Coming from an industrial design dynasty has instilled a distinct approach in Andrew Haythornthwaite. His father is Peter Haythornthwaite, one of New Zealand’s most celebrated industrial designers, and his brothers also work in the industry. Time spent playing in dad’s workshop meant Haythornthwaite was making things from a very early age, something that has stayed with him. ‘I’m interested in production and mass production, and how things work – the way they mechanically function and the way things are made,’ he says.
Haythornthwaite studied industrial design in New Zealand and worked with his father and brother, before attending the Royal College of Art’s MA Design Products in London. His final projects included Doodle Dude, which used rapid prototyping to adapt children’s doodles into 3D, self-assembly personalised toys, and Sprung, which used 8mm spring wire to create a retail display system. Both illustrate his interest in using the industrial and applying his own design aesthetic. ‘The spring steel was quite an industrial product, but, at the same time, it was quite sculptural, which I like.’
Since graduating, Haythornthwaite has been busy. He’s worked in China and New Zealand, then returned to London three months ago to take up a position with Ron Arad Associates. His projects have included a crockery range for New Zealand homeware distributor Acland and a brand identity, as well as a range of products, for Chinese company Kobold, which launched at the Frankfurt Design Fair earlier this year. He is looking to start his own group, and is working on personal projects, such as Storybook, which takes the idea of a story book and expands it into a 3D experience where characters in the story, say, become real objects.
Haythornthwaite agrees that there aren’t many product designers who tackle such a range, from the finely crafted bowl and the humble umbrella to the full gamut of skills that creating a brand identity demands. ‘I really like products, but I like to understand how a company works and what its visual language is. I don’t think that’s very usual,’ he says.
Haythornthwaite is reluctant to pin himself down. ‘I guess I quite often tell myself that I should find something that I really like and I can focus on, but then I get distracted and excited about other things,’ he says.
What is constant throughout his work, however, is the crossover between engineering and designing something aesthetically pleasing. One of his tutors, Roberto Feo, has described Haythornthwaite’s work as ‘poetic engineering’, a label Haythornthwaite finds appropriate. ‘That was a really nice compliment,’ he says. ‘I find engineering extremely fascinating, as well as shape, colour and texture. My work is the result of combining these.’