Not every fresh graduate can boast that their designs have made it into production or out into the world beyond the graduation show. But Joe Wentworth’s degree projects from his Royal College of Art Design Products MA are catching people’s attention. His Ipogeo, a reinvention of the task light, is due to go into production with Artemide, while his folding bicycle handlebars won a BSI Sustainability Design Award and have found much praise on comment websites and blogs.
Wentworth enjoys the vindication that commercial product design can bring. ‘I don’t get as excited about a one-off piece of furniture,’ he explains. ‘I appreciate it, but I prefer the Thonet chair, for example. It has lasted 100 years and has had to overcome lots of obstacles. It you look at the efficient use of wood to make it financially achievable, that’s the kind of commercialised work that interests me.’
What also interests Wentworth is ‘how the world is put together’. ‘Quite often my work is not as prominently visual as other people’s,’ he explains. ‘It’s often to do with how you touch it, pick it up, feel it, how much it weights, and so on – there’s an inherent fiddling aspect to it.’
The Ipogeo, for example, was born out of the brief to design a task light. Wentworth realised that contrary to what they promise on the tin, task lights often don’t stay in the position the user wants, and he was determined to design one that stayed put. ‘The light is 4m, but it’s ultra-light so you can move it with your finger and thumb and it stays,’ he says. ‘When you see somebody use it for the first time, it is very satisfying, because they usually don’t expect it to work.’
Occupying the middle ground between design and engineering suits Wentworth. ‘I would like to find my place in this gap between engineering and design,’ he says. ‘I can offer people something through a procedure. I have an engineering background, but I’ve always had a very strong visual opinion. It’s always been there.’