How did you get into design?

In early July we were blown away by the Design Excellence presented by the UK’s 2016 graduates at New Designers. Meeting so many graduates on the cusp of their design careers made us want to learn more about the journeys which our BCFA members took into their design positions. We asked 15 designers: how did you get into design?

In this first post we discover Pernille Stafford’s motivation as Principle at Resonate Interiors, we learn how Alex Hellum’s family history in architecture influenced his design ethos and Katerina McMahon explains how her passion for design leads her to the workshop.

Pernille Stafford: Principal at Resonate Interiors


My parents were a huge influence on my career, my father was a furniture designer with an engineering background so loved problem solving, my Mother is Danish and we spent a lot of our childhood in Denmark and I was hugely affected by modern Danish design, she was also a very successful antique dealer and I was surrounded by beautiful pieces of history. I was always going to do something creative. So I left school at 16 and went straight to Art College, Berkshire College of Art for 4 years and then straight into a small architectural practice in Covent Garden which was hugely exciting for a girl from the Home Counties!

I am now Principal of Resonate Interiors which I started three and a half years ago. Prior to that I was at T P Bennett and previously head of Interiors at Scott Brownrigg.

I have a passion for detail and design. My motivation is to improve environments we work, live and play in.

Contact Resonate Interiors 

Alex Hellum: Designer at Alex Hellum Design & Senior Lecturer

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I grew up in Norway in an environment surrounded by art, design and architecture. My dad was an architect and in the early 60’s he built our family home which he used as a case study to experiment with architectural details and structural experiments.

I was heavily influenced by an approach to design where the aesthetic outcome is guided by the functional considerations. Although I loved architecture and still do, I felt the scale of furniture suited me better. It meant that I could design through making which suited me well since I do enjoy the practical side of that.

I also felt it important to leave Norway and gain new influences from abroad and ended up in High Wycombe doing Furniture and related product design, followed by a Masters in furniture at the Royal College of Art.

I have since been working as a furniture designer developing products for volume production with companies such as Scp, Heal’s, Studioroof and Joined+Jointed to name a few. My ethos has always been to design through need and justifying why another piece of furniture should be added to a well saturated furniture marked.

If we are to add another piece of furniture to this planet then we should make it count. This side of my practice has informed my lecturing on the subject and frankly, if I didn’t have my own practice, I would not feel confident that I would be able to inform students about the world they are entering into.

Contact Alex Hellum

Katerina McMahon: Design Director at Morgan

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I always wanted to study architecture and design buildings, after my first degree I took a year to work for an architectural/construction firm and found myself detailing a number of interior elements such as false ceilings, balustrades, doors, and fitted cupboards and shelves. It seemed I was happier in the joinery workshop than anywhere else and before I knew it I was proposing desk and conference table designs…this realisation led to my shifting to furniture design with a Masters at the RCA.

My architectural training proved very useful in understanding structure and geometry as well as the historical context for my designs. 30 years later I am still happiest in the prototyping workshop, in the Morgan factory, creating furniture primarily in timber and developing new collections every year.

Design for me is not just work, it is what I do to relax, it allows me to be creative, positive and focused.

Contact Morgan

We would love to hear about your journey into design, please leave a comment below or tweet us @DesignInsider1

About Alys Bryan

Alys' experience as a furniture designer, along with her in-depth marketing knowledge, makes her uniquely placed to work with the BCFA as the Editor of Design Insider and run her marketing business, Method Communications.
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