The Conran Shop has announced the winner of its inaugural Designer of the Future Award as Cameron Rowley, a recent graduate of Kingston University.
Designer of the Future was set up following the death of design legend Sir Terence Conran last year. With the aim of supporting the next generation of creative talent, the accolade comes with £40,000 in investment money to further develop the winner’s ideas.
Rowley won this year with his design, the One Step Ladder.
“The ladder borrows features from utilitarian objects”
According to the graduate, the One Step Ladder idea was born out of an observation that use of step stools and ladders around the house is usually “only of a brief moment”. The design of the One Step Ladder aims to satisfy this need, while also maintaining a smaller footprint than household alternatives.
“It is intended as a domestic tool, [and so] the ladder borrows features from utilitarian objects such as gardening implements,” says Rowley. Other inspirations included canoe paddles and window cleaners’ ladders, he adds.
Rowley admits these aren’t typical sources of inspiration. “Much of my design inspiration is drawn from processes and objects which don’t necessarily relate to domestic product and furniture design,” he says. “[But] I have found that these objects and techniques provide a unique and valuable perspective that design does not always, but should, benefit from”.
“Inherent and unintentional beauty”
The construction process similarly takes note of how household objects are made. “The main bending process, for example, was inspired by traditional shovel handle construction,” Rowley explains.
As for why the One Step Ladder was his chosen entry to the competition, Rowley says he finds these understated everyday objects can hold “inherent and unintentional beauty”.
“While emphasis was put heavily on function, the ladder’s downtime was also considered,” he says. “My aim was for it to also function as a display piece.”
Other shortlisted entries
Rowley’s invention was chosen over 97 entries and 11 other finalists by a panel of judges that included Norman Foster, Anya Hindmarch, Narmina Marandi and several leaders at The Conran Shop.
Other shortlisted entries included Kingston University student Hyunsik Yang’s HAT lampshade, which aims to improve everyday life by “simplifying the shade-fitting process”. Each shade is crafted from natural wool felt, through an intricate steam-forming method which results in its soft flexible shape.
Also focused on the home was the Kinship Collection, from Kingston University student Diane Sinclair. A combined cooking pot, wooden spoon and trivet lid, all elements can be nested together for ease of storage.
Other entries were targeted to other parts of everyday life. The Motion Side Table by Nottingham Trent University student Alexandra Record, for example, aims to be an “effortless” and functional addition to a glamping kit. Meanwhile Nottingham Trent University student Darcy Eloise Hill’s Potters Chair looks help pottery enthusiasts better work around their wheels.
“Enable future generations of new designers to prosper”
Rowley will now use the competition’s £40,000 funding money to further develop the One Step Ladder into an “exclusive retail product”, The Conran Shop explains. This also includes £3,000 prize money, and a paid internship with the shop’s designers.
The aim of the prize package is to replicate the work of Terence Conran. The Marandi Family, which acquired The Conran Shop from the design in March 2020 and organised and awarded the prize, say the late designer was known for discovering, developing and nurturing a “vast array” of design talent during his career.
“Sir Terence was a trailblazer and an innovator and admired all over the world – he was a great British success story and was responsible for ushering in a bold new era of contemporary design,” says Javad Marandi. “The Award will help enable future generations of new designers to prosper and uphold the traditions he set.”
You can view the rest of the shortlisted entries on The Conran Shop website.