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OK, so who made that plastic thing?

By Hamish Champ
Posted 8 April 2014

Have you ever picked up a product made of plastic and wondered who designed it? Or who made it?

To be fair many people might know or think they know know  who made an iconic product. But who designed it often remains a mystery, even to the experts.

If this sort of thing gets under your skin you’ll be glad to know that you are not alone and that someone, somewhere, is trying to do something about it.

The good people of the University of Bournemouth, and particularly that institution’s Museum of Design In Plastics (Modip), has come up with a quirky scheme called Ten Most Wanted, which offers members of the public the chance to identify who made and designed various items manufactured in plastic.

In its own words, inspired by the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted website Modip's Ten Most Wanted is a project which “combines the web, social media and gaming to motivate the public to search for unrecorded information about cultural artefacts”.

This is academic-speak for what is a clever take on a traditional treasure hunt albeit one where the product has never been lost  where the treasure seekers are tasked with unearthing who came up with the idea, rather than the item itself.

In some cases Modip thinks it has nailed down the detail of an item, but it will often acknowledge that more information is required. Hence the more people who get on board and become ‘field agents’ for the scheme the better.

Examples of products requiring designer verification include the Swan electric kettle, the Portadyne transistor radio and the travel toothbrush.

‘Field agents’ accrue points and those who show persistence and a high level of accuracy and attribution in their research can find themselves in the Ten Most Wanted’s 'Hall of Fame'.

On the face of it it’s a fun way to ascribe detail to an artefact. Yet it is also a good example of getting the general public onside in a research project that can open up outcomes of UK manufacturing that many thought lost to the mists of time.

I think it is a cracking scheme and one that deserves much wider publicity. Get searching!

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