Linking problem-solvers with problems, Fixperts looks to broaden its impact

Fixperts – a service which links designers with people with fixing challenges – has set up a residency at furniture company Benchmark. We talk to Fixperts co-founder Daniel Charny about where the project might go next.

Daniel Charny
Fixperts co-founder Daniel Charny

Fixperts, a programme set up by Daniel Charny and James Carrigan in 2012, is launching a new residency with furniture company Benchmark and is looking to develop “a sustainable model”.

Fixperts is a project which works by uniting a designer, the “fixpert”, with someone with a fixing challenge, the “fixpartner”. The design process is then captured on film and shared online with the aim of inspiring others.

Examples of Fixpert projects that have been developed so far include a button-fastener for an 82-year-old man and an agility maze developed for the Dogs Trust. So far some 150 projects have been uploaded to the Fixperts website.

Thus far, the project has been running on a non-commercial basis – and James and Daniel say that in incidences where they have had to pay for services or materials they have paid out of their own pockets.

Charny, who set up the project with Sugru co-founder James Carrigan, says he was inspired to set up the Fixperts projects after curating The Power of Making exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2011.

Charny is also Professor of Design at Kingston University and has been keen to use the Fixperts programme as part of design education, saying “for some students this is pivotal – it’s how they discover social design”.

Fixperts has now unveiled plans for a year-long residency at Benchmark, the furniture company set up by Terence Conran and Sean Sutcliffe in 1984. Charny says this is the first step in developing a more “sustainable model” for Fixperts.

The Benchmark residency will see one graduate designer appointed as the resident Fixpert at Benchmark’s workshop in Berkshire. They will be given an £18,000 stipend (funded by Benchmark) and will work alongside a mastercraftsperson to identify and fix problems – both within the workshop and potentially externally as well.

Charny says: “This is a real move into the manufacturing environment – we need to ground the making with the purpose.”

On the Benchmark side, Sutcliffe says he believes the programme will inspire the company’s craftspeople and be a catalyst for idea generation. Benchmark initially approached Fixperts with the idea and Sutcliffe says: “I’m doing it because it’s good for my business.”

Both Charny and Sutcliffe say they hope the Benchmark residency could be an exemplar for other ways of extending the Fixperts concept – for example by building it in to other companies or by creating more social links.

Charny adds that the multidisciplinary nature of the Fixperts programme – which sees videos of the “fixes” developed to encourage others – can also help to break down links between different design sectors. He says: “It’s a design and a communication issue – we’re trying to fix the separation between communication design and product design and service design – storytelling has been part of this from the outset.”

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