for what it’s worth

stories and stimulus from a consumer insight consultant


The Truman Brewery was bursting with creative talent for London Design Week last weekend. From 100% East, Talentzone, In Production, (re) Design, and Design Mais, we felt exhausted by the huge amount of work on display. It was almost a relief to be told that we couldn’t go into the too-full New Designers Selection exhibition!

There was a great array of ideas on show, mostly from graduate designers and young design companies, showing a wealth of products- the main recurrent themes of which seemed to be the importance of creating honesty in materials; a continuation of the movement towards traditional crafts such as ceramics; adding an importance and beauty to products through hidden aspects of design; and unique space-saving designs, with humour playing an ever-important role.

As a brief round-up here are my favourite products from each show; items and designers that I think will be important to the future of product design-


Luis Eslava’s USB saint, called ‘Oh Maria Keep my Data Safe’- a religious icon as memory stick which poses the idea of computers being the new religion

Img_0742Giles Miller’s fluted corrugated cardboard laptop case, which ‘gives you the chance to show the world that you care about sustainable design’.


Ali Cayless’ Rememberance Sideboard, with a series of secret openings and ‘hidden surpsrises’ such as personalised felt designs on the inside, drawing on the idea of childhood exitement and posessional values.

Img_0748Emiko Oki’s Salty Bell brings fun to the dinner table by taking a glass bell and adding holes along the rim to create a salt or pepper shaker which you ring for seasoning!
Her Trophy Tableware set is also an ingenious use of design- a set of simple stylish crockery that stacks together to create a trophy. Her pieces aim to ‘add to the dining experience, and to function aesthetically whilst not in use’

Talent Zone, a specially selected showcase of the best UK design graduates-

-Kathryn Hennesy’s take on garden gnomes- recreating the ceramic figurines holding machine guns, shows a subversive twist on an English classic


Tomasz Donocik’s ‘A Hero of Our Time’ horsehair and gold horsehead jewellery pieces for men were disturbingly beautiful

Img_0763Angel Ha’s interactive ceramics seen in her ‘Peel to Reveal’ crockery, envite you to rub the surface to remove top layer and reveal a different world of design underneath


Ernie Bakker’s Spira table is based on the old-style giant spiragraph sets- placed on top of a tablecloth, where the coaster, placemat and food stand all interact to provide artistic entertainment during your meal.


Shiv Kumar’s elegant table plays with the idea hidden beauty and peeling away the wood to reveal hidden colour.

In Production– exhibition curated by trend consultancy The Future Laboratory showcasing their selection of the best of contemporary British design in production, cleverly displayed as a peep-show

-Paint By Numbers Wallpaper by Jenny Wilkinson has already been lauded as a design classic

Timorous_beastiesTimorous Beasties fabrics- having won numerous design awards for their depiction of contemporary images on traditional textiles such as their Glasgow and London toiles, this textile design company is going from strength to strength


– ‘Lady Lush’ blown glass decanters by Romy Westwood look at British manufacturing traditions, challenging the idea of ornamental and functional objects.


– ‘Else’ leather benches by Julia Lohmann are made of a single cowhide and shaped to represent a cow, exploring the threshold between animal and material


-‘Villosus’ porcelain andhorsehair vases, and ‘Candle 1’ all wax candle and candelabra by Fredrikson Stallard. The company describe their pieces as “Fairy tales for grown ups; combining simple surface narratives with underlying themes of opulent and sensual darkness.”

Design Mais, curated by Max Fraser, was showcasing the best of Portuguese design and production collaborations. A clever way of attracting attention to the manufacturers as well as the designers, pieces displayed information from both.


-‘Soho’ multi-design chest of drawers by Pedro Sonsa, produced by Menina Design

-‘Miss Moon’ White Armchairs produced by Truffa for Sensicasa, pained pink underneath to produce a coloured glow

-‘Homesick Kit’ suitcase by Lilia Borges, Helena Silva &Joao Loureiro, and produced by Li&Fung- a company that integrates textiles, ceramics and glass sectors

(re) Design exhibition looked at eco-design products from a range of companies who utilise ecological and ethical design paths. The brochure asks ‘Can gorgeous design also be good- for you, for others and for the environment?’. A mixture of new and slightly older design ideas, there were a couple of great ideas that looked at the efficient use of materials.

-8’ x 4’ by Richard Broom Designs, which creates a chair, coffee table, dining table and picture frame out of a single 8’ x 4’ ply sheet

-‘Reholstered’ by Space Oddity who had taken an old office chair and given it a new lease of life by attaching a handcrafted ash seat and back, playing with the ideas of man-made and machine mass-production.

-Book bookcase by Carpenter & Carpenter which uses second-hand books instead of wood to create a wall-mounted bookcase

-Big Crush by Studiomold, where  crushed plastic bottles are re-used and stacked into a tower to make a lamp


-Luggage Sofa by Love Me Twice who have taken an old suitcase and upholstered the inside to create a portable sofa!

