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Department Of Design

Design Student Shines Light on “Bioluminescence” Exhibit for Dutch Design Week

Zoe Zaharis Shares How Months of Preparation Led to A Beautiful Exhibition Abroad

Potato starch and elephant grass may very well be the future of plastics. Student Zoe Zaharis is one of many in the BYU Department of Design who are using these renewable materials to work towards a more sustainable future.

This October, a design research group made up of students and faculty traveled to Eindhoven, Netherlands for Dutch Design Week to present an exhibition on plant-based lighting concepts. The group, Wasatch Design Collective, is made up of six students – Zoe Zaharis, Jaxon Hales, Seth Tucker, Lauren Taylor, Parker Jenkins and Will Tribe – and two faculty – Richard Fry and David Morgan. Zoe Zaharis shared in a Q&A what her experience was like working on the exhibit abroad.

Wasatch Design Collective Members in Front of Bioluminescence Exhibit at Piet Hein Eek Gallery Space. Photo Courtesy of Zoe Zaharis.

Q: Could you tell me about the exhibit you are working on for Dutch Design week?

A: We were exhibiting a piece called “Bioluminescence” which was a collaboration between ourselves — Wasatch Design Collective — and Bioplasticshop is a Dutch company that produces and sells bio plastics primarily made out of potato starch and elephant grass, offering a sustainable alternative to traditional sheet plastics such as velox. Wasatch Design Collective paired up with Bioplasticshop to help demonstrate what bioplastics are capable of and show how beautiful they can be. Our exhibit consisted of 15 lamps created with a combination of bioplastic sheets and bioplastic 3D printing filament.

Q: How did you prepare for the exhibition?

A: We found out that we were admitted to the show in June 2023 and worked all summer iterating different lamp forms and exhibit layouts. Initially, we started prototyping with paper while we were waiting to receive the bioplastic sheets. Adapting our paper designs to a material with different characteristics in terms of folding, creasing and laser cutting capabilities was a valuable learning experience. Overall, it took us about five months to prepare for the show.

Students Lauren Taylor, Jaxon Hales and Seth Tucker Constructing the Exhibit’s Structure. Photo Courtesy of Zoe Zaharis.

Q: What cultural connections or discoveries were you able to make through your experience that you wouldn’t have been able to make in the classroom?

A: Our early collaboration with Marco from Bioplasticshop brought us the advantage of having a Dutch partner by our side. I noticed a lot of differences between Dutch and American culture and I really enjoyed working with and learning from the Dutch people. They are very straightforward, timely, creative and thoughtful. I feel very grateful for the opportunity to be immersed in a culture for a week because it gave me more insights than reading about the country in a classroom would have.

Q: How did you apply the skills you have learned in your BYU education to this experience?

A: In the industrial design program, we focus a lot of our time on form creation, iteration and product development. This exhibit required us to utilize all of these skills in order to get the job done. We were able to practice our presentation skills and deliver our ideas to people in a different culture that have a unique status quo and default mindset, making it a truly unique experience.

Desk Lamps Created by Members of Wasatch Design Collective. Photo Courtesy of Zoe Zaharis.

Q: How did this experience prepare you for your future career?

A: This experience helped me to prepare for my future career in several ways. Not only did I practice my design skills, but it also helped me gain empathy for our users — especially those that are in a different environment than I am used to designing for. It was extremely beneficial to my future career to be able to meet and talk to people that are different from me, in and out of the design world. I also found it insightful to see what the graduating students here are working on, as I am thinking about what my senior project will be this next semester.