INTERVIEWS :: Volume 1
Alexandre Bettler, Anthony Burrill, Experimental Jetset, Furniture Magpies, Helen Lang, Javier Mariscal, Joanna Boyle, John Makepeace, MARK, Max Fraser, Michael C Place, Nic Rysenbry, Penelope Jordan, People Will Always Need Plates, Sarah Hillman, Tom Raffield, Wim Crouwel, Zoe Murphy. confessions of a design geek 1
For my husband and best friend, Leyton.
INTERVIEWS. Volume 1 confessions of a design geek
ISSN: 2048-0891 - Volume 1 Copyright ÂŠ 2011 Katie Treggiden. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission in writing from the copyright holder. The right of Katie Treggiden to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988. Every effort has been made to contact owners of copyright material produced in this book. Errors or omissions will be corrected in subsequent editions. Published by Katie Treggiden. www.confessionsofadesigngeek.com Designed and produced by Venn Creative. www.venncreative.co.uk
This book was designed and printed in Cornwall. Printed by R Booth Ltd - www.rboothltd.co.uk This publication is printed on paper that has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
The Interviews :: 8 :: Alexandre Bettler 12 :: Anthony Burrill 16 :: Experimental Jetset 24 :: Furniture Magpies 28 :: Helen Lang 32 :: Javier Mariscal 36 :: Joanna Boyle 42 :: John Makepeace 50 :: MARK 56 :: Max Fraser 62 :: Michael C Place 68 :: Nic Rysenbry 74 :: Penelope Jordan 78 :: People Will Always Need Plates 82 :: Sarah Hillman 86 :: Tom Raffield 90 :: Wim Crouwel 94 :: Zoe Murphy
Foreword William Shaw, Web Editor, London Design Festival We love people who find elegant solutions to practical problems; we admire the extraordinary artistry of people who let us experience things in a totally novel way. That’s why great designers, emerging or established, inspire such passion. Why then is so little writing about design as elegant as the designs themselves? It could be that designers themselves are not the most literate bunch; a phenomenal number are dyslexic. As a breed they excel in thinking in three dimensions, rather than in the linear form of language. But even the journalists who follow design are often infected by a similar awkwardness. There is a shyness about expressing the sheer joy of great design. That’s why confessions of a design geek is different. There is an unspoken and slightly heretical hypothesis to Katie Treggiden’s approach to design writing. It understands that while design is ultimately a collaborative discipline, we are also 6
interested in the individual minds of the people who inspire us. This is why she stands apart from other design writers. Reading her interviews, I carry away the image of textile designer Penelope Jordan as a teenager, looking at 3D pictures until she felt dizzy; of how Anthony Burrill’s famous poster Work Hard And Be Nice To People was a phrase he overheard spoken by an old lady in a supermarket queue; of Wim Crouwel describing the experience of seeing his Design Museum retrospective coming together as being akin to having a “heavenly hot bath”; of Hannah Dipper and Robin Farquhar of People Will Always Need Plates, patiently making their iconic badges sitting in front of the telly. She turns designers into real people. Does such a personal approach trivialise design? Quite the opposite. While so much conventional writing about design struggles to find a vocabulary to
describe its subject matter, Katie proves that showing the person behind the design, rather than the design itself, gives us a fresh viewpoint. Elvis Costello once said, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture - it's a really stupid thing to want to do.” That goes for design too; describing the object or the process is inevitably reductive. Writing instead about the designer illuminates in a different way. It’s about language itself too. Katie allows designers to speak in the same words as the people who use what they’ve made. There is something very democratic about enabling designers to speak in real voices - rather than the convolutions of the press release or the self-conscious phrases designers often reach for themselves. It’s not that we’re all as capable of great design as the people in this book, but Katie allows us to see a glimpse of ourselves in them. 7
Alexandre Bettler Favourite Colour :: Yellow, like the sun; a happy colour.
Interview :: July 2011 www.aalex.info
Photos: Alexandre Bettler 8
:: What’s the most important thing to know about you? Not sure, maybe my name, so you can say hello! :: You often create designs for other people to complete - how did you come up with this idea? How does it feel to lose control of part of the creative process? Losing control is not easy, and often it is a bit scary. But I like it! It is a great way to get a much more interesting result than expected. It is not an easy position to arrive at; it means sometimes things can go wrong and you are still responsible for them, but most of the time the results are far more interesting and creative than expected. The trick is to find the right balance between the parameters that you set, and the space allowed for improvisation. The reason I started to do this is from something my mum told me once, which I really like and think is very, very important; “the importance is not in what you say, but in what others understand”. It sounds very simple and not much, but when you
think about it and try to apply it on a larger scale, you realise how things in this world could go a bit better if more people were trying to apply it. But on a simple scale as a designer, it made me realise that you can apply all these beautiful rules that you learned about design, but they might not make sense depending on the context you use them in. So an easy (and I call it lazy as well) way to do this is to let your audience be part of the experience and to include them in the equation. This will help make them understand the spoken language, since you are using their language and not yours. :: Apart from your mum, what are your biggest influences? My friends, food, stupidity, laziness, words. :: Talking of food, where does the obsession with bread come from?! Aha! It comes from a few places. The first one is the French word ‘copain’ which means ‘friend’. 9
10 :: Alexandre Bettler
The origin of the word (in Latin) is ‘co’ (with) and 'pain' (bread). So a friend is someone you share bread with. This, for me, is the basic level of communication. I like the idea of designing for friends, and keeping that basic level. The other interesting idea is what the bread is made of. I like the fact that in Europe, all the breads are different (English bread, French bread, German bread etc.) but they all are made with the same ingredients. So if you compare bread to a design product, all the products are made with the same elements, but the result is different in each country. So I am interested in the idea of local influence, of historical and geographical influences on a product that is originally the same. I sometimes use an image of a pretzel to explain my ideas and interests - it has three parts: bread, paper and communication. Again, I compare bread and paper. I see both as a medium for communication. In the same way you add butter or jam or cheese onto your bread, you add ink or varnish onto paper. Both can be very cheap, like toilet paper or white sliced bread; or very expensive, like six-colour print onto thick card with varnish, or posh French bread in London. And we use both in our daily life without really thinking about them. So I like their ‘practical’ value as well as
their ‘communication’ skills. Don’t worry if this doesn’t make any sense to you, I understand! :: What are you most proud of ? That you asked to interview me! :: What makes a great designer? No idea! I’m not the best person to ask... best to ask the audience, visitors, clients etc. :: Desert island design: which three items could you not live without? A good bottle of wine, a hat and a good music player - add ‘designed by a friend’ after each. :: Any advice for aspiring designers? Learn something other than design, and then apply it to communication. The best designers I know originally trained as something else. But more generally, I think it is important to design for others, not for yourself, and also to try to avoid redesigning things that have been designed thousands of times already. Think twice before designing another chair.
Anthony Burrill Favourite Colour :: Itâ€™s hard to choose. I use red a lot in my work, so it would have to be that.
Interview :: June 2011 www.anthonyburrill.com
Photos: Katie Treggiden 12
:: What’s the most important thing to know about you? That I prefer crunchy peanut butter to smooth.
I’m lucky enough to have a lovely wife, beautiful children and have fun for a living; that’s how I maintain my optimism!
:: Why do you think typography-led design is such a big trend at the moment? Words are very immediate; people respond instantly to a piece of text. Everybody is looking for clues about how to live and be happy. I try to send out positive, genuine messages that I’ve learnt from my experiences.
:: Why is your beautiful blog in black and white when your work is so colourful? The blog is more about things I’ve seen, or work in progress. It feels more like a scrap book or sketch book, so it felt like a nice approach to make it black and white. Plus it looks cool!
:: What inspires those positive messages? Where did “Work Hard and Be Nice To People” come from? They pop into my head when I’m not thinking about them and I try to remember the good ones. I overheard that phrase being spoken by an elderly lady in the queue at the local supermarket. It immediately struck me as being profound in its simplicity and truth. I didn’t suspect that it would become such an important part of my work. :: Where does your sense of optimism come from and how do you maintain it? I was brought up to have a positive outlook. My parents worked very hard and always enjoyed themselves in the world that they had created. 14 :: Anthony Burrill
:: How does living and working in rural Kent affect your work? The pace of life is relaxed and it suits me perfectly. I like to have time and space to think. I travel lots with my work, so I get to have my dose of city life, but I’m always happy to return home so I can walk my dog through the fields and feel the nature and peace. :: Any advice for up-and-coming designers? Make work you believe in. :: What are you most proud of ? It has to be the Work Hard... poster. I’m continually pleased with the popularity of it and the way that it has travelled outside the world of graphic design.
:: Desert island design: which three items could you not live without? I’d quite happily not have any self consciously ‘designed’ objects, although I’m very pleased with my new Makita drill, it would probably come in very handy on a desert island. I could build a raft with it!
Favourite Colour :: Black and white. Interview :: May 2011 www.experimentaljetset.nl 16
Photos: Experimental Jetset
:: What’s the most important thing to know about you? We recently came across a blog in which we were described as “convicted users of Helvetica”. We can only assume the writer meant ‘convinced’, but that it somehow came out as ‘convicted’. So yeah. Although this idea that we “always use Helvetica” is a total myth, maybe we should go down in history like that - as “convicted users of Helvetica”. It certainly has a ring to it. :: Why graphic design? Graphic design has always been a place where a lot of interesting fields overlap: art, politics, poetry, industry, printing, philosophy, literature, etc. Modern graphic design came into existence at the crossroads of these separate disciplines. Apart from that, we also think that it’s a very accessible field for a bunch of working-class kids, because that’s basically what we are. For some reason, when you’re creative, but come from a working-class background, this whole notion of ‘applied arts’ seems a more logical step than trying to pursue a career in ‘real’ art, or ‘real’ literature; disciplines which can still seem quite intimidating, at least from an outsider’s perspective. Applying to art school already seemed quite
a frivolous thing to do when we were young - so in order to make it a little bit easier towards your environment, you would choose a discipline that “at least would earn you a living”. A terrible way of thinking, but one that was quite prevalent when we were young. Now that we are older, we realise this whole reasoning is nonsense - we certainly don’t think of graphic design as a ‘compromised’ art, and besides, most artists we know earn three times as much as we will ever do as graphic designers, so we’re certainly not in it for the money. But still, in some way or another, graphic design seems to be more accessible to creative kids with a working-class background. In many ways, graphic design started out as an extension of the printing industry, so the spirit of manual labour is still present in the discipline, no matter how academic it becomes. You have to get your hands dirty, if not physically, then at least metaphorically. :: What are you most proud of ? Right now, we would say that we are most proud of Two or Three Things I Know About Provo, an exhibition we curated, compiled, designed and installed in the beginning of this year, at Amsterdam art space, W139. 17
dozens of texts, designed all the print, came up with an exhibition plan, printed out all the material and installed all the work in the space. It was a very intense couple of weeks, and we had to work extremely hard, but it was completely worth it. We also organised a one-night film festival on Provo, and compiled a 60-minute radio show. One of the reasons we’re so proud of the exhibition is the fact that it really feels like the culmination of everything we have been working on for the last 15 years. It almost seems as if all our past assignments were ‘exercises’ to prepare us for this ultimate project. To put together this exhibition in just a month - if we were less experienced designers, we couldn’t have pulled it off.
