ECO is about design
for worthwhile use
We hear the words eco (or eco-friendly), light-saving and save the environment countless times. Sometimes, we’ll turn off the lights we aren’t using, but most of the time, it just goes in one ear and out the other. We continue to do what we are used to, whether it’s pulling out too many tissues or using only one side of paper. Yet, there are a group of people who are trying to change their behavior and trying to let others know that “eco” is something that is very close to us and not hard to be at all.
If we were to think of a leading Thai brand of paper with a cute characteristic, it probably is none other than a piece(s) of paper. Their eco-friendly roster of products includes gift-wrap, notebooks, stickers, all the way to bags with cute graphic illustrations. Founded by Thanawet “Gap” Siriwattanakul, the vision was to create products that offered highest practical use not by simply being an eco product, but to also inspire consumers to change their behavior.
At first I wanted to created graphics on products, because I graduated from graphics. I thought about what things it could be and talked to my girlfriend, Nam, about it because she was feeling saturated with her job too and quit to start something together. We brainstormed about the things we liked and settled on graphic work and craftwork. We went to check out the market to see what was available and found out, hey! Let’s do gift-wrap! There isn’t really any brand here that is top of the mind and most of them are imported from abroad. There’s no name people recall so we thought gift-wrap is what we’d go with.
And one day I was reading a book from a day and it included a small book about social enterprise, which is all about businesses for the society. It’s exactly what I was thinking about: if you were to do a business, what are you doing so both you and society gets something? I came across a chapter about paper, which says it should be eco-friendly. We had to research and think about how to do it differently from what others were already doing. Eco-friendly-wise, it’s about recycling the paper and using soy-based ink, which is very basic and is something everyone already does. I feel that eco needs to be able to go even further than that and listed three words at the heart of eco: reuse, reduce and recycle. If you really look at these three words, it’s not about the material, but more about behaviors that can be fixed. It’s like having a chair and you need to rest your arm so you create an armrest too. This is the same thing.
We thought about what the consumer behavior is towards gift-wrap. Mostly, when we get presents, we rip it apart and crumble it all away, which is a very short life span. How can we increase the life span? The challenge is about extending the life span and to do that, we need the help of users too, so it all goes back to people’s behavior. We named it ‘reusable wrapping paper,’ which is gift-wrap that can be reused. We searched all over and settled with rectangular punch-outs throughout. We also made the size 8 x 8 cm so its size is perfect for being notepads.
Is it hard to run a business yourself? You’ve graduated from design and have to do everything yourself.
Yes, because my background is in design and my marketing skills are quite weak. I just know that I have to create things that reflect what I believe in first. Like, if I were to decrease the brightness of colors, I found out that it would look plain on the shelves and not as attracting as other brands. In the beginning I didn’t understand about marketing much. There are things you will learn from yourself and things you will learn from external factors and you just have to weigh them out whether you want to give in to it or not. If I use certain words, is it selling out too much? In truth, we’ve changed too. As we grow older, we’ve had to cut down too and be more conscious about which designs won’t be able to sell. If I come up with five designs, I know which ones are going to be popular and which ones will be more quiet. But we try to find good points in all of them and I feel that marketing is something that is learned along the way.
What do you try to educate consumers about eco?
I’ve tried to do many things but there are challenges that come with it. When it’s an eco product where the gift-wrap does not come in rolls, it can be difficult for selling. People are confused about what it is and it’s things we learn along the way. People are curious if the punch-outs make it easier to rip and they don’t use it, but we’ve already tested the frequency and distance between the punch-outs to know that it is perfect for wrapping, yet also easy to tear for further uses.
If you ask if eco-friendly products have problems, we have to admit that they do. It deals with the behavior people are used to, such as the plastic bottles that are made with less plastic. It makes the bottle thin and hard to hold, but I feel like something’s gotta give.