Filed under: talent worth watching, , ,


Img_0733London Design Week would not be complete without seeing the young international designers showcased in the empty Nicholls and Clarke building on Shoreditch high street by Designersblock. The least known of the established shows,  this exhibition still managed to pack a a pretty strong punch, with a wide array of original and intelligent products on offer.

As always humorous, quirky products were abundant. Those we preferred included design duo Mixko’s
‘Goal’ t-shirts printed on the inside so that when your team scores the hidden text is revealed in celebration! Mixko’s objective is “to create items that inspire happiness and possess a satisfying simplicity”, and it’s definitely achieved here.

Dejana Kabiljo’s ‘Pretty Pretty’ stools, covered with dyed horsehair wigs, are both disturbing and beautiful. Her products play with the idea of beauty and “search for the innovation on the level of human behaviour”, and Dejana plans to pursue this theme with a variety Pasta_per_metre_1of hairstyles and furniture.

Seven Squatters, a group of industrial design graduates from Central St Martins showed some great ideas including ‘Who Tall are You’ by Ismaril Wells which looks at the evaluation of self image, stating “no matter how short you consider yourself to be you’ll always be taller than Img_0711someone great” and ‘Measure Your Pleasure’ by Marina Lariviere, looking at food habits and attitude- inside the packaging is roll of fresh pasta with recipes printed in edible ink running every 50cm to enable not only the preparation of healthy meals but also the consumption of the recommended amount. Marina explained the idea as a do-it-yourself approach, a food version of Ikea!

Looking at adapting religion into 21st century lifestyles is Soner Ozenc’s digital prayer mat, using flexible technology that lights up when pointed in the direction of Mecca. The designer explained how the aim was to combine tradition and contemporary pixel arts, trying to evoke an emotional atmosphere whilst creating a fully functioning product. The item is currently in production and will be launched in a couple of months.

iTattoo is another idea by the same designer; a customisation engraving service for your gadgets “transforming your product into a unique art piece”

Img_0727Combining design and art, Scott Garcia’s ‘Embedded Meanings’ concrete tables combine functional objects in an elegant way and display the decorative potential of concrete.

Eco friendly design is taken to a different level in the Wattson by DIY Kyoto (seen also at the Digital Wellbeing Showroom). The product’s primary function is to read how many watts each appliance in your house uses, bur also sits as a piece of design in its own right.

Space saving designs were showcased by Japanese design group Link- Nobuhira Teshima’s ‘Mobile Dining’ is a cupboard on wheels that folds out concertina-style into a large table, and Hiroshi Ujiie’s ‘Hanger Mirror’ combines the two essential items in an elegant, simplified manner.

Guinea Pig Design have created conceptual products “with the aim of challenging existing human behaviour via alternative methodologies” – ‘On The Shelf’ is a row of glass boxes each containing a single fake flower individually and randomly lit. The designers describe it as ‘each fake flower awaits its turn in the spotlight, dreaming of celebrity status for more than a few momentary seconds’ – I wonder what point they’re trying to make here!!!


Others to watch out for- Deus ex Machina
– an international group of designers looking to transform objects away from public preconceptions and bring an element of surprise, such as mounting them on remote controlled wheels, as the designers say ‘Imagine if objects escaped when you tried to touch them’.

Img_0724_1Also showing as part of Designersblock was DMA (Design Metiers d’art)- a french organisation that organises collaborations between designers and craftsmen with an aim to developing local economies and highlighting the craft professions, or as they say “set up as a source of and catalyst for new economic, social and cultural singularity and identity.”. This was their first show of work and focussed on copper and silversmiths working alongside a mix of graduate and established designers, with the next planned show to be a collaboration with designers and basketmakers.

So many talented young international designers under one roof, where else but London do you get such great brain food!

Filed under: talent worth watching, , ,


A new exhibition has just opened at the Museum at FIT, looking at the influence of armor and other military styles on fashion. Ok, sounds pretty unexciting, but more than just chain mail and uniforms the curators have looked at female power through clothing, dividing the exhibition into four sections-

-‘The Weaponized Woman’ featuring warrior-like fashions by Boudicca, JPG, Versace and Yamamoto,
-‘The Hard Body’ which looks at moulded forms on the catwalk including pieces by Issey Miyake, Thierry Mugler and Hussein Chalayan,
-‘Officers, Not Gentlemen’ showing how military uniforms are used in contemporary fashion,
-‘Skin2: Weapons of Seduction’ which explores the allure of lingerie

Power through clothing seems a prevalent topic at the moment, and as more stylish women take prime positions in male-dominated environments (Segolene Royal, Zaha Hadid), designers are producing clothes that harness ‘the spirit of warrior women’ (think of the last collections by Marios Schwab or Viktor and Rolf, and the recent return to animal prints). This is one trend that is set to continue- men had better watch out!!