In short, the director of W139 asked us to create an exhibition about Provo, an influential Amsterdam anarchist movement that existed between 1965 and 1967. We only had a month to work on the exhibition, and in that short period we did the research, visited archives, interviewed people, photographed hundreds of documents, wrote and translated 18 :: Experimental Jetset
:: What advice would you give to less experienced designers? We've said this before, but we still think it’s true: “Slow and steady wins the race”. And there’s not even a race to win. We recently came across a Wittgenstein quote that we found quite inspiring: “How small a thought it takes to fill a whole life”. A lot of students and young designers have this urge to jump from one idea to another idea very quickly, shifting styles in an almost nervous way - which is quite
Swiss army knife, a Zippo lighter or magnifying glass to make fire, a set of gardening tools to grow vegetables, maybe some sort of filtering device to convert salt water into drinking water, an SAS survival guide, etc. Or better yet, some items that would make it possible to get picked up from the island as soon as possible; a satellite phone, a solar-powered laptop, “we don’t have this restless urge to radio equipment, etc. throw out one idea after another However, all these items are much too we rather concentrate on a couple of obvious. And even more problematic, central themes, and let it slowly evolve they emphasise the notion that from there.” important design should only serve some sort of urgent utilitarian or life-saving purpose, which might be the case on a desert capable of doing. So we don’t have this restless island, but not in the constructed environment we urge to throw out one idea after another - we feel part of. rather concentrate on a couple of central themes, So, as a thinking exercise, we were and let it slowly evolve from there. We’d rather stick contemplating what role the sort of design we are to a specific set of languages, and explore those mainly interested in - language-related printed languages in-depth, than to endlessly jump from matter, mostly reflecting on culture - could play one style to another style very quickly. within the context of a desert island. Which is a difficult question, as we see graphic design as :: Desert island design: which three items could inherently linked to the constructed environment, you not live without? and even more specifically, to the urban context. Answering this question in a literal way, the Thinking about it, we suddenly came across the most sensible thing would be to choose some notion of the ‘cargo cult’. During World War II, the items that would make it possible to survive; a understandable, of course. But for ourselves, we realised quite early in our career that this was not a mode in which we wanted to function. We are planning to keep designing until we are very old - we have to, as there is nothing else we are
American military left containers and equipment on remote islands in the Pacific Ocean, around which the native population constructed all kinds of cults and religions. So we were thinking, maybe this could be an interesting way to tackle your question: which items should we take to a desert island, for future generations of islanders to construct a cult around? First of all, we would take with us a paperback called The Structuralists: From Marx to LĂŠviStrauss (edited by Richard and Fernande deGeorge, and published by Anchor Books, 1972). The front, designed by Fred Troller, is one of our favourite book covers of all time. We were introduced to this cover by Mark Owens, through his excellent essay Soft Modernist from 2003. Secondly, we would take with us O Fino do Fino, by Elis Regina and the Zimbo Trio, a Bossa Nova album from 1965, featuring one of the most beautiful record covers weâ€™ve ever seen - designed by Carlos Prosperi. Featuring Bauhaus imagery, set in a Tropical pop-cultural context, we think this sleeve would work really well on a desert island. Finally, we would include Sound Texts / Concrete Poetry / Visual Texts, a poster that Wim Crouwel designed in 1970 for the Stedelijk Museum, for an exhibition on concrete poetry. 20 :: Experimental Jetset
We think these three items could be the foundation of a really interesting 'cargo cult'. It would be fascinating to see the kind of religion islanders would construct around these objects. The Structuralists... paperback could function as a secular bible, the Bossa Nova Bauhaus symbols could work as an alternative crucifix, and the text on the Crouwel poster could work as some sort of atheist mantra or hymn. But then again, if you would ask us tomorrow, we would probably come up with a very different set of items. :: You mention Wim Crouwel in your desert island designs selection. Is he your biggest influence, or is there someone, or something, more influential? Obviously, Wim Crouwel has been a really influential figure - not just Wim Crouwel, but that whole generation of Dutch late-modernist graphic designers like Ben Bos, Benno Wissing, etc. In many ways, they shaped the Netherlands of the 1970s in which we grew up. The postal stamps, the telephone books, the school atlases; they were all designed by Total Design and like-minded studios. So we are really products of that particular graphic environment. And as a consequence, we regard this whole language of late-modernism as our mother
tongue, as our authentic dialect. It is the language in which we have been brought up, so we now see it as our right, maybe even our duty, to explore it, to expand it, to interpret it in our own way, and to tell our own stories with it. Above all, we see it as an authentic way of expressing ourselves. So it is very important for us to point out that we regard our way of working not as ‘sampling’ a ‘style’, or as some sort of post-modern appropriation. And we certainly don’t see it as a neo- or retro- thing. It’s not that we do a late-modernist style this week, and a Tiki mid-century style next week, and a Baroque style next month. We don’t regard what we do as a superficial style, but as an actual language - part of our cultural identity, of our upbringing. This is something critics find really hard to understand - from the beginning they have dismissed us as some sort of pastiche act. We can still remember one critic desperately urging his readers “not to mistake Experimental Jetset’s work for anything more than a saccharinely ironic version of the International Style”. Thanks to these critics, we entered the canon, so to speak, in a really unlucky way - we are often described as ironic hoaxers, cynical jokers, ‘default’ designers; exactly the opposite of what we are. And we don’t 21
think we can ever undo the false image that the critics painted of us. But we learned to live with that, and to roll with the verbal punches. Anyway, to return to the subject of influences - another big inspiration for us was punk. Whilst it was designers like Crouwel who created the graphic environment in which we were brought up as kids, it was punk that created the landscape in which we grew up as teenagers. Although we were too young to actively participate in the original punk explosion of 1977, we could still hear the echoes of this explosion throughout the 1980s, and it really inspired us. As teenagers, we were completely fascinated by the many post-punk subcultures, such as Two Tone, Psychobilly, New Wave, Garage Rock, Mod, Straight Edge etc. All these movements really shaped us. It was post-punk artefacts such as record sleeves, badges, patches, DIY fanzines, mix tapes, t-shirts and Xeroxed underground comics that made us aware of graphic design in the first place. So in our work, we try to synthesise these two seemingly conflicting influences: the language of late-modernism of the 1970s, and the post-punk landscape of the 1980s. Both these influences have shaped us enormously.
22 :: Experimental Jetset
:: What’s your favourite colour? The combination we return to most often in our work is black and white; we know, these are not really colours, scientifically speaking - but hey, we’re graphic designers, not physicists. The first reason is very practical - it offers the highest contrast possible. Not to mention the fact that it is also a relatively economical combination black and white material is still cheaper to print. There are also more conceptual reasons. Black and white is very iconic for graphic design as a whole. The archetypal colour of paper is white, and the archetypal colour of ink is black - so we feel the combination of black and white refers to the most primal notion of printed matter, which is something that we find quite interesting. What we also like about black and white is that it doesn’t pretend to simulate reality. Full colour is a way to give people the illusion that they are looking at some sort of perfect recreation of the world as it is - while black and white is very recognisable as being just ‘ink on paper’. So we like the honesty of black and white - instead of trying to simulate reality, it becomes part of reality.
Furniture Magpies Favourite Colour :: Nessa - Lime green. Sivan - Dark purple. Sua - Bright orange.
Interview :: November 2010 www.furnituremagpies.com
Photos: Paul Wilkinson Photography 24
:: Whatâ€™s the most important thing to know about you? That we love what we do! :: What inspires you? We are very fortunate to be based in High Wycombe, an area that was completely dominated by the furniture industry until the 1960s. We are surrounded by knowledge, history and amazing discarded furniture. With all these beautifully constructed pieces made from top quality timber going to landfill, as furniture fanatics we just couldnâ€™t stand by and do nothing. Thatâ€™s why we redesign these items into furniture that people can love all over again. We know times have changed so we mix knowledge and appreciation with a bit of humour and personality to redesign our products, to give them a new lease of life. 25
new and old and the transformation it has gone :: What’s your background? through to become something lovely again, and I Our company consists of Nessa Doran O’Reilly, suppose the Hang on to Your Drawers collection Sua Lee and Sivan Metzer; all designers, but with for the same reasons. complementary skills which gives us a wellrounded team. Nessa has a strong background in furniture-making as well as design “...upcycling isn’t just the latest and had run her own business before. ‘buzz word’ but a recognised ethos Sua had worked in design studios in regarding how furniture could be London and her MA looked at reusing made.” as opposed to recycling, which helped identify the foundations of the :: What are your plans for the future? company’s philosophy. Sivan has a background We would love to make Furniture Magpies into in textile design but had also worked in furniture a well-known brand and make people understand design and manufacturing. that upcycling isn’t just the latest ‘buzz word’, but a We met studying for our Masters in Furniture recognised ethos regarding how furniture could be Design at BNU in High Wycombe. During our made. We want to make beautiful, fun and exciting studies we struggled to justify bringing new furniture that is made in a considered way. Our products into an already saturated market while motto is to make people love what they see and beautifully crafted pieces were being discarded. then appreciate how and why it is made in this way. Setting up our own business to explore this seemed the logical next step. :: What’s been your favourite project in your explorations so far? It’s hard to choose one to be honest, maybe our Lovely Legs table lamp for its contrast between the 26 :: Furniture Magpies
Helen Lang Favourite colour :: Olive green for some unknown reason... and I find orange really problematic!
