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Bright young things: Tom Dixon picks five designers to watch

Charlotte Philby
Saturday 13 September 2008 00:00 BST

Oliver Bishop-Young, 22

Who are you? I'm a design graduate from Goldsmiths. My design won't change the world but it tries to inform those who can.

What are you making now? Skip conversions. Skips provide a scene, in which something can happen. I collect material from skips and let that inspire a situation or a public event. I might take an old bench from a skip, repair it, and put it back in the skip, in a public space where people can engage with it. In an urban environment, a skip can occupy a space in whatever way I see fit. It is a way-finder or a beacon for a bigger idea.

Where do you come from? Newport, a small town in Pembrokeshire. The transition of moving to the city made me appreciate things one takes for granted in the countryside. In London you don't have space and time. And materials differ too. Here, there's waste. "Rubbish" has a lot of potential.

What is your design mission? To create sustainable outcomes, and alternative ways of living within a public environment. My ideas are audience-based, which is itself a way of testing ideas. Feedback helps me progress, while raising awareness for important issues.

Who are your design heroes? Jurgen Bey. His work poses questions about – and finds simple solutions to – sustainable issues, through well-integrated, and very beautiful, contemporary design.

The future of design? It's about meeting the challenges we face, such as climate change and the limit on resources. Design is a language and these days it's very expressive. It has become more than just about functional processes.


Ben Wilson, 32

Who are you? I am an industrial designer, and studied wood, metals, ceramics and glass at Manchester Metropolitan before doing an MA in design at Royal College. My first degree gave me a fantastic grounding in making objects and understanding materials. I felt I wanted to focus on design rather than the final product. Good design is about understanding industrial processes, thus making objects more affordable. Now I run a design company in east London, where I have a small studio. We do everything, from very industrial product design to one-off objects for installation pieces or exhibitions.

What are you making now? We just finished a project for VW, moving modular furniture in 3D pieces. Also, we're doing three bicycle projects; the manufacturing, engineering, ergonomics, and the styling. It's quite an ambitious project. I'm working as a consultant as well, on a furniture project for collaboration with Eley Kishimoto.

Where do you come from? I'm from Barnet in north London. A lot of my brand-based work fits in with where I was brought up and the things I did growing up: skate-boarding, BMX-riding and listening to hip hop. Understanding those cultures has helped me hugely.

What is your design mission? To create objects that work really well and excite; to make things that people would like to use and to cherish for years to come, and will even pass down to future generations. I don't want to produce something that will then become obsolete. Fundamentally, everything I make has to be fit for purpose, and to do the job it's supposed to do.

Who are your design heroes? The French designer Jean Prouvé, for his amazing will to go out and manufacture his own projects, and for his understanding of materials and processes. The Italian designer Bertone is also incredible. Some of his styling for jobs with cars are among my all-time favourites.

The future of design? As a collective, we need to reprise the old mantra: less is more.


Gernot And Jan, 32

Who are you? Two industrial designers from Germany. We studied at Stuttgart University and became friends. We ended up working in the same studio in London for designer Ross Lovegrove. Last year we started working together. Now we only work as a team.

What is your design mission? We are influenced by the Bauhaus, and the idea that form follows function: the right material for the right product and right usage.

Who are your design heroes? The German designer Konstantin Grcic; and people like Naoto Fukasawa, whose work is minimalist and functional, but in a poetic way.

The future of design? The way we live and work will change completely. By using computers, design becomes more visual. The image of the product is elevated to a greater importance than the product itself. Take a chair: millions of people may have seen an image of the chair, online, or in a magazine, but they have never sat on it. While you are designing now, you start to think about the image as an end result, not necessarily how the object will be used.


Paul Cocksedge, 30

Who are you? I'm a Hackney-based product designer, but I also delve into other projects. I studied at the Royal College, under Ron Arad, where I met my business partner, Joana Pinho, and started a company called Paul Cocksedge Studio.

What are you making now? We just showed at the design show in Milan. Swarovski commissioned people to find new ways of experiencing their crystals. The piece I did was called Veil. It was a curtain of 1,500 identical crystals, four metres high by three, suspended in the air. The effect was transparent, elegant and simple. About 2 metres away from the veil was a mirror. A pool of light on the floor drew people into the room to see what was going on, and inevitably, they'd then look in the mirror. You would see yourself in the reflection and behind you, an image would appear on the curtain, only visible in the mirror. When you looked directly at the veil, the image was gone. The idea was to make a strange and magical experience, like a fairytale.

Where do you come from? I'm from north London. London creates restrictions and blocks, but I like that. It's nice to have a small amount of tension in the design process, it pushes me to find new ways to do things. Life here is unsettling and uncomfortable, and I try to use that.

Who are your design heroes? I'm really into the process behind particular products and pieces, rather than specific designers. The fibre-optic cable is an amazing invention. It has a magic to it, because glass shouldn't bend and twist.

The future of design? There is more pressure on designers now than ever. There are huge factors to consider. If I'm planning a piece that would use a whole tree, I have to think about the implications of that. I'm also aware of the power the internet has. People know more and see more images, so tend to compare work more. Lots of designers have to work a lot harder to stand out. The pressure is on.


Ceciliemanz, 36

Who are you? A Danish designer, now based in Helsinki. I am quite old-fashioned in some ways, and still believe in minimalism, even though it's not so trendy any more.

What are you making now? I'm working a lot with textiles, porcelain and glass. My work tends to be quite classic. I enjoy colours, but often things have to be white or grey. Every piece needs character, be it a shape, texture or colour. These details make things interesting. I pay a lot of attention to detail, even when the end result looks simple.

What is your design mission? I want to make improvements to existing items, even on a small scale. There needs to be reason for designing something. People don't need more objects, so the things I produce have to be extremely beautiful, or very functional, or to make daily life easier.

The future of design? Designers are beginning to see that we have a responsibility. We still need new objects and nice stuff, but we need to think twice instead of just thinking once.

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