Collaboration and personal space bring design results

We pride ourselves, in the UK, on having a relatively sophisticated design industry. Our official bodies provide a model for designers in other countries to emulate, and no other design community anywhere in the world can sustain a weekly magazine.

It is amazing, therefore, to find consensus across the globe about how great design is best achieved. But this is what came out of South Africa’s prestigious Design Indaba conference held in Cape Town last week.

Collaboration is inevitably top of the list. Gone are the days of the atelier, when juniors sat at the feet of the master who took credit for all they produced, and one speaker after another spoke of teamwork or partnership.

And it wasn’t just within the consultancy. New York illustrators Paul Sahre and Christoph Niemann, and New York Times art director Nicholas Blechman celebrated their collaborations, with Niemann and Blechman even sharing a drawing pad in their presentation. Meanwhile, French star Matali Crasset, who operates a three-strong design studio, told of working with a fashion designer and a musician to create the shop Lieu Commun in Paris.

There is collaboration with the client. Paul Priestman of Priestman Goode showed the Yotel! hotel interiors and Virgin trains, for example, both of which had input from entrepreneurial clients. And then there is collaboration with specialist suppliers. French furniture designer Inga Sempé spoke of trying one prototypist after another to achieve her seemingly improbable designs, while US-based partners Ayse Birsel and Bibi Seck showed a project with a metalworker in Dakar.

But everyone also has a need for privacy to create, Priestman in a studio on the South Coast of England, Sahre in his room above Dunkin’ Donuts in New York and others in their heads. With Dutch trend forecaster Li Edelkoort predicting smaller rooms in homes and offices, personal space and secrecy, in future, maybe, we’ll hear more of this. Perhaps we might also see more truly great design.

Lynda Relph-Knight, editor

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