Aurelie Tu is an award-winning designer. Her work has spanned creative direction, design direction, and innovation for top consumer brands including Nike, Dell, Panasonic, Intel, Pioneer among others. She is currently working in Germany involved with Creative Direction and Brand Design for the adidas global brand.
Aurelie’s work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and San Francisco M0MA, and has won Red Dot, Good Design, iF Hannover, IDEA and IDSA design awards. Her designs have been published in numerous publications such as Dwell, Elle Decor, Design Milk, CoolHunting, among others.
While the majority of her career has been spent with Fortune 500 companies creating consumer wearable products and digital design experiences, Aurelie also has great interest in businesses which provide social value, economic, and aspirational benefits for communities.
Her interests led her to found CraftedSystems, a project which produces luxury design goods crafted locally by homeless youth and women in need.
In her extra-curricular time, Aurelie Tu is an accomplished cellist touring and performing with various musical artists including Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and Pink Martini.
BY JODY TURNER
Hello Aurelie, we know each other from time together at Nike where you worked in technology design. It is wonderful to talk with you again, this time about your independent project, CraftedSystems. Can you tell us how you came to a project that has such beauty, social value, and meaning to it?
As a designer with a high-tech background I wanted to share my knowledge of design and business and apply it in a very tangible manner to the benefit of the local community. Part of the initiative was to give inspiring opportunities to people with a number of limitations and life challenges. The secondary intent was to craft beautifully designed, unique products from organic and natural materials.
The values of the objects we keep around us have deeper stories and meaning than what one sees at face value. Many products on the market today are appropriated from other cultures, and then sold here for a high price. How does that benefit the makers, or our local community? These questions encourage us to look at our consumption behaviors and forgotten histories of craft and making, meaning and object.
I wanted to revive the tradition and beauty of handicraft, objects that are woven by a person and not a machine, but retell it through a rich, modern, and meaningful story building local social value and helping others.
Traditions in craft evolved from generations of makers, elders and youth sitting together making, with the transfer of knowledge and experience from old to young. CraftedSystems brings purposeful craft with a collective purpose of serving those needing new opportunity while connecting experienced and inexperienced weavers, in the process of making.
We use the principle of modern therapy called “healing handwork” encouraging a collective environment which relaxes and encourages people to share while engaging in repetitive & creative handwork, as a form of healing, all while producing a high value product.
I started by working with disadvantaged women through a YMCA program and later with homeless teens through the creative mentoring youth organization p:ear.
Aurelie, the work is beautiful and the idea brilliant. Please tell us more about the process.
I worked with p:ear homeless youth teaching skills and providing opportunity to make money through incentive. Payment was based by the piece; more money was made the more pieces you created. This turned kids from being reluctant to knocking on the door asking for more work.
These unique products are crafted of felt, and include vessels, table pieces, lights, floor and wall systems. They have received wide media coverage through magazines and social media sites. There are many versions of the designs out there which are close or direct copies, which I ultimately view as direct compliments to my work.
But ultimately the makers are the ones that have the most to be proud of, those that have turned a hopeless outlook into a purposeful one.
Currently, I work in Germany in Creative Direction and Brand Design for adidas. I help shape the look & feel and tonality for the brand, focused on digital. This has been a wonderful experience both professionally and personally. It has been a great opportunity to experience Europe again, for myself and my family.
Does your product live on as you take time to focus on your new role?
Ligne Roset, a high-end modern design company out of France promoting contemporary design, requested to produce one of my vessels, the Asira. In the spirit of CraftedSystems, they use the scrap material from their seating products and have people that are developmentally challenged weave and produce the vessels. I am thrilled that Ligne Roset has honored the original concept and kept the spirit of the design and intent so pure.
Great work Aurelie. It is as we wish here at impactmania, innovation, contribution and… baton passing… at its best.