Interview :: March 2011 www.wetpaint.org.uk
:: Can you remember what your earliest drawing was of ? I think it was of a primary school visit to the Shire Horse Centre in Devon. My mum has all my old school books; the ones with wallpaper covers, and they seem to be pretty much filled with cats, wobbly houses and people with slightly frightening haircuts! :: You’ve had quite a varied career. Did you always know you wanted to draw? I have always drawn and painted and have what I guess people call a natural talent. I think the real difference is that I've grown to be more confident with my work and since 2008 I started to believe in my work, which I never did before. I know this might sound soppy, but I found my soul mate at that time and I think as a result the topics and style of my work changed. The reaction was amazing. I was an illustration agent for over five years, and worked in the poster publishing industry, directing other artists and creatives, mainly because I didn’t have the confidence in my own work to think it would make a successful freelance career. :: What inspires your drawings? Inspiration comes from everywhere. Lettering
on old packaging, flyers, adverts etc. inspire me. Recently it was an old book my Nanna had when she left the WAAF and it was signed by her friends and has all kinds of sayings and ditties in it, which are just so lovely. :: Once you’ve got the idea, how do you create your drawings? I work in watercolour, gouache and pencil. My tools are pens, brushes and a very steady hand! :: What advice would you give to someone wanting get into a creative career? Network, be prolific, keep at it, competitive shop so you know what is happening in the market and generally be very nice to people. :: Describe a really good day in the life of Helen, and a really bad one. A really good day is an early walk with Des the dog, coming back to a cup of tea and a bacon sarnie. Getting an email confirming a new order for work, a sale of a limited edition or confirmation of a payment cheers me along. It’s also really nice to have people react to your work… so hearing someone received a gift of my work and investigated me further warms my heart. 29
Completing an artwork or a project feels great and being proud of the work is just superb. Picking up fresh screenprints from my amazing printer Phil Sheffield is also a corking feeling. A bad day is when things seem to be going quiet. A really bad day is when nothing flows and the floor is covered with ideas gone wrong. A really, really bad day is when an artwork is nearly completed but a last minute mistake throws everything up in the air. Everything I do is generated by handâ€Ś so mistakes are not allowed. :: What makes a great designer? Designers who break the mould and are unique in what they do. :: What's your working space like? My working space is pretty tidy. I tend to break the week into two. The first half is for emailing and phoning and chasing around for work and payments. The second half is for all the art materials to come out and for me to get cracking! It doesnâ€™t always work so smoothly but that's the idea I have in my head of how it works.
30 :: Helen Lang
:: What are you most proud of ? Right now I am very proud of getting an order for my limited edition prints from the Tate Shop and seeing my imagery on John Lewis products. :: What's next for you? Cath Kidston, Rob Ryan and Orla Kiely are my idols. I love and admire how all their work has become this huge business and I can only hope for something like this. I am working on some childrenâ€™s books and hope to get these published with Templar Books. I also have a strange desire to get my work into IKEA. What better way to reach the public? :: What's the best commission you've received? The best commission has been from John Lewis. I was in full time employment in 2010 when the company I was working for went into administration and I was thinking then "go freelance". I contacted the buyer directly and had a response the very same day suggesting I come in and see the buying team. I was on cloud nine on getting that initial email.
Javier Mariscal Favourite Colour :: All colours are nice!
Interview :: May 2011 www.mariscal.com
:: What effect does being from Spain have on your work? The light, the colours, the climate, the diet, the culture... everything I do comes from the Mediterranean. If I had been born in Norway or in China, my work would be very different. :: Besides the Mediterranean, what inspires you? I am inspired by the daily stuff, by what I see every day; and by art of course too. Painters such as Picasso, Klee, Mir贸 or Lichtenstein are really important influences; but equally a coffee machine, a fridge, a motorbike or a tomato might inspire me. :: Your career is incredibly multi-disciplinary; which is your favourite? I never wanted to dedicate all my time to working in just one discipline. I love experiences, I love taking on challenges; learning new things every day. I like making mistakes and learning from them. Luckily design is really broad and I can work in all kinds of disciplines. Everything always begins with drawing, but I don't have a preference; I like all of them. I feel equally comfortable designing a logotype, a poster, an urban sculpture, a chair or a hotel.
:: Talking of hotels, tell me about the Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao, which has been described as the â€˜culmination of your multi-disciplinary careerâ€™. It's true that the GHDB was the first luxury hotel entirely designed by a designer: the visual identity, signs, room interiors, cafeteria, bar, restaurant, terrace, staff uniforms, website, decorative objects, ashtrays, plates, the sculpture in the atrium... It was a huge project of which I'm very proud, because almost ten years later it is still working, it still seems current and it continues to be a successful hotel. :: Tell me a bit about Cobi... If I told you the whole of Cobi's story, it would need pages and pages! I will just say that I created the mascot I wanted to create; a mascot that at first seemed odd, even ugly, but then people discovered that he was normal, just like each of us. Cobi was like any other world citizen; he liked to do everything and served for all: he could run a marathon, drink a beer and have a tapa in a bar. If you met him, after a while you would like him and want to take him home with you. And after all, he was the most profitable mascot for the IOC in the history of the Games at that time. 34 :: Javier Mariscal
:: Children seem to be a recurring theme in your career. What is it about working with children, and creating designs for them that appeals? Children are more creative and intelligent than adults. Time and education make us dumber. It is a pleasure to work with them, to become submerged in their world, where there is still a lot of imagination and rebellion. Children can resist the chaos; they know how to manage it through play. We should never stop being children. :: Can you tell me a bit about the design process you went through in animating Chico and Rita? The whole process of creation was based on the story we wanted to tell; the script. The script set the realistic style of the drawings, the rhythm, the colours, the type of animation. It is a film about music, Havana and New York; and all of that needed a determined look, not a Mariscal look but a Chico & Rita look. :: What were your influences for the animation style and colour palette you used to develop that look? We experimented for over a year to find the best type of animation that would fit with the story. The colour palette was easier to find: Havana is bright,
with bright colours and pastels: yellow, green, blue, orange... whereas New York is cooler, with many shades of grey and mild colours. :: Have you got any more film projects planned? I would like to make a movie starring The Garriris, which happened in the 1970s, in Barcelona, Formentera and Ibiza, but I still have to finish the script and find the money. :: Any advice for up-and-coming designers? Do what you want to do, not what the market asks of you. If you are able to innovate, the market will end up liking what you do. Be creative and don't expect to succeed and earn money overnight. I'm 60 years old and I still haven't managed to get rich! If you want to be rich and famous, do something else!
:: You've been described as â€œone of the world's most innovative and original designersâ€?. What drives your constant quest for 'newness'? I really don't know. I'm not reflective, but I don't stop drawing and working, and when you're working all day at your desk and on the street, ideas come along. I think you have to innovate, to find new solutions to make life better and less boring. :: What makes a great designer? I don't know. Can you tell me? :: Desert island design: which three items could you not live without? A Victorinox Swiss penknife. A Moleskine. A Staedler permanent pen.
Joanna Boyle Favourite Colour :: I change my mind about things all the time, but right now my favourite colour is orange.
Interview :: July 2011 www.joannaboyle.co.uk
:: Whatâ€™s the most important thing to know about you? That I drink too much tea and spend a lot of my time in an over-caffeinated frenzy of activity. :: Why illustration? I had such a lot of trouble deciding which course to study during foundation that right up until the final moment I was torn between subjects. The deciding argument was the discovery that a vast number of illustration jobs are in publishing. I have always loved reading and writing and the idea that I would be able to illustrate other people's children's books or write my own was very exciting. Looking back, I am convinced that it was the right choice. I really enjoy creating work of my own and am always thinking up ideas for new projects, which I write on post-it notes and stick on the wall.
very different in style, my reasons for liking them are the same. Both focus on narrative and have published children's books that are whimsical and, in the case of The Wolves in the Walls and The Rabbits, are so dark that you're left wondering whether the intended readers are children after all. It is a credit to how successful both Tan and McKean are, that they are able to create work without an obvious genre and this is probably the best position an illustrator can hope to be in. With this in mind I find it very inspiring that they both continue to push their work in new and different directions, maintaining a very experimental approach to media, which I have attempted to take on board in my work. This has done both me and my work a lot of good as it has led me to discover new methods of creating images and made me more open to different media.
:: Who are your design heroes? Two of my favourite illustrators are Dave McKean and Shaun Tan. Although they are both
:: What are you most proud of ? I know this is shallow, but right now I am most proud of the beautiful new Apple Mac on my desk! 37
:: What was studying at Falmouth like? How did being in Cornwall affect your work? Would you be tempted to go back? Falmouth was a really lovely place to go to university. The college itself is in the centre of town, which means students instantly feel part of the local community. Perhaps as a result of it being far away from London, the illustration course really made use of its industry contacts and we were able to go on trips to London and New York, for advice and feedback on our portfolios. I think this was an
I already miss Falmouth a lot and can definitely see myself moving back there at some point.
