The story of Grouphug

Before our 3rd Grouphug show, Judge Me, opens I want to take a moment to explain the story behind it all:

The sentiment started in 2010. I had just graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in Industrial Design and realized I didn’t want to be an industrial designer. Perfect timing.

As I scrolled through industrial design job postings on Core77, I couldn’t find any that I liked. I would ask myself, “Could you spend eight hours a day doing this?”, and the answer was always “Nope”. I was stubborn and picky. I didn’t want to spend my days sketching, 3D modeling, or strategizing around a product that I didn’t think should exist. “Does the world need another _____________ (chair, GPS device, whatever the product was)?”, I would ask myself again and the answer was always “Nope”.

That is until 2011 when I stumbled upon Ayah Bdeir’s project called “littleBits“. Whoa. The world certainly needed this. So in the fall of 2012, I moved from Atlanta to New York and joined the littleBits team.

Then in the spring of 2013, NY Design Week came around. I remember going to a handful of events and feeling underwhelmed. It was embarrassing to see shows that have not evolved past furniture or lighting designs. I know that ICFF is a Design Week staple, but there are over 40,000 industrial designers in America – what’s everybody making? It can’t all be chairs and lamps.

As a product designer, I know its sacrilegious to not drool every time I see a high-end contemporary chair or lamp, but I’m sick of them. Yes, we need things to sit on and illuminate our rooms and work surfaces, but am I supposed to be excited every time I see one? The world has all the chairs and lamps it needs for now. For New York to continue to be the most forward-thinking city in the world, we need more experimental & visionary work.

I think about the amount of time a designer might spend sketching and ideating on a contemporary form for a high-end chair and it makes me angry. It makes me angry to think that their incredibly valuable skills are used to bring a product to market that shouldn’t exist. Who am I to say what products should and shouldn’t exist? I don’t have the authority to decide that. However, if you were to make a lengthy list of problems our society faces, do you think “expensive, new method of sitting” is high on the list? I can’t decide what products should be made, but I can consciously put my skills towards developing ideas I feel passionate about. I can also encourage others to do the same.

After 2013’s NYC Design Week,  I thought, “I live in New York… I know some designers… why not try to organize a show I wish existed?”. So in 2014, we hosted our first show called “Trigger” about gun violence. Then in 2015, we hosted our 2nd show called “Feed Me” about the future of nutrition. We are probably not the first Design Week show to focus on tackling social issues and I hope we won’t be the last.

Grouphug’s goal is to push designers to think big and use their creativity as a means to solve and create discussions around important societal issues. Most of the concepts shown at Grouphug shows are prototypes and may never make it to market. That’s ok. We hope the process of tackling a big problem for a design show will influence designers to continue to tackle big problems professionally as well.

Cheers to another year!
Hope to see you at the opening party on Friday.

– Krystal + Grouphug gang


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