McCormick Student Finalist for Fun Theory Award

McCormick student Mert Iseri (industrial engineering, '11) has been chosen as a finalist in the Fun Theory Award contest — an initiative of Volkswagen that challenged designers to use fun to change people's behavior for the better.

Entrants submitted illustrations or videos of their ideas, and 10 finalists were selected. Iseri's video shows his idea of using magnets to make cleaning a room more fun. The winner will be announced March 29.

How did you find out about this contest?
A friend of mine forwarded me the piano stairs video, thinking I would be interested. I had already been inspired by Bruce Mau, who advises that designers should use the carrot to change behavior and not the stick. The fun theory quickly set in my heart. I immediately started to look at the world with potential projects, even before the contest started. It became a conversation topic with my friends in Design for America. After a week or so, my friend Yuri Malina sent me an e-mail about the contest, and I decided that I should be a part of this movement.

How did you come up with the idea in the video?
I had a lot of material to work with, but I decided to design something that had been bugging me for 20 years: My room! It is always messy. It is quite the designer's dilemma: the messier the room is, the more angry parents get. The more vexed parents get, the more they argue with their children, and the children become rebellious. The more rebellious children get, the more messy their room becomes. It is a fascinating closed loop, and it has been for centuries.

I am amazed by little details that we take for granted, and enjoy challenging those. The question then became: Can we get children to clean their rooms by making it fun to do? After a few days of brainstorming, I came across tiny magnets in the Segal Design Institute shop. They were powerful yet extremely small. An idea struck in my mind: What if I could somehow magnetize my t-shirts? It seemed much more fun to throw t-shirts to my wall instead of folding them!

How did you put your idea into action?
I ordered a few very powerful magnets and prototyped my idea on my fridge. It worked! The T-shirts hurled across the kitchen and stuck on the refrigerator. It was incredible! It took me 10 minutes to put my first prototype together. I quickly went online and ordered to large sheet metals to create the magnetic surface for my design.

How long did it take to create a prototype and film the video?
Once the rest of the magnets and the metals arrived, I borrowed a camera from the film department, and in five hours I had built, filmed, and edited my idea in my living room. I started with just the idea of magnets and T-shirts, but I added a few details as I went along; for instance, covering the surface with pink hands.

What do you think about becoming a finalist?
Being a finalist feels great! What I enjoyed most, however, was seeing that something small that I did could inspire others. Perhaps we will never see magnetized T-shirts as part of our daily lives, but it doesn't hurt to challenge the way we do things. Design is a very powerful tool to do so, and the more professions outside of the design realm embrace it, the brighter our future looks.