:: Desert island design: which three items could you not live without? For my birthday this year my friend Katy bought me The Bird King and Other Sketches by Shaun Tan. It is a collection of his sketches with little notes and a really nice foreword in which he talks about his ideas and how to get inspiration. Every time I’m feeling uninspired I have a read of it and flip through the pictures. I recently bought a concertina book called Rise and Fall which was designed by an illustrator called Micah Lidberg and “From what I can tell, the best work seems published by Nobrow Press. It is such a to be produced by people who are playful beautiful book and every time I look at in their attitude towards creating it.” it I see something new. I went through a phase of taking it with me everywhere I went but then realised it was starting to get scuffed invaluable experience; it forced us to approach our so instead stuck it to the wall in my room. work in a more professional way. Finally I have a planner by a Korean design Also, in terms of style, the structure of the company called Ooh La La, which I really love course had a big influence on the way I draw - I don't think it would be possible for me to be characters now - I was able to get the best results organised were it not for the fact I want to fill this in the time given by drawing characters from my beautiful book with nice writing! imagination instead of using reference. It hasn't been long since I finished my course but 38 :: Joanna Boyle
:: What makes a great designer? From what I can tell, the best work seems to be produced by people who are playful in their attitude towards creating it. I think experimenting and never getting too settled into a way of working is probably the attitude a great designer needs to have. Also being doggedly persistent in making new and better work and creating opportunities for yourself. :: What's the best brief you've ever received? This is an interesting question as most of my briefs up until now have been self-written! I suppose one of my favourite projects so far was writing and illustrating my own children's book. Being completely in control of the plot line and the characters was a daunting, but thoroughly enjoyable experience. The final book was full of my sense of humour and it felt very personal to me. After finishing it I was inspired to think up new plot lines, one of which I am already working on. :: What advice would you give to someone thinking about studying illustration or something similar at university? I suppose the advice I would give to new students would be to have fun and not worry too much about what the people around you are doing. 39
Working in an open studio, it is very easy to find yourself looking over other people's shoulders and it can be nerve wracking if other people's work seems different from yours, or better. At times like that it is really important to remember that you were all good enough to get on to the course and that everyone is there to learn and change. Youâ€™re not an illustrator yet, and university is probably the best opportunity to experiment that you will ever have. I did a lot of experimenting during my three years and I still haven't finished! :: Now that youâ€™ve graduated, what's next? What does success look like? The next thing will be to try and establish contacts within the industry. As well as that I have a lot of projects in the pipeline that I am impatient to get going on. Success to me looks like a big fat publishing contract and in the longer term, to be able to support myself entirely through my illustration.
40 :: Joanna Boyle
John Makepeace Favourite Colour :: Red 42
Interview :: February 2011 www.johnmakepeacefurniture.com
:: You first saw furniture being made when you were just eleven. How did this come about? Do you remember how you felt? A kind of tingling - I thought “this is wonderful”. I suppose as a teenager I was fascinated by the quality of things, the excellence of the choice of materials and the ‘making’. Craftsmanship was something I could recognise. I was already wood-working, so I was hugely impressed by people who could do it properly. It was miles away from a career at that stage. I became aware of design much later; in the second half of my teenage years, when I went to Scandinavia. Later, after my visit to America, I came back convinced anything was possible, which in the early 1960s was still a pretty odd thing to think. :: You were a founding member of the Crafts Council in the UK. Why was this important to you? I’d opened a gallery next to my studio and by that time I was very much aware of the Design Council and the Arts Council and that the Minister for the Arts, Lord Eccles, had a strong interest in craft. For the opening of the gallery all three of them arrived; Lord Eccles, the Director of the
Design Council and the Chairman of the Arts Council, so I was very encouraged to think that what I was doing was of some significance. Lord Eccles asked me to be a founding member of the Crafts Council. I became very concerned with the field, particularly looking at education and how colleges improved and promoted the work of artist-craftsmen, which was the brief for the Crafts Council. I thought they did a pretty bad job! Not least because education, or at least what we call education in this country, seems to narrow people down into a specialism, whereas education to me means widening things out, so you see the connections. That’s what stimulates new thinking. :: Was that widening of focus the thinking behind the college at Parnham? Yes very much so. I’d been fortunate because I’d discovered crafts and I’d discovered design and then I was involved with the furnishing of the new Mansion College at Oxford and came to know the Director. I thought it was crazy that this college was designed for the senior members of the biggest companies - why couldn’t craftspeople have access to this sort of discipline? From that 43
moment I was quite clear on what I needed to do. Craftspeople needed “I love the sense that the conventional three things; skills, imagination and wisdom is probably wrong. Because that’s entrepreneurial direction. What the platform for innovation.” tends to happen in education is that we train people away from other disciplines. Too often designers and :: How does it feel to be referred to as the ‘father craftspeople think that business is dirty, or that of British furniture design’? they’re creative so they can’t do it - which is Naughty I think! I’m not very comfortable with crazy, because that’s where it all happens. It was it. It comes out of the fact that I’m old enough I important that we chose students with ability and suppose. I’ve been involved for 50 years, so one then gave them these skills. ought to be the father of something! 44 :: John Makepeace
:: How does it feel to be putting on your first solo show (Enriching the Language of Furniture, Somerset House, March - April 2011), and looking back over everything you’ve achieved over the last 50 years? I’m not really looking back - it was quite hard work! Certain things have been very exciting; to survive as a designer and furniture maker, especially through the early years, which were very tough. And then to be able to rebel successfully; in order to set up a college, then to address some of the issues in forestry, constantly in my own work to say “I know that’s the traditional way, but I don’t actually believe it”. I love the sense that the conventional wisdom is probably wrong. Because that’s the platform for innovation. :: What are you most proud of ? The chapter at Parnham was a revelation; as a designer-maker, to have a concept and a vision and find that people would support me, that students were prepared to take the risk and pay what were quite high fees at the time. The whole thing became an amazing caravan. Anyone we asked to come and lecture would come. We had really good students; people who wouldn’t traditionally have
thought of becoming makers as well as designers and going into business. Looking back at some of the programmes from the 1980s; you could put them on now and still be proud. There were only 22 students; two groups of 11, and they were fully residential. That was of huge benefit. They started with breakfast at 7.30am, got to work at 8am and had a really full working day. There were three parts to it; the college, the studio with ten people working for me, and the house open to the public. I still don’t understand why colleges aren’t open houses - it was very grounding and stimulating having older people, people with different experiences, coming in. :: You’ve been awarded an OBE for Services to Furniture Design, a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Furniture Society (USA) and you’re an Honorary Fellow of the Devon Guild of Craftsmen. You were recently nominated for the Prince Philip Designers Prize 2010 and received a Special Commendation - what do accolades like these mean to you? It’s very good for the field, for example being nominated for the Prince Philip Designers Prize. The last thing I’d expected was for a designer-furniture maker to receive that kind of honour. I think it’s really 45
good for furniture making, although I’m not sure it came as much out of my furniture as the other things I’ve been involved in that have allowed me to challenge design practice in many ways. :: The title of the exhibition is ‘John Makepeace Enriching the Language of Furniture’. What does that mean? What is the language of furniture? How does one enrich that language? I suppose when I started there was still a prevalence of minimalism, deriving from the Bauhaus and trying to find an expression for machinery. As a craftsman, I thought “why would I want to adopt minimalism as an aesthetic, when things aren’t determined by machinery; they’re determined by what’s best for the purpose?” The component of craft is hugely important in any field, whether it’s film or fashion. Let’s not be shy of individual expressions, after all we, and our clients, are individuals. :: I think I already know how you'll answer this, but does the world need another chair? Absolutely! Chairs are individuals to me; every client is different, and every situation is different. To 48 :: John Makepeace
me a dining room is ‘populated’ when it has chairs in it. Chairs are about people. :: What advice would you give to someone just starting out in furniture design? Collaboration is a very desirable ability. Designers tend to think of themselves as the arbiter. And actually, bringing other people in, especially top professionals, if you can access them, is hugely valuable. And I don’t mean top design professionals, I mean professionals from everywhere else, from anywhere else, because everybody has a contribution to make. I think the whole practice of design suffers because of this narrowness of design and design education. :: What makes a great designer? Clarity, simplicity, the ability to collaborate cross-discipline and wit. :: Desert island design: which three items could you not live without? One is a pen. I really love these - the Lamy pens. They’re not expensive but they really are a treat. Often in black but also in other colours at a vastly
increased price. [John’s is red.] My Mac computer, it’s a 22” screen Mac laptop. I have two. My Issey Miyake jacket, which has followed me around the world and got left behind on several occasions but always found me afterwards. :: What’s the best brief you’ve ever received? There’s one example. He was an impresario. He wanted a table for his office. He had nothing more to say than that. We talked about everything under the sun - he asked me my opinion about the state of the economic climate, even though he was a banker!
We talked about everything - he was a fabulous mentor. But when it came to the brief, he just said he wanted somewhere for people to put things! So I went back some weeks later with the drawings, and put them in front of him on his desk, and he didn’t look at them, he just looked at me and he said “Right, would you do it for me?” Now that is the impresario; you choose your person and give them space. It was wonderfully frightening. It was perfect, because the results were entirely down to me.
John Miller and Anna Hart
MARK Favourite Colour :: JM ~Red AH ~I'm afraid I don't have one. I always want to choose a colour to suit an occasion, space or mood.
Interview :: April 2011 www.markproduct.com
:: What’s so special about Cornwall? JM ~ I was attracted to Cornwall initially by surfing, which I first tried on a plywood board on a caravan holiday in about 1977, although I have hardly surfed since I lived here! We have family connections, so like a lot of people always imagined living here, but it was really a fantasy until a job opportunity came up for me at University College Falmouth (UCF) as Director of the Design School. Having got here, I think that the Cornish and those who have moved here tend to be a resourceful lot and there is quite a strong entrepreneurial spirit. Meeting Anna was definitely a meeting of the minds and we have tapped that spirit in setting up and growing MARK. AH ~ I think a lot of people have adopted Cornwall as a special county which they love and feel at home in, even if they were not born here. Although it’s rather more spread out than urban areas we’ve still got a good mix of life happening here, which you can enjoy right on your doorstep and a huge amount of it seems to have a creative edge. Port Eliot Festival and theatre company Kneehigh are just two examples. Both hold their own on a national scale; they just happen to be based in an area of outstanding natural beauty too, which is the greatest bonus!
