Designers turn existing materials or products into new works through the process of reuse transformation. More than a strategy for sustainability, reuse transformation not only diverts waste from landfills, but also challenges our preconceived notions of value and utility.

In this lecture, designer and educator Hans Tan uses examples from Cooper Hewitt’s collection and beyond to illuminate how designers leverage their masterful understandings of materials, products, and techniques to engage in reuse transformation. He also reflects on working with found materials and subverting expectations about object traditions in his own design practice, and share the work with his students that puts forward a more equitable approach to design making.

Hans Tan is the founder of Hans Tan Studio and associate professor at the Division of Industrial Design, National University of Singapore. As a designer, his work tiptoes on the boundaries between design, craft, and art. As an educator, his pedagogy centers on “deforming” the existing, rather than starting anew, as a springboard for thought exploration and hands-on experimentation. Tan is a two-time Designer of the Year winner, Singapore’s highest design accolade, bestowed by the President’s Design Award program. In 2019, Tan received the Outstanding Educator Award from the National University of Singapore. His work was featured in Beauty—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial (2016), and is found in the museum’s permanent collection.



The Enid and Lester Morse Historic Design Lecture Series is made possible by the generous support of Mr. and Mrs. Lester S. Morse, Jr.