  • FIT press release
  • Filed under: Uncategorized, worth seeing, , , ,


    Earlier this week I visited the Natural History Museum’s exhibition in partnership with Cape Farewell; ‘a free, contemporary art exhibition designed to deepen our understanding of climate change’. The exhibition offered an array of interesting interpretations, most notably Michele Noach’s contour ‘Contextascope’, David Buckland’s ice texts, and Anthony Gormley’s ice-cast ‘Marker One’- although ‘Stranded’, the crystal-encrusted whale skeleton by Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey makes the loudest statement, showing the impact of climate change in endangering species in a hauntingly beautiful way.

  • exhibition info
  • The best part of the exhibition for me though, was the Ideas Tank computer screen where you could find information on a wide array of practical solutions and positive approaches for encorporating the idea of sustainability into your life, and then email yourself any that you wanted more information on. Here are some of the interesting ideas on offer-

    -CarbonNeutral Flight Calculator
    Return flights to Paris for £3.20? Well that’s the cost of the offset anyway. The CarbonNeutral Flight Calculator measures your flight emissions, then works out how much you need to spend to ‘neutralise’ them. The money you spend goes towards community projects that save exactly the same amount of carbon dioxide.

  • carbon neutral flight calculator
  • -Sustrans
    It’s easy to focus on the problems created by increased car use, instead Sustrans provides creative, imaginative and practical solutions, aiming to change the way we travel by increasing the amount people walk and cycle. Use the interactive map to discover cycle routes near you and what you’ll see along the way. Disused railway lines, canal towpaths, riversides and parks – the National Cycle Network offers 16,000 miles of signed cycle routes throughout the UK, putting almost 75 per cent of the UK population within two miles of the network.

  • sustrans
  • -Buy Nothing Day-
    Participate by not participating. Buy Nothing Day is a personal 24-hour experiment, a challenge simply not to buy anything. Founded 14 years ago by ex-advertising executive Kalle Lasn, and propelled into a global protest movement via the Internet, Buy Nothing Day is celebrated in more than 65 countries by millions of people, each celebrating this anti-holiday in their own way. Concerned with sustainability and the political implications of our culture of over-consumption, it has inspired some seriously provocative and interesting actions

  • buy nothing day
  • buy nothing day UK
  • -Home-brewed fuel-
    ‘Today, 42-year-old Steele is one of Britain’s growing brigade of biodiesel fans. His red Volvo, a familiar sight in Manchester, runs on fuel brewed in his garden from oil he obtains from local kebab and fish-and-chip shops. “The beauty is that organic-origin oil has as much specific energy as oil of mineral origin and there is enough renewable energy for our needs,” said Steele, who whips up 250-litre (66-gallon) batches of diesel with an apparatus he perfected over the years. Advocates say biodiesel is the solution to fuel shortages, pollution, global warming and farming problems

  • more info
  • Filed under: evironmental insights, worth seeing, , ,


    I took these pictures of ‘Extraordinary Art Forum’ -the amazing video installation by Tomas Saraceno at the Barbican.

    “In his most ambitious project to date, Saraceno has created a dramatic installation featuring a video shot from a ring of 32 cameras floating on the world’s largest salt lake, Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia.

    Images of the sky reflected on the lake are captured by Saraceno’s cameras and projected onto the 80-metre wall of The Curve, creating a visually stunning panorama in which the viewer is immersed in, and floats amongst, the clouds.

    The project continues Saraceno’s exploration of airborne communities as a solution to the world’s exploding population. Could this utopian vision of flying cities become a real and sustainable alternative to urban life.”

    Filed under: worth seeing, ,


    Part 1 of the new designers exhibition at the business design centre showed some interesting new ideas. Graduates seemed to be utilising new university equipment with a wide variety of lazercut fabrications and soft watercolour-wash digital prints. Alongside the typical graduate over-embellished and victoriana-inspired designs, themes that stood out were travel- especially in the form of military equipment and topographical mapping, and the strong use of lines of text in designs, as well as a clear rise in the use of embroidery. The 1980s was also still a big inspiration point for many with pop graphics and naive cartoony motifs seen everywhere, and oriental influences were also obvious.

    Ones to watch out for in the future:
    -David Mitchell (Somerset College)- black felted tree print on a jigsaw of black slate slabs. Surface textures with a sinister air
    -Polly Burton (Chelsea College of Art and Design) – small-scale repeat prints on reels of fabric tape/ ribbon
    -Sam Jones – felted geometric prints on latex
    -Tomasz Dovocik (RCA) – violent and provocative jewllery using horse hair, twisted cord and gold spears
    -Kyeok Kim (RCA) – light-emitting jewellery that shines tatooed motif across the body

    There seemed to be an increased interest in organic fabrics and ecological issues, but Laura Nathan’s mosaic of cubes of soap covered in a varying thickness of hair (seen below) was the most unique adaptation of natural resources seen!

  • New Designers
  • Filed under: talent worth watching, ,