:: Why do you think Cornwall attracts so many creative people? JM ~It has always attracted a lot of poets, writers and artists - Daphne Du Maurier, the Newlyn and St Ives Schools; people who want to sit on a cliff and be contemplative. The design scene is much more recent, and UCF probably plays a big role in this. The college has been here in one form or another for 100 years, but has really expanded rapidly in the last ten. Graduates staying on are seen as a key economic driver for the region and this is actively encouraged through schemes like Unlocking Cornish Potential, which incentivises companies to take on graduates. Many of the local design businesses were set up by UCF alumni and there is a strong graphics and media focus to this. What we are doing with MARK is even more of a recent phenomenon; linking the creative culture with the industrial heritage of the county, and the many skilled people that are here. :: So, do you think the creative industries could provide a real future for Cornwall’s economy? JM ~Yes and no. The local market is not sufficient to sustain so many creative businesses so they have to be outward facing. It will be 51
good for Cornwallâ€™s economy for this to become increasingly competitive so that only the best are attracted and it becomes known for creative excellence more than creative lifestyle. :: What advice would you give to a designer, or any creative person, thinking of relocating to Cornwall? Is it really possible to make a living there now? JM ~ Donâ€™t expect to pick up local work. It works best if you already have a market and client base that you can service from here. However once here you will find there is a good creative community and supply chain. Cornwall needs people to come here who are connected outside, not so much escapees from modern life. :: What makes a great designer? JM ~ I don't think design is the right profession for anyone who aspires to 'greatness'. Design I think should be about pragmatism, balance, intelligence, craft. It's a marriage between technical and human factors, and people who are great at it are able not only to have a great idea, but to nurture and develop and control it. This goes for MARK too the designers we work with are quietly great but modest. There is no room for primadonnas! 53
AH ~ Great designers to work with are those who are constantly analysing, reviewing, proposing and exploring ideas. In the proposal of their ideas their approach considers, explores and understands many of the factors that go into making a product. Great designers to admire are those who have produced something that changes a way of experiencing; be that in the physical form, the use of material or the aesthetic. :: Desert island design: which three items could you not live without? JM ~ Supporto Chair by Fred Scott. I think Supporto is a fantastic and radical piece of design. I have a special one that was given to me broken by a former colleague, the upholsterer Heather Gilbey. I was working with Fred Scott at the time and he fixed it for me - he happened to have the right part under his bed or something! Both were very dear colleagues who died in their 50s within a year of each other, so the chair reminds me of them. Brompton bicycle. About as much use as an office chair on a desert island. There is so much inventive thinking in the Brompton, yet it has a clear design geometry and identity; a personality all of its own, is manufactured in London and still is amazing value. 54 :: MARK
Mitutoyo vernier caliper. I love tools and this is my favourite tool. I love the smoothness of its action and can happily fiddle with it for ages. It would keep me occupied and I could accurately measure the growth of the tropical hardwood trees I would be cultivating to make furniture out of! AH ~ Dualit Toaster. I love this product aesthetically and functionally. The ethos of the company has changed very little since being established in the 1950s. Impressively, they've managed to continue to manufacture in the UK and hold their position in the market after all these years. It's a good reflection of how innovation in design combined with astute business decisions can create an industry leader in both the commercial and domestic markets. Unidentifiable dining chair. I have an unidentifiable dining chair that I'd champion as a desert island design even though we can't work out anything about its history - it came from a charity shop, cost ÂŁ4 and is full of character with uniquely turned legs, bulbous feet and a vinyl seat pad and back - it has been with me for years so makes me feel very at home.
Max Fraser Favourite Colour :: Red, but only in small doses.
Interview :: January and July 2011 www.londondesignguide.com/joyofliving
Photos: Ed Reeve Artwork: Sam Johnson(left), Viable London(overleaf), Richard Ardagh (last). 56
:: How did you first get involved with Maggie's? Ever since my mother died of cancer in late 2008, I've wanted to contribute in some way to mankind's fight against the disease. I am aware that continued medical research is going to eventually find us a cure, but I believe it's up to governments and pharmaceutical companies to fund this. In real terms, however, there are thousands of people suffering from cancer in one form or other, and I wanted to raise money to support a charity that is doing something for these people - right here, right now. I want the results of our fundraising to have really tangible benefits. I was introduced to the work of Maggie's Cancer Caring Centres by a friend. They offer strong emotional support to cancer patients and those people surrounding them. Something that I observed throughout my mother's illness was the importance of a calm environment when recovering from the traumatic treatment. Maggie's fully understands this. Patients need to maintain a positive attitude and a strong support network. Emotionally, the disease can take you to some pretty dark places, and I witnessed that it is incredibly lonely and terrifying to be faced with the
constant possibility of death. The treatment process is rife with highs and lows for the patient as well as family and friends. Maggie's Centres are designed by great architects on the grounds of cancer specialist hospitals. These centres offer support and advice to countless cancer sufferers and their families. Today. Right now. The design of their spaces is welcoming, calm and uplifting. This relates very closely to my professional world where I use media to communicate the strengths of great design. Design is not about 'pretty stuff' - it has the power to do so much more. It can make a huge difference to our emotional state and, I believe, has the power to make our lives better. So my fundraising aims for cancer and my inherent beliefs and professional output all seemed to marry perfectly when I encountered Maggie's. :: How did you come up with the idea of asking top designers to create something to represent â€œThe Joy of Livingâ€? from graph paper? Before I had decided which charity to support or even decided on a brief to the designers, I knew I wanted to involve graph paper. In 2009, I wrote 57
and published a book called London Design Guide and we used graph paper on the cover design. The response from designers was really positive graph paper seems to trigger a fond nostalgia for designers as it reminds them of the early days of drafting before computers took over. I like the idea that designers might pick up a pencil, pen, brush, whatever and create an artwork that couldn't be repeated and that would result in something of unique value. I am pleased to say this was achieved. Logistically, the A4 paper is easy to send to the designers, it's not expensive, and it's a manageable sized artwork for most people's walls at home. The project title and brief Joy of Living came from something Maggie Keswick Jencks, the charity's co-founder, once said; "Above all what matters is not to lose the joy of living in the fear of dying." I knew I wanted my brief to the designers to be upbeat and hopeful (a sort of celebration of life), so this title seemed perfect and also very open to varied responses. :: What was the best part of being involved with this project? As the project has evolved, there have been many 'best parts'. Working with great partners who are willingly giving their time to this project 58 :: Max Fraser
has been amazing. Having so many top designers responding to the brief and generously submitting an artwork has been humbling. For me, being able to work on something with different motivations and goals has been fulfilling and refreshing. But ultimately, the best part will be when we have sold out of artworks, received numerous donations, and I can write a cheque to Maggie's for ÂŁ50,000, which is our fundraising target. With that money, I know Maggie's will make a real difference to people's lives - the best part of all. :: And what's been the hardest part of making it all happen? As with any voluntary activity, it is sometimes difficult to find the time to give it the attention it needs around the demands of my own life and profession. From the start, I was conscious of the demands on my project partners, but they have all surprised me and been incredibly efficient and generous with their time. It was a challenge to find a suitable venue to exhibit the artworks as I was quite specific with my criteria. I wanted a central London location, a professional gallery environment, and ideally the neutrality of an institutional venue. I'm delighted that I achieved all of these with Somerset House.
:: What impact do you hope the exhibition at Somerset House will have on those who visit it? I hope it will have enough impact that people will open their wallets and buy an artwork or two, or make a donation! I hope that it will make people reflect upon those they know who have been, or are affected by cancer, directly or indirectly. I hope it will trigger people to consider the fragility of life, and re-calibrate their priorities when it comes to where they spend their time and money. I hope it may inspire people to also stage their own fundraising activity for a cause that is close to them. Above all, I hope it will raise the profile and awareness of Maggie's in people's minds. They provide a crucial service that will most certainly give help and assistance to some of us in the future. 59
:: How easy was it to get the designers on board? You've got quite a stellar line up! For the first time in my profession, I can wholeheartedly say that my primary motivation for this project is to make as much money as possible for Maggie's - not for me, the artist, or any agents or gallerists. It is as simple as that. However, I am also aware that the success of this project is centred on desirability. In order to part with their cash, people must really want to own the artworks so I knew it was important to ask top talents to create them. Fortunately, in the time that I have worked in the design industry, I have built up relationships with amazing talents and I felt it was appropriate to take advantage of these contacts for this particular project. The designers have responded incredibly well to the project and have been incredibly generous with their time and energy, for which I am very grateful. :: So which is your favourite artwork? I have many, each one for a different reason. I don't want people to be influenced by my favourites - I want people to simply buy the artwork that they love. That is why I opted to price them all equally at £250 and keep the designer's name hidden. Then, the decision is informed by one's 60 :: Max Fraser
own passion and desire without any other external and, quite frankly, frivolous criteria. :: And you're now selling limited editions of the Joy of Living prints; tell me how that's going. Are you on track to hit your £50,000 target? We launched the limited edition prints as a way of making the artworks more accessible to more people, we selected 20 artworks and produced 50 editions of each, selling for £50 each. We also did it to boost the fundraising pot to my personal project target of £50,000. Sales are steady and now in the hands of Maggie's. :: In your other life you edit London Design Guide, now in its second edition. How did that come about? About ten years ago, I wrote a book called Design UK, which was a guide to the best design shops in the UK. It was a big success. I then decided I wanted to shift into publishing, as a way of making more money out of books. Since Design UK, no guides had been produced specifically about design in London. So I felt confident to proceed with that, and self-publishing gives me better control of all of the processes involved. Compiling the book is an enormous task, mainly
because London is so vast and the choices are wide and varied. Like most information resources, time, research and good contacts are the only way of comprehensively pulling everything together. The latest edition has nearly 140 entries ranging from design shops and galleries to museums, bookshops and vintage dealers. I have personally visited every single place and written every review. :: How did you get into design writing? What is it about writing about design that appeals to you? Why not be a designer instead? I started out wanting to be a furniture and product designer but I soon realised that I don't have the patience for it. I was amazed at how badly designers promote themselves yet they moan a lot about having no money, so I became interested in promoting young designers and the places you could buy their stuff. That gave rise to Design UK, and a flurry of other activities ever since including journalism, curating, lecturing, filming etc - essentially the media that surrounds the design industry. I often say to people that I work in the design industry and I happen to write about it. Design is my passion, and writing just happens to be my way of making a living. I couldn't write about other things like politics, sport etc. I wouldn't know where to start.
Michael C Place Favourite Colour :: I keep coming back, throughout my 20 years in design, to Pantone 810, a fluorescent yellow. It always brings a smile to my face. 62
Interview :: July 2011 www.wearebuild.com
:: What's the most important thing to know about you? That I can be grumpy and sometimes come across as arrogant on first meeting. I'm not at all arrogant, but I'll concede that I can be a bit of a grumpy Northerner. I'm incredibly proud of the work we produce, and can't imagine doing anything else but graphic design. I'm obsessive in my work but a bit lazy when it comes to non-work things. I enjoy cooking Sunday dinners for friends and family, and can make a mean chilli. I'm very proud, some would say to the point of being boring, of my Northern roots. All my family are up there and I hope to move back one day. I often feel like a charlatan down here in the South, I feel like I'm cheating, that I haven't really 'made it' until I do so in the North. I love working in design for print. Some would say that you need to be a master of all, and we do work in digital, but nothing gives me a thrill like getting a piece of print back from the printers. I think that comes from working for a large part of my career in that field. I also spent a large part of my formative career designing record sleeves. That's something really hard to shake, once a sleeve designer, always a sleeve designer. I love trying to
capture the spirit of a record in visual form. I love music. I LOVE music. If we don't have any music on in the studio I get very jittery. I love fish & chips and I used to be massively into BMX as a kid. While we're at it I also used to be terrified of the Daleks in Doctor Who. Star Wars was the first film I went to see, with my mum, in Harrogate, and I have the signatures of R2D2, C3PO and Chewbacca. I used to have this fascination with taking things apart, and once took my dad’s car stereo to bits but couldn't put it back together again and I once broke a Tonka® Toy. :: You've said that you enjoy “making something beautiful out of something really very ordinary”. What's the best example of this? Why do you think this approach appeals to you? In the first instance, if I put my image-making hat on, it literally refers to finding ordinary everyday objects and using them or arranging them into something altogether more beautiful. An example is the Symbolism print we did for Blanka in 2006, which used a multitude of everyday symbols arranged into a typographic form. I've always been that person that you sometimes come across in the street picking something up that someone else 63
discarded. I used to be embarrassed about it but as I grow older I've become more brazen. In the second instance as a commercial graphic designer it's something we do every day, for the most part that involves making the intangible; a brief, tangible; the end result. We work with words and make them come to life. :: Can I assume from the name of your cat, Brockmann, that you're a Josef Muller-Brockmann fan?! How has his influence affected your work? Are you a fan of the grid? I had never heard of Josef Muller-Brockmann, or Wim Crouwel until about 1995. I like MullerBrockmann’s work, but he's not really an influence. I'm a bit more all over the place, I don't really use grids, I've always been a bit more free spirited in my work. As a student I was more into Vaughan Oliver, Saville, Garrett; image-makers. I never enjoyed art history; I just wasn't interested in that at all. Naively, I'll admit now, I thought that it was daft to look to the past for inspiration, always look forward. It was all about the record shop, not the college library for me. I had the typical rebellious outlook at college, 'Why are we hand painting 24pt Baskerville?'. Of course I look back now and understand the benefits, but at the time I thought it utterly pointless. After
college I worked with Trevor Jackson, then The Designers Republic, both studios were hardly the black turtleneck wearing studios getting excited over Munich 1972 matchboxes. It was about subversion, irreverence; it was about using whatever was at hand to create a striking image. :: You've said of Helvetica “obviously it wasn't intended to be this cool thing, but it's just a beautiful font”. What is it about Helvetica that makes it so beautiful? I think it's the timelessness of it that makes it beautiful. It looks effortless and that's the skill of the designer Max Miedinger (with Eduard Hoffmann at the Haas'sche Schriftgiesserei). It has a very utilitarian feel to it; it almost has no character yet it oozes character. When it's used well, it’s a sheer joy to look at. I like it because it enables a skilled designer to give it a certain feel by how he or she uses it. :: What are you most proud of ? Setting up Build. From a dining room table in a small flat in Camden in 2001 to our current space in Walthamstow. I'm incredibly proud of our output, and the way we handle ourselves as a small studio. It's been tough at times, but we've managed to 65
keep going and we've had a lot of laughs along the way. We've worked with some incredible people, and made some good friends. :: Any advice for an aspiring designer? Work hard. Don't look to the design press or books for inspiration. Have a point of view. Don't be arrogant. Be prepared to fail, but learn from it. :: And what makes a great designer? In the first instance I think there has to be something inbuilt; raw talent. I think you can be taught to be a good designer, but to be great there has to be something within a person to take it to another level. Dedication, it takes a lot to hone your talent. Practice, practice, practice... repeat to fade. :: Desert island design: which three items could you not live without? Swiss army knife. Bayliss wind-up radio. My Ventolin inhaler.
66 :: Michael C Place
:: What's the best brief you've ever received? Whilst working with Trevor: my first record sleeve design (can't remember the artist), but it felt amazing, it's what I had dreamed of since starting at college. Whilst working at The Designers Republic: Sleeve for Warp10, their ten year anniversary releases. Again it felt amazing, mainly because I was a huge fan of the label, and it was an important release. I did all the photography, and the layout and design. I vividly remember doing two straight all-nighters to get it all done. I think I ended up being awake for 56 hours as I was going on holiday. I remember sending the artwork off, then Nicky picking me up in the car and sleeping all the way down south to the holiday. Whilst at Build: this is really hard to choose because each project is really special in different ways, it could be that it was the first brief we got, the first time we got paid, a particularly tough project we got through or a friendship made during a project.
Nic Rysenbry Favourite Colour :: White I think. Because itâ€™s not really a colour.
Interview :: January 2011 www.n3rd.co.uk
:: What’s your background; how did you become a designer? As long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a designer or creator of some description. In fact, I was nine when Disney’s Beauty and the Beast was released and I remember being oddly inspired by ‘Crazy Old Maurice’ and his amazing, albeit in retrospect, completely nonfunctional, wood chopping invention. I was attracted to many different careers but they always centred around the idea of creation; architecture, advertising and design all had their moment, but industrial and product design eventually won me over because there is such a variety in the work you can be involved in. I studied industrial design at the Victoria University School of Architecture and Design in Wellington, New Zealand for four years, during which time I won New Zealand Designer of the Year and travelled around the world for Flos. After graduating I moved to London to broaden my creative horizons and after two great years working for the likes of L’Oreal and Universal Pictures I went back to school to study my Masters at the Royal College of Art.
:: How did the Design for Dementia project first come about? The Design for Dementia project was commissioned and sponsored by The Helen Hamlyn Centre and BUPA care homes. I joined Gregor Timlin who was running the project in its second year. The Helen Hamlyn Centre is a charitable academic research facility that hires Royal College of Art graduates, teams them up with industry experts and gives them the opportunity to engage in people-centred design research. BUPA, a leading supplier of care homes in the UK, supports the project through its charitable trust. I was interested in the project because, due to my personal involvement in the subject, I knew there was a need for qualitative design research and development. :: Why is it important to you to design products for people who are less able to use what’s already available? The importance lies in designing for those who have a need and a desire for a better quality of life than their current environment allows. When it comes to diseases like dementia, where people 69
does exactly what it says on the tin - it promotes can be scared and frustrated, little attention has design for everybody. Most design for people been paid to anything other than the most basic limits who can use it because the design is based function of an object. The interventions that can around a set of average standards. Not everyone be made to better a person’s quality of life are is average and so people can be excluded from often simple common sense and putting yourself being able to use products, services and buildings. in the position of a person with dementia. Inclusive design tries to broaden those Designing for cognitive impairments is very standards so the most people can get the most difficult and involves making a lot of calculated out of life. This doesn’t mean that we will have assumptions. For physical impairments there are to all live in an over-cautious, all-inclusive a lot of tools that designers can use to mimic environment. There have been some great physical limitations so that they can go some way commercial successess with inclusive design to understanding how a product will work best. because if you design for the lowest common With cognitive impairments, there are no tools denominator, you create for an inclusive market. to help us properly understand what it is like. Plus, one of the common symptoms of dementia is trouble communicating, so we are not really able to ask either. “With cognitive impairments, there are The result is that all too often quick and no tools to help us properly understand under-researched assumptions are made what it is like...” about needs, and met with products that fall way short of the quality of life any of us would :: Tell me about the process you went through to like to look forward to. Fully grown adults are design the items on show at the RCA exhibition given brightly coloured, two-handled baby cups, during London Design Festival. for example, because the simplest response is to The process really began a few years earlier solve the problem at the most basic, functional when a family member was diagnosed with level. dementia. I had, of course, heard of the disease Inclusive design is very important because it 70 :: Nic Rysenbry
before that, but until that point dementia was just a word. By the time the Helen Hamlyn Centre told me that I could have a year to solely look at how people in the UK in care homes lived with dementia, I already had a basic knowledge of the disease and a personal viewpoint on the need for attention by designers in this area. The next six months were spent delving deep into research, especially into person-centred care. We went to conferences, read all the books, talked to carers and families, spent many days in care centres, met with world-renowned experts in the field and debated with manufacturers. Finally, and most importantly for us to understand a little of how the products we might design could help people, we ran focus groups with people with early onset dementia and Alzheimer’s. From there and with the technical and personal support that was so readily available from the Helen Hamlyn Centre we began developing and refining all the information, desires and needs into products that went some way towards assisting people with dementia lead a better quality of life for longer. :: What was the most important lesson you learnt in this process? Life is precious and you should value every day. 72 :: Nic Rysenbry
:: Have you seen your products in action, and the difference they can make to people’s lives? Unfortunately no, not yet. The prototypes that were developed for the London Design Festival were developed for professional evaluation and for proof of concept. To develop these products to a useable state within a care environment, further budget is required. We are looking into sourcing this budget as well as finding manufacturers who would be interested, so that we can make these products a reality as soon as possible. :: How would you define good design? Good design is innovative, it’s environmental, it’s functional but most importantly it’s individual. Of course it’s individual to the designer, but more than that, good design is individual to the user. :: What’s your ultimate design ambition? To create products that change the way people interact with the world for the better. :: Do you have any advice for aspiring designers? The same advice my dad has given to me on countless occasions, although it took me a while to realise its value. The advice wasn’t his own, but taken from a Pizza Hut ad in New Zealand(!) but I
think it is pertinent advice that anyone, looking to be successful at anything, should heed. In the ad a boy is delivering a pizza. He rings the doorbell and an older man answers the door. The boy gives him the pizza and the man pays him. The boy counts the money then looks expectantly at the man and asks “What about a tip?” The man thinks for a second and responds “Work hard and be good to your mother”. I think it’s valuable advice.
