- Article by Online Editor
- Photography by Rowan Turner
Design Journey, as a design development program run by furniture importer Corporate Culture, is a rare fixture in the landscape of Australia’s design community. The competition – which not only offers emerging and established local designers the chance to have their work brought to a design-industry spotlight but also put into production – embraces a process of collaboration between a designer and a willing manufacturing network that is not often seen in the Australian design industry.
“In dealing with European companies for as long as we have here at Corporate Culture, one of the things I felt Australia needed was someone who would put some money back into the local industry, to encourage designers to think about working to the needs of manufacturers. That’s what Design Journey is all about, encouraging local designers to think and work in new ways and to help energise the industry in Australia,” says Richard Munao (founder and creative director of Corporate Culture).
”To be honest I think that when we started back in 2004 there was no one really saying to someone: ’Here’s a brief. Come up with a result.’ One of the things we’ve been doing is giving designers the opportunity to start to think in the way designers should when looking at a company they’re designing for, to look at the gaps manufacturers have and to think about filling those gaps.”
While common practice in Europe, Design Journey’s inclusive approach to design embodies the new direction that Australia’s industry is now beginning to adopt. Where all too often local designers take ideas they’ve worked on in isolation and try and sell them to manufacturers, Design Journey encourages an approach where designers work in much closer quarters with manufacturers, an approach that reflects the overall more collaborative process found across the industry today.
The most recent winning design, Takushi by Gavin Harris (futurespace), is a simple table featuring protruding legs made of folded plywood. By making use of seamless joinery and rounded edges, Takushi is a perfect representation of a design filling a gap.
The design, having been chosen at Corporate Culture’s annual Design Pitch from nothing more than early design sketches, is a table that was directly inspired by a range of chairs offered as part of the brief. Harris was to take certain aesthetic design elements and incorporate them into his own style to deliver a final product, tailor-made, to fit in with the rest of the Corporate Culture collection.
”Looking at those chairs, I was thinking what do they have as common elements or elements of interest? and began to pull them out. Grabbing the leg, or the angle of the leg, or how the top seems to sit away from the legs; the material usage, and the good straight clear lines,” says Harris. “It was when I pulled out these parts and started working on the prototype that the table really started to come together. The prototype helps you explore. You can’t do everything on paper – you have to actually build and test things.”
With the table still in a process of refinement, Munao and Harris are also toying with different ideas and different markets. ”We think the Takushi table can sit in a residential retail market as well as a commercial market, which is leading us to look at things like metal legs and glass table tops,” says Munao.
Through this process the two men have developed a level of professional understanding that, under different circumstances, may not have occurred. This understanding has been beneficial to both, leading them to work on more projects.
”Through this journey were now talking about other projects that aren’t tables,” Munao says. It’s through the process of this competition, the process of collaboration, where you can establish a level of understanding between the designers style and the manufacturers needs.
“It is a true model of how it works in a European context,” Harris adds. “The more a designer understands a manufacturer in their capabilities, timing and expectations, the more you develop a relationship. And like any relationship, the more you understand each other, the easier it is to move forward. Also, because there’s mutual investment involved in finances and machinery on the part of the manufacturer, and time and expertise on behalf of the designer, you have a real incentive to do good work.”
The Takushi table is now truly in its final stages of development, and with only the future left to tell us what will happen, Munao is looking forward to the journeys to come – and the future of Australian design. ”Pretty much the brief for the next Design Journey is simple: look at our range, find a gap and design to that. That’s it.” In other words, bring it.
Giving designers a lot of room, this brief is the most open in the competition’s history. Munao hopes this will bring out some truly imaginative and creative ideas from designers, but also really force them to look at the company, and the industry at large, when formulating their work.
“For me, the long-term goal with this is to get some Australian products that can go the other way, to make it over to the European market, eventually getting great designs manufactured over there with brilliant producers,” says Munao. ”In terms of what would be the next platform for us to get to, part of my dream would be to sit at a stand at one of the major design fairs and say ‘this is all Australian’. That’s where we’ve gotta get. Still if no one puts any money into it, its not going to happen.”
Entries to Corporate Culture’s 2011 Design Journey close on 30 June 2011. For full details visit www.corporateculture.com.au