Melbourne Design Awards - City Design Awards

The Secret Life of Things - Life Pscycle-ology

Melbourne Design Awards 2010 - Winner

Project Overview

Have you ever wondered what kind of life your mobile phone has gone through before it got to you? Ever given a thought to how the little hunk of metal might feel after being thrown in your draw when you upgraded last?

Thanks to our animation, you will never look at your mobile phone the same way again. Meet Mr Eric Sun, a lonely mobile phone who has been discarded in favour of a new model and so sees a past life regression therapist to try and find out what he is made of...

Project Team


Eco Innovators Pty Ltd
Leyla Acaroglu


Eco Innovators Pty Ltd
Leyla Acaroglu

Animator and director: Nicholas Kallincos
Writer and creative director: Leyla Acraoglu
Content advisor: Tim Grant

The secret Life of Things animation is part of an ongoing community engagement project to enspire and engage people with product sustainability. ‘Life Pscycle-ology’ is the first film which was commissioned by Leyla Acaroglu of Eco Innovators, and then collaboratively developed with freelance animator Nick Kallincos.
Animation can be viewed at:

Project Brief

How do you engage people with sustainability without making it all doom and gloom? How do you inspire people to think about the hidden lives of all the things that they own? And to then consider what part they can play in making a difference? How do you get design students to stop and think about the role that they play in the environmental footprint of their products? These are the motivating questions that lead to the development of The secret Life of Things project and the first animation Life Pscycle-ology. The brief was to inform and inspire people through a short animation that explores the hidden life cycle impacts of everyday things. The result is a visually beautiful, and comically entertaining exploration of the life of one little mobile phone. The challenge in the brief was keeping the educational content, whilst also making the animation empowering and entertaining. So we wrapped up information in humour and developed a lovable character that would stay in the mind of the viewer long after they have finished watching it.

The target market was design students as well as generation y consumers.

Project Innovation / Need

Everything that is created has an impact on the environment through the demand for raw materials the energy and water used in production and the waste generated both during and at the end of the products life. If we are really going to address climate change and start to reduce our contribution of co2 into the atmosphere then we really need to address the embodied impacts in the design, production and consumption of consumer goods. Designers are in a unique position to influence the potential impacts of a product and can make decisions that will ultimately reduce the impacts of the product – they just need to know how and be inspired to integrate good design decisions into their design process. The Secret Life of Things is a communication tool, designed to start the dialogue in educational settings and is supported with a series of free learning resources that educators can access from the website (

This project was developed to help fill the gap in the available resources that explain life cycle assessment and present the benefits of taking a scientific approach to product assessment and design. There are also very few animations that present a positive spin on sustainability – this project is about capturing the people who might not otherwise be interested in environmental issues and inspiring those that are with pro active approaches.

Design Challenge

The challenging part of the project was to keep it light hearted and humours whilst also presenting a lot of complex ideas (such as life cycle thinking, design for disassembly, planned product life spans, design for longevity etc) and not alienating the viewer. It’s a lot easier to present all the problems in the world, but a lot harder to try and find a positive way of engaging people without lecturing at them or over whelming them with content. Anthropomorphising a common object (in this case the mobile phone) was also tricky as you didn’t want to create a character that people won't believe. It was also challenging to find a style that would appeal to the target market and not be dismissed as corporate or boring.


The project lives and breathes sustainability!

The entire project is motivated by the desire to see more sustainable design, production and consumption and was specifically developed to contribute to the dialogue around how everyday things have embodied environmental impacts that can be avoided and minimised. The project has been viewed by over 10,000 people including 2,000 design students.

A survey was conducted with 300 students studying industrial design and over 75% of them indicated that the animation had inspired them to design more sustainable products. The animation has also received rave reviews from leading design and sustainability websites and print publications both in Australia and internationally. As a result we can proudly say that this project has made a difference!