Penelope Jordan Favourite Colour :: This is a very difficult question to answer as my textile artwork's sole objective is based on contrasting colour combinations. I like so many and all for different reasons! If I had to choose one, I suppose it would be metallic copper, which I am yet to find in felt, but would look fantastic as a highlighting colour to accentuate the three-dimensional aspect of my work.
Interview :: November 2010 www.penelopejordan.com
:: What’s the most important thing to know about you? I strive for perfection through my work. I’m extremely passionate and enthusiastic about everything I create and am constantly developing new ideas.
:: What’s important about the production process to ensure the quality of the product? Exact measurements, a keen eye for detail, an instinct for colour and PATIENCE! Every art piece is a challenge to complete, but results in something spectacular!
:: And what inspires these new ideas? An obsession for linear lines fuels my original ideas, which are then built upon with other imagery, ranging from colour combinations in foliage to mechanical machinery.
:: You clearly have a great instinct for colour what influences your choices? Conflicting colours that would not necessarily go together in a traditional fashion, but that highlight certain aspects of the design to give a three-dimensional feel, adding depth and relief, without distracting from the original shape and orientation of the design.
:: What inspired the work you showed at TENT (2010) specifically? This was a collection of original ideas reproduced on a larger scale to display the threedimensional aspects within my work. The larger the piece, the more impressive it became. :: Describe your design process. Inspiration is taken from original sources and then experimented with using different types of fabric in a repetitive way. Formulae start to develop through a series of designs, which are constantly improved through problem solving, resulting in a finalised textile art piece.
:: How did you get into textile design? From a young age my interest was fine art. I liked conceptual art that had meaning or evoked an emotion, but also had an aesthetic beauty to it. I also had a passion for stereogram images in particular and would sit for hours observing the 3D patterns created until it made me dizzy! :: What’s next? I want to expand the collection of pieces I showed at TENT, adding new designs to my website. 75
I want to reproduce these for clients through a bespoke service where they are able to choose the scale and colours to match their interior space. I see success as achieving goals step by step. Being able to produce artwork that inspires and interests people to own a piece. Remembering that itâ€™s impossible to accomplish everything all at once! :: Describe a good day and a bad day in the life of Penelope Jordan? Good day: motivation and determination to tick everything off on my list. Finishing a piece in particular will give me a real sense of satisfaction and achievement. Bad day: power cut! :: Any advice for aspiring textile designers? Log all your designs, even if you think they are rubbish. In the future they could spark ideas, which may lead to something extraordinary. Most importantly, donâ€™t give up.
76 :: Penelope Jordan
Hannah Dipper and Robin Farquhar
People Will Always Need Plates Favourite Colour :: Hannah ~ Rocker yellow; the dirty yellow seat on an Eames rocker (roughly 610C). Robin ~ 021C, Iâ€™m a sucker for all things bright orange. 78
Interview :: June 2010 www.peoplewillalwaysneedplates.co.uk
:: What’s your background? HD ~ I studied Ceramics at Bath and then Ceramics and Glass at the RCA, with a year in Stoke in between my courses, where I received a PgD Ceramics Design for Production. RF ~ I studied Industrial Design at Brunel University, but on graduation, decided that I didn’t really want to work in product design so I took a job at a corporate events company and spent the next seven or eight years designing for motor shows, product launches and exhibitions before Hannah and I started the company. It took me a while but yes, I changed my mind on the product design thing. :: So how did you get started as People Will Always Need Plates? RF ~ We took part in the V&A Village Fete in 2004 - it’s great fun, like your old school fetes but with designers running the stalls. We ran an architectural competition. We produced illustrations of London homes from 1740 something to the present day. You had to put the homes in chronological order to win a colouring book of all the images - we were mobbed for three days! We put the illustrations onto plates as an allusion to the tradition of collectibles from companies
like Franklin Mint. Lots of people wanted them and a buyer from the V&A shop expressed an interest so we decided to take the plunge, put them into limited production and start the company. :: Is it true you named the brand after the old Maureen Lipman BT ad? How do your GCE results compare to Anthony’s?! RF ~ Yes, this is absolutely correct. Hannah’s best friend at school said to her, on hearing that she had a place at Bath to study ceramics, “splendid, people will always need plates!”. Having dilly-dallied around for years as a freelancer thinking about names, this kept on coming back as a funny, if lengthy, name. We’re not quite old enough to have GCEs but our GCSE results were much better than poor Anthony’s, though neither of us studied pottery. :: What first made you think of putting buildings on plates? RF ~ There’s a long tradition of illustrative plates and Hannah’s ambition to be an architect was thwarted by her incorrect belief that her maths wasn’t good enough. However, it turns out that it’s a lot more fun drawing one’s favourite buildings than it is drawing fire escapes, aircon units and toilet 79
blocks for ten years before being allowed anywhere near a creative build! :: Any advice for aspiring designers? RF ~ Have original ideas and do your very best to protect them. Get work experience in established studios - it’s vital to understand dull stuff like production schedules, budgets and client handling if you’re going to make the very best of your creative ideas and it’s best to do this when you’re young and willing to get this knowledge under your belt in order to get more from projects later on. We both have considerable industrial experience which has been invaluable in running the company; everything from time sheets, PR and admin to client handling… let alone coping with creative work on top. :: Where do you get your inspiration from? RF ~ From day to day really. London lends us a whole lot - we love and hate this city in equal measure, but cannot bear to stray too far away. Holidays provide inspiration. Fresh air and no city allow us to clear our cluttered brains and return refreshed; with wider eyes to absorb new stuff.
80 :: People Will Always Need Plates
:: When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? And now? HD ~ I think something creative was always my plan. I thought that I’d be a proper craft potter for years, as I love the making process and quality is of huge importance to me. We use Stoke to produce ware as the process is almost as important as the design work. We wouldn’t take our ware to China for cheap labour as we’d lose all control over the quality of print, china and so on. RF ~ Always wanted to be a racing driver - still do really. Sadly I found that I was too old to realise my dream of being World F1, Touring Car and Rally Champion about ten years ago. You know you’re getting old when top drivers were born in the 1990s. :: I’ve got to ask, because I own all of them - why button badges? RF ~ They started as promotional gifts - they’re round so they’re perfect for showing the plate designs. We made them to send out to press and shops and hand out at trade shows, but they proved so popular that we started selling them. We’ve sold thousands of the buggers, and we’ve made every single one of them at home watching tat TV.
Sarah Hillman Favourite Colour :: Teal
Interview :: September 2010 www.sarahhillmanceramics.com
Photos: Sarah Hillman 82
:: What’s the most important thing to know about you? I’m obsessed with colour and form. :: What inspires you? I love working with clay. I find it so immediate and responsive. There’s always a new way to cut a piece and a new colour blend to find which keeps me developing and moving my work forward. I find inspiration in abstract modernist sculptors, such as Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore; I also love sleek Scandinavian design pieces. :: What inspired the Splash forms? They were a continual development of looking at the relationship between the inside and the outside of organic form. I develop work as I go along. After I cut a piece I sit back and really look at it, see how it works, assess which elements really make it work for me and try to incorporate them into the next piece. I was working with trying to encapsulate a sense of poise and movement in the pieces. By cutting the complete forms with deep curves and applying colour to the interior I found an enticing relationship between the internal and external space.
:: How did you get into ceramics? What made you decided to make it your career? I stumbled across ceramics while studying. I initially wanted to take on an additional course in textiles, but my college only offered a ceramics class. Over those two years at college I spent every spare minute in the ceramics department. My college tutor gave me faith and encouragement to continue. That was 1996 and I haven’t looked back! :: And what’s your average day like now? What’s a good day? What’s a bad day? I get up around 7.30am and make a cup of tea while the computer boots up. Then I check emails and plan my day. I head off around 9am to my studio. I always start with a clear workbench, I roll slabs of clay for the pieces to be made then press the moulds; I usually work on about three at once. After another cuppa it’s time to take the first piece out of the mould and start to cut and design the form; I barely stop for lunch, usually a sandwich while scrutinising the morning’s work. The afternoon sees me finish the forms. I never leave a piece half-finished and always make sure I clean up and mop before I leave, ready for the next day. A good day would be me in my own little world working away making and developing new work. 83
Often however, I have to spray all the pieces to pack the kiln. This is intensive and more demanding as I mix all the colours myself and spraying the work is the most difficult aspect. If my spray gun plays up I can end up having a very bad day, usually soothed by a large glass of wine in the garden when I get home. :: What are your hopes for the future? What does success mean to you? I’d love to live in the country one day in a big old house with a light bright studio at the bottom of the garden, with beautiful views to inspire me. At the moment being in London keeps me connected with the right market; but I’d love to have more tranquility and countryside to work in. Of course having bigger kilns and perhaps an assistant would help me achieve bigger commissions and large-scale pieces. :: What advice would you give to aspiring potters? If you believe in what you are doing keep it up. It’s a tough journey so you need to have confidence and insight in what you are doing. Although it makes the criticism harder to take, the passion will keep you going.
84 :: Sarah Hillman
Tom Raffield Favourite Colour :: Always blue!
