On Friday, She Tinkers

I spend lots of time watching people take stuff apart on the Internet. Cars, phones, electric shavers. You name it, I’ve seen it taken to pieces. So I know good stuff when I see it. And Dina Amin is really good at taking things apart.

I found Dina on Instagram, where she makes teardown videos as part of an ongoing project she calls “Tinker Fridays.” At iFixit, we approach teardowns with a sort of surgical precision. Parts, screws, and components are sorted, identified, and meticulously re-composed on a table, like a scientist pinning specimens to a board. Dina does teardowns differently. For her, objects are like puzzle boxes—mysteries await just beneath the cover. In her hands, objects dance apart and reveal themselves, like a wonderful secret only you’ve been told.

Dina describes herself as a “Product Designer in the midst of an identity crisis”—because, she told me, she has too many interests. Which makes it difficult for her to come up with a cohesive answer to the oft-asked question: “What do you do?”

Answer: Dina does a lot of things. But on Friday, Dina tinkers.

Tinker Friday began as a hobby. Dina picked up discarded objects, made an educated guess about how she thought they worked, and then took them apart to see if she was correct. But Dina is also an artist. She quickly went beyond a purely scientific examination of the parts she found. Instead, she used them to tell a story and create characters in fantastical stop-motion teardown videos. Viewers can even help her name the characters in her videos. One of her favorite parts of the process, she said, is having people contribute to the tiny, imaginary worlds she creates.

As someone terribly smart once said, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. And that’s proved true for Dina. Her tinkering projects have changed the way she thinks about design:

“I’ve opened so many products that we use daily here in Egypt. Products that were about to be thrown away by other owners, not just myself. I noticed that in old products—like radios and cordless phones—owners took the time to fix what they owned. They hot glue antennas, they add their own foam bits here and there. But for new products—some even look brand new— they toss them away without trying to open it to see what went wrong. Maybe people are afraid to mess it up. Or maybe the product itself wasn’t really designed to be opened by everyone. Not to mention that we get such crappy cheap products that wouldn’t live past a few weeks, but we continue buying them, even though it’s so clear that they won’t survive!”

Dina hopes that her videos inspire people to crack into their own devices. Because the stuff we buy is way more than what it appears to be on the outside. It’s a functional microcosm of mechanical parts and electronic components. And Dina believes that, maybe, if more people saw what was inside their gadgets, they might not be so afraid to fix them.

When I asked her about what the future might hold, Dina Amin said she loves doing stop motion videos. But she wants to do more. By the time Dina pulls a cast-off object out of the waste bin, it’s already too late. Eventually, she wants to figure out ways to prevent things from ending in the trash and on her dissection table in the first place.

Dina Amin
Image courtesy of Dina Amin.

If you’d like to follow Dina on her journey to the center of everyday objects, you can do it here: