Meet the graduates: Kingston University’s Sofia Matheou

As part of our 2023 graduate season coverage, we’re speaking with a selection of graduates from around the UK about their final projects and future plans.

Sofia Matheou is a 23-year-old BA Product and Furniture Design graduate from Kingston University. Her final project is Inflate.

Design Week: Can you briefly explain the project and your motivations for doing it?

Sofia Matheou: Many people perceive inflatable furniture as cheap, uncomfortable and not suitable for long-term use. My goal was to transform inflatables into high-end statement pieces, while prioritising sustainability.

Throughout this project, my aim was to create straightforward and honest designs that demonstrate the potential of inflatable furniture in an innovative way. I utilised an inner tube, a steel frame and donated leather offcuts from upholstery manufacturer Coakley & Cox. This eliminated the need for the foam, padding and glue typically found in traditional furniture. Additionally, these pieces are lightweight, easy to transport and can be deflated and re-inflated whenever necessary with a standard bike pump.

I approached this project with an experimental mindset, exploring various frame designs and inner tube sizes. Through this process, I have created a range of furniture that provides a glimpse into the possibilities of using inner tubes within furniture design.

DW: What was the most challenging aspect of the design process?

SM: Designing the frames for this project proved to be quite challenging. The main difficulty was finding a way to hold the inner tube securely without making the frames too obtrusive. To overcome this, I delved into different sizes and styles for the frames, experimenting with various options to find the best way to showcase the inner tubes effectively. It took a lot of trial and error but, ultimately, I was able to strike a balance between functionality and aesthetics.

DW: Where do you see your design career in the future?

SM: In the future, I envision myself working on projects for different brands as a freelancer. The kind of work I do is heavily concept and experimentation based. I have a strong desire to keep working at the intersection of art and design, combining the two in my practice.

Check out other graduate projects from this year’s cohorts here.

You can find our guide to 2023 graduate design shows here.

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