Interview :: December 2010 www.tomraffield.com Photos: Mark Wallwork Photography
:: What is it about Exmoor that inspires you? I grew up here and have always loved the natural surroundings. The contrast between the barren open moorland and the moss-covered wooded valleys teaming with life is stunning; and the way this suddenly comes to an end with a dramatic coastline. I love walking in this countryside and Iâ€™m forever seeing new shapes and lines within nature, which feed into my work. It has a different feel to the rest of the UK. You get a real feeling you are in the far corner of the country; the landscape and people are different and in my opinion more interesting. This attracts creative people wanting to live more unusual, bohemian lives. :: What attracted you to study at University College Falmouth? It was the feeling of being able to study in a small artistic seaside fishing town. The classes were small and it had a personal feel to it. I wanted to feel comfortable and enjoy living wherever I studied and Falmouth was perfect. The light and seascape in and around Falmouth are so inspiring and have really helped shape the work I create.
:: Why wood and why steam bending? Because I love it! I had never worked with wood or steam bending until the second year of my degree but as soon as I did I was amazed by the possibilities and never looked back. :: Which is your favourite piece? The Chaise Longue No.4. I designed the Chaise Longue No.1 whilst in my third year of university. I wanted to create a beautiful complex three dimensional form using the new methods of steam bending I had developed. I think the reason I love it so much is because it is such an asymmetric, organic form. No matter which angle you look at it from it looks completely different. Itâ€™s a marriage between a functional chair and a sculpture. :: Tell me about the design process you go through, from the initial spark of an idea to the final piece. I take my note pad with me everywhere and sketch an idea or something I see, whenever I feel the need. As soon as a model is formed I know whether it is worth pursuing or not. If it is a good idea, I get so excited and can't wait to develop it. Unfortunately it takes a long time to get to the 87
finished piece with lots of prototyping and tool making. :: Describe a really good day and a really bad day in the life of Tom Raffield? Simple, a brilliant day is when I bend lots of wood and none of it breaks. A bad day is snapping some of my best oak and having to put it into my workshop wood burner! :: What’s the most important thing to know about you? It’s all about enjoying what I do; passion drives me. :: What’s next? At the moment I am incredibly busy with my current lighting collection, which has really taken off. I am also in the process of steam bending a giant six-metre kingfisher nest public art installation for children in Taunton town centre. :: Tell me a bit about the story of Sixixis. Sixixis was a collaboration between me and two college friends. Looking back now it was the best thing I could have done, as we created some great work and I learnt so much in terms of how to run (or not to run) a business. At the same time I am 88 :: Tom Raffield
glad it is over and I am doing my own stuff now. It is really difficult running a business with three creative people in charge. We used to work ridiculous hours and I think in the end it took its toll. :: How did it feel setting up on your own? It felt amazingly liberating. I could do whatever I wanted and making decisions was so much easier as there was no need for a heated debate before doing something. On the downside you canâ€™t share the responsibility if something goes wrong. Ultimately though, I get to see my business develop, which fills me with an immense amount of pride, especially when I know it has all come from a bit of wood, some steam and a bit of imagination. :: Any advice for aspiring designers? Find something you really love. Making a success in business means a lot of hard work and determination, so you have to feel confident and happy with your designs and products.
Wim Crouwel Favourite Colour :: Blue.
Interview :: April 2011
Photos: Left: Stedelijk Museum Overleaf: Wim Crouwel - A Graphic Odyssey Design Museum, London April - July 2011, photography by Luke Hayes. 90
:: Whatâ€™s the most important thing to know about you? I am a workaholic.
:: Any advice for aspiring designers? Be curious and try to pave your own recognisable path.
:: How did you feel looking back on the body of work pulled together for the Design Museum exhibition? (The 2011 retrospective.) It felt as if I was in a heavenly hot bath.
:: Desert island design: which three items could you not live without? My three chairs from Charles Eames.
:: What are you most proud of ? That young designers still like my work. :: What makes a great designer? Hard labour.
:: What's the best brief you've ever received and how did you feel when you received it? To work for the museum of modern art in Amsterdam [the Stedelijk Museum]. I felt in design heaven.
92 ::Wim Crouwel
Zoe Murphy Favourite Colour :: Pink. 100%. Especially the bright or neon shades. It isn't the first that might spring to mind when people think of me, being a very non-girly girl, but it creeps in to absolutely everything I make and choose to use. If I buy a toothbrush, it'll be pink, if I get offered a pack of felt tips, I'll start with the pink one, and so onâ€Ś Itâ€™s a really upbeat colour, and always puts a fun edge to any colour palette if it's starting to look a little too sophisticated (God forbid!). To me it suggests 'youth' without having to be 'young', and I'm all about that. Interview :: October 2010 www.zoemurphy.com Photos: Zoe Murphy 94
:: What’s the most important thing to know about you? I love colour. I am inherently drawn to it and always pick the most bright or punchy colour. Food, interiors, design, clothing, it’s always bright or bold.! :: What inspires you about your hometown of Margate? I love its nostalgia; it’s just so retro and often when it doesn’t mean to be. But it is still quite run down too, and I like that as well. You don’t have a polished finish, it’s second-hand and needs love and attention - perfect for the ethos of my work. :: Why do you chose to refurbish mid-century furniture specifically? The clean, un-fussy lines of furniture from that era are perfect for my designs. Trying to compete with beautiful carving or attention grabbing forms would just be too much for the eye. Also, everything from that era seems to be the last in a line of wellmade furniture. Cabinet making was still a strong trade and you find that pieces were screwed and dovetailed together properly. That makes for an easy de-construction and re-construction.
:: What’s your design process? Ideas come from everywhere, but particularly colour. I’ll often see an appealing shop front or amusement arcade and come away with a colour scheme. This is all engineered into designs that are screenprinted onto the stripped and prepared furniture before a final polish. The last thing I do is drop in the fabric or printed drawer linings for the finishing touch. :: Tell me about the last couple of years - it must have been quite a roller-coaster ride! It has been very, very busy! I graduated expecting to just get a job in design, but my graduate show proved so popular that orders kept coming in. Before I knew it; it had been three months and I was having to register as self-employed. By the time I was at TENT, Liberty had picked up on my work and wanted to stock some of the smaller pieces. Interest has just grown and grown. I am always trying to keep things interesting for myself and for followers by undertaking fun projects and collaborations as a way of keeping everything fresh.
:: What is it about ‘up-cycling’ that appeals to you? I have always been concerned about waste, and feel very responsible for calling things into existence. Working with recycled materials eases my conscience a little, knowing that I am extending product lifecycles. Using second-hand also provides a wonderful history with each piece, and great diversity in my work. Sourcing remains a challenge, but finding little pieces of social history like old coins and drawer liners makes it all worthwhile. I like the challenge; tackling the issue of having to source second-hand feels like I might be making a difference, and hopefully encourages others to do so as well. :: Describe a good day and a bad day in the life of Zoe Murphy. A good day is one that starts early, with a bacon sandwich, as I love morning work. It would be a full day in the studio printing and making. Sewing days are particularly fun for me as I don’t get to do that much. Another highlight is getting to trawl around junk shops for materials and visiting car boot fairs on summer Sundays. There aren’t many days in my job that I don’t enjoy. Bad days are those inevitable ‘off’ days that every designer or maker has. The little genie of 96 :: Zoe Murphy
bad luck will visit and things take longer, go wrong, smudge, fail... on days like that you just have to keep on working through - persistence makes them productive. :: Any advice for aspiring designers? Be aware of how hard it is to keep a creative business running, it takes a lot of energy and enthusiasm to not only keep up with admin and organisation, but to make the goods as well. If your product is you and the designs you make, then it is incredibly important to make sure you keep yourself happy and inspired. Otherwise it will show in your work. Work as smartly as you can. When I first started, I believed that hard work and long hours would be enough, but as there is always so much to do and so few hours in the day, you have to make sure you are making brilliant use of your time and materials. This includes not over organising or spending too long preparing for and generating business without actually creating; ‘a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’. So stay in love with what you do, and try to think cleverly about your time - it is very valuable.
About the author: Katie Treggiden has been writing confessions of a design geek (www.confessionsofadesigngeek.com) and tweeting as @coadg since April 2010. In September 2010 confessions of a design geek won mydeco’s Design Democracy Award for the Best Interior Design Blog in Great Britain. Katie has written for mydeco, London Design Festival and Cornwall Design Season among other design-related publications. This is her first book. Photo: Kirsten Everett
Special thanks to: Leyton Allen-Scholey, Paul Armstrong, Alexandre Bettler, Joanna Boyle, Erwin Brinkers, Anthony Burrill, Barbara Chandler, Wim Crouwel, Hannah Dipper, Nessa Doran O’Reilly, Danny van den Dungen, Kirsten Everett, Robin Farquhar, James Fenton, Max Fraser, Mrs Green, Zander Grinfeld, Anna Hart, Sarah Hillman, Clare Howdle, Keith Howdle, Sue Howdle, Penelope Jordan, Helen Lang (and Des the dog), Sua Lee, Lisa Lewins, Ken Lewins, John Makepeace, Javier Mariscal, Sivan Metzer, John Miller, Zoe Murphy, Rebekah O’Carroll, Camilla Parsons, Michael C Place, Tom Raffield, Nic Rysenbry, Katherine Sandford-Anderson, William Shaw, Marieke Stolk, Will Taylor, Gregor Timlin, Bob Treggiden, Chris Treggiden, Lucy Treggiden, Hetty Wessels, Ashley Woodfield, and all my friends and family. 98
“Katie Treggiden is a genuine new voice in design writing. She does Q&A in a fresh and unaffected fashion, allowing her subjects the space (both literally and metaphorically) to develop ideas and points of view. Over and over again, the empathy of her interviewing technique elicits a direct, frank and surprisingly revealing response. Deceptively reverential, she poses unaggressive yet astute questions that extract new insights even from design greats such as John Makepeace and Javier Mariscal.” Barbara Chandler, long-time design writer for the London Evening Standard and Homes & Gardens, and photographer/author of Love London. “Katie stands apart from other design writers… She turns designers into real people. She allows designers to speak in the same words as the people who use what they’ve made. There is something very democratic about that.” William Shaw, Web Editor, London Design Festival
50p from every book sold will be donated to Maggie's Cancer Caring Centres. Registered charity number SC024414. Maggie’s helps people to live with, through and beyond cancer by providing practical and emotional support out of beautiful cancer caring centres based all over the UK. www.maggiescentres.org