We have got used to designers thinking in either 3D or 2D, with product and pattern coming from different sides of the studio. What is remarkable about graduates at the moment is an increasing ability to switch between the two. It is always exciting to have a graduate in the design studio, because their imagination has enormous capacity to surprise us. Particularly when the graduate shows as much raw talent as last year’s winners, Naoko Kanehira and Niina Kuosmanen.
Focused on ceramic structures, Niina came to us as a hands-on ‘maker’, but her sketches were so beautiful we adapted them into a surface pattern to produce a range of kitchen linen. I think it was great for Niina to strengthen her understanding of pattern and colour, as well commercial design principles, while with us, but we knew she would be keen to return to her studio at the end of her placement, developing her original concept for future fairs. Definitely one to watch in the future.
Trained at Buckinghamshire University, Naoko is a textbook furniture designer, combining a natural flair for form and detail with a strong understanding of materials and craftsmanship. She also has a knack for effortless, highly detailed freehand sketches. Our textile developers have worked very hard to faithfully translate the fluid lines of her biro drawings on to bed linen, ultimately using deep blue embroidery.
This year’s winner is Northumbria University graduate Robin Grasby, who trained in 3D design specialising in product and furniture. His adaptable desk system stood out as really innovative and his freehand sketches really appealed to me. We get a lot of rendered, computerised work through, but I like to see a designer who can drop ideas directly on to paper. I am excited to get him into the studio and see how his ideas develop. A design studio is ultimately a collection of minds, so I am keen to continually engage with graduates. New trends and techniques can be picked up at design fairs, but graduates can bring a whole new mindset into the studio, challenging the experience of our established designers and inspiring us to stay original, fresh and relevant.