Route cause

Hannah Booth meets the youthful team at Design Lab, a launch pad for Central St Martins’ alumni, giving students their first taste of the commercial world and showcasing their diverse ideas

Elsewhere, it acts as creative consultant to Milan-based furniture manufacturer, Sturm und Plastic. The collaboration’s latest work, unveiled at the Milan Furniture Fair in April, is Double Up, a dual-function piece that transforms from a sofa to a bench. Made from interlocking layers of polyurethane foam, it was seen upstairs on board the Routemaster at 100% Design, and adorns Design Lab’s own offices.

For Great Ormond Street hospital, it is designing animations to communicate in a warmer way the dangers facing young parents who carry a particular genetic disease. The project, Fragile X, is aimed at children as well as their parents.

Liberty approached Design Lab after a recommendation. Under lead designer Andrea Berti (each team member gets to lead a project, under ‘creative direction’ from Richards or Mathias), it is designing an off-the-wall installation to extend the full height of Liberty’s atrium. Shoppers will be able to see it from 1 November.

Berti, an Italian design studies MA graduate, is nearing the end of his 15-month tenure at Design Lab. As Liberty project leader, he has also been tasked with sourcing relevant, creative partners. He says, ‘[The piece is] highly abstract, featuring a range of new materials. It’s not traditionally Christmassy.’ Design Lab is ‘the perfect place for me to work’, Berti adds, as he can gain experience across different disciplines. What does he want to do next? ‘Start my own business, of course.’

Next up for Design Lab is a three-year study researching the future of cities such as Utrecht, Barcelona and Malmoon for the European Commission. And Mathias and Richards are planning to open a Design Lab in Barcelona, for ‘practical reasons’ as it has so many Spanish clients.

With its European perspective and experience in the popular art/design/science fields, Design Lab’s future looks secure. The Routemaster’s European tour should help spread the word even more widely.

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