is that next generations are not as interested or in need learning the techniques of weaving with natural fibres. The future of craftsmanship is questioned by globalisation. But innovative materials with a global interest support the cultural identity and the origin of the economy.
Because of sustainability and the need of a change of industry and global commerce, future solutions are inspired by traditional products and crafts. New materials and techniques need to be introduced in a democratic way, available to everyone living in this area and affordable for a sustainable economy. Seen in a bigger picture, by globalisation, materials and craftsmanship can fight poverty and foster economic independence.

Find press information about my projects and motives at

Comment & Tags — tag your sticker and leave a comment at Instagram #tag_RCA2020.

Download the latest press releases at

A bit more complex, please! – shifting the design perspective

How sustainable is bhar – The Sustainability Fader

How sustainable is bhar – The story of bhar

How sustainable is bhar – The material development
28 July 2020
13:00 (GMT + 0)

Global Innovation Design Graduates Present: Cultural Sustainability Case Study – the Bhar

A critique about the concept to use heritage to build a culture of sustainable development.
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