Giles Miller’s innovation: cardboard as a material for design

Cardboard boxes contain many intrinsic ecological plus points. Made from cellulose fibres, cardboard can be easily recycled. At the end of its useful life it can even be composted. But because cardboard is lightweight and seemingly plentiful it’s often tossed on the rubbish heap prematurely; its ubiquity has made it seem worthless. Designer Giles Miller thinks we’re missing a trick.

“It’s a brilliant material,” he says, and admits to “falling in love” with cardboard when the strap broke on a laptop shoulder bag he was carrying and the computer was damaged. “I began experimenting with making a laptop bag in cardboard, and after alternating the direction of the corrugation I constructed something that could take the force of the blow.”

His efforts to elevate cardboard as a material for design were given a boost when he made the infrastructure for Stella McCartney’s pop-up shop at Galeries Lafayette in Paris last year. “We have a responsibility as designers to acknowledge the impact and the lifespan of the products we put out there,” says Miller. ‘”Why not use a material we know can be recycled easily and why not also address why something that has such structural integrity and potential is always thought of as having a short lifespan?”

To counteract such prejudices, he has designed a collection of “heirloom” items, starting from £28, and including a grandfather clock (£120) and even a wardrobe (£180). All his pieces are flat pack – formerly indicators of a brief working life – but the clock contains a working mechanism made from brass, handmade in the UK by craftsmen and “built to last”, as Miller puts it.

 

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