Tom Dixon, designer and leading light on the global design scene (with an OBE), on why a co-working attitude is vital for innovation, and other trends he has his eye on this year.
From my departure point in the early Eighties welding salvaged steel into furniture, reinvention has been a constant. We like to think of our design studio as more of a laboratory. It’s a place where we can investigate new shapes, carry out research and experiment with our favourite materials. It’s also where craft and industry, art and function can cross over.
Learning on the job
For these crossovers to really sing, education is essential. The rising importance of practical training in design education is crucial in producing graduates that understand how the industry works. Those that have the skills and know-how rather than just a theoretical foundation. I learnt about design through being in the industry rather than gaining a formal education. So, it’s clear that a theoretical education is no longer the only route to creating a successful lifestyle brand.
Co-working as the future of design
This more fluid structure also bodes well for collaboration. Collaboration is gaining momentum on a small and large scale – from individual designers collaborating to brands co-creating. You don’t want design to exist in a closed capsule when unexpected collaborations have the potential to produce extraordinary stuff.
This co-working attitude applies to technology too, because even though some would argue it takes the humanness out of design, design must be informed by technology to give it a final form. They have to coexist, because innovation is fundamental in producing new shapes and new functionalities, and also in making progress possible. Without it, designers are reduced to stylistic changes rather than real newness. In being aware of developments and staying well informed, designers can harness this power so that technology can liberate them.
There’s a whole new industrial revolution happening under our noses, driven by digitisation. I think we’re on the brink of another revolution soon. Bioengineering, nanotechnology, and non-petrol-based synthetic materials that are coming to the fore. Lighting, particularly, is seeing huge technological advances – by virtue of energy-saving LEDs and OLEDs, which have made a huge difference to energy consumption. It’s an exciting time.
This cognisance of consumption is spreading to all spheres of design. Our aim should be to create products that reduce waste and consumption, despite this seeming like a contradiction in terms. The best way we, as designers, can do this is by creating pieces that negate the need for constant replacement.
Longevity has a different kind of meaning when it comes to colour and material trends, because these are cyclical, and things become new again after enough time. And while this is so, black is always an essential base colour for us – often in velvet for upholstery, patinated in the Beat Light, and also in cast iron. Not because it’s fashionable – more as a satisfying neutral that allows the silhouette of an object to exist without the distraction of colour. Right now the big trend is for pink and postmodernism. I figure the next may well be a swing back to glossy black and stainless steel – a more futuristic, space-age aesthetic as a counter to the current warm, soft mood.
For more decor and design inspiration, head to the Leisure & Lifestyle section.