People often invent or customize tools to better fit their work or living. These objects may sometimes be crude and temporary, incomprehensive to outsiders and completely overlooked by mainstream design, yet by their very nature they serve very precise purposes. The project examines indigenous creativity in the work and living environments and reveals the stories behind these inventions and the relationship between users and their tools.

We are recruiting cases of tool creation for the preparation of a publication. If you or your friends has designed or customized tools, please send us pictures and simple information about your design, with your contact, to We will contact you to discuss in detail.

2005 Hong Kong Heritage Museum

When a table rocks because it is on uneven ground, we fold up a piece of paper and put it under the leg that doesn’t reach the floor. Most of us have experienced something like this, but we rarely stop to think that this piece of paper is actually a tool. Using the paper to fill the space between the leg and the floor is a design. And stabilising the table in this way is a design strategy.

Many people tailor-make or alter tools to meet specific needs in their homes or workplaces. We call this practice "design by users" or "users as designers". Most of these designers are not professionals: they have limited resources and their designs do not have a wide reach. (Perhaps these “tools” are not even considered "design", which raises the question of whether our idea of design is too confined by the existing discourse.) By conventional standards, these tools are rough and carefree. Nonetheless, they are all fresh and to-the-point, and they reflect a great many design strategies. They embody a form of colloquial wisdom that is part of our cultural heritage.

The Community Museum Project embarked on this research because we were drawn to the liveliness of these tools. These creative works are frequently overlooked: they go unrecorded, uncredited as "design" (by their makers or by society), and excluded from mainstream (design) history. By conducting interviews and collecting objects, we hope to bring their colloquial wisdom into the limelight.

Design by Users: In Search of Indigenous Creativity & Wisdom from Designing Tools is an exhibition that highlights the results of a workshop co-organized over the past few months by the Hong Kong Heritage Museum and the Community Museum Project, in which students from the participating schools engaged enthusiastically in the research process. We hope that the exhibition presents a new way of looking at design and life.