Meet Design Guild Mark Judge Clare Johnston

Each designer awarded a Design Guild Mark for a piece of their work can be confident that they have created a design which demonstrates design excellence.  The Design Guild Mark judging process is rigorous, involving a carefully selected panel of industry leading design professionals.  Within this series we will introduce you to a selection of the Design Guild Mark judges, learn about their design ethos and which previous winners particularly caught their eye. We begin our series by meeting Textile Designer and Colour Consultant for Fashion and Interiors, Clare Johnston.

Applications are now open. Don’t miss the extended final deadline: 28th January 2022.

Find out more about criteria, categories and application process by clicking here.

Clare Johnston is a Textile Designer and Colour consultant for Fashion and Interiors. She is Professor Emeritus of Textiles at the RCA. Prior to her appointment at RCA from 2000-2015, Clare was Head of Design at Liberty of London and Senior Designer at Marks and Spencer. Clare works with International Institutions such as Swedish School of Textiles and Hong Kong Design Institute as a Visiting academic and advisor. She is a contributing member of the British Textile Colour Group and a member of the TexSelect Committee. She launched an exclusive Kimono Collection in 2018.  When discussing the Design Guild Mark 2021 Clare said: 

“This year the judging panel were presented with a fascinating and diverse range of new materials and products for interiors, presented clearly and with passion by their designers or makers, giving rise to lively discussion and careful consideration as to which best met the awards criteria. It is an inspiring and enjoyable event from which we all learn and benefit.”

What does design excellence mean to you?

 When the design of a product goes beyond the expectations of pleasing appearance and appropriate performance to include innovation and surprise. This could be  evident in any part of the Design process from research into make and outcome, it might be discreet or evident, simple or complex but makes a distinct difference.

What is your personal approach to design/design ethos?

As  Textile Designer I see this as an eternal work in progress and a learning curve in relation to the world we live in. I have been privileged to work for many years in many aspects of Textile Design, Manufacture and Education. It is a field of Design which I continually  endeavour to support and promote.

Since stepping down as Head of Textiles at the Royal College of Art I  design and make one-off Kimonos using my archive of Textiles collected while travelling the world for 40+ years as a Designer and teacher. Each Kimono is individual and there is zero waste.

Why is it important to you to support the Design Guild Mark?

As 2D Design Textiles/Wall coverings/Surfaces/Carpets and floor coverings category is frequently overlooked as a contributing aspect to interior design, it is encouraging for this field to be recognised as important with its own award.

In a challenging financial climate It can be difficult to justify the importance of time and finance for Research and Design within the manufacturing process, it can be seen as a luxury rather than a requirement . I hope that the awards go towards acknowledging the importance of Design and encourage investors, designers, manufacturers and the public to value and support future investment in Design.

What are you looking forward to discovering within the 2022 entries for the Design Guild Mark?

Diverse, brave Inspiring ideas for 2-D /Textile design products for interiors which show the added value and importance of Research, Design and Innovation in the process. I hope we will be able to enjoy  meeting the applicants in real life this year.

Which previous winning design particularly caught your eye and why?

Custhom Design submitted Wallpaper designs “Ingenious” in 2019 winning the 2-D prize. Their  Designs are clean and graphic and mostly site specific. They focus on Research, Materials and Handmaking processes, working closely with their clients in product development.

DGM 233 – Igneous designed by Nathan Philpott and Jemma Ooi for Custhom Design Ltd.

Custhom is a research-based design practice working with handmade processes. By experimenting with tactility and graphic-led design the studio has created a collection of wallpapers, ceramics, textiles and designed products that are all sold internationally.

The studio was established by Nathan Philpott and Jemma Ooi in 2010 and now works with clients on concepts for branding, retail spaces, restaurants and domestic projects, often in collaboration with respected architects and interior designers.  Jemma and Nathan met at the Royal College of Art (RCA) and both run programmes at the RCA and the University of the Arts, London, respectively. They set up Studio Custhom to respond to a growing interest in larger design consultancy projects. The studio has an intellectually rich and creatively strong approach to solving each brief independently.

“Having a varied panel of experts to present to and discuss our collection with really validates the Design Guild Mark and we are absolutely thrilled and honoured to receive both the Mark and the Jonathan Hindle Prize.” – Jemma Ooi

Igneous designed by Nathan Philpott and Jemma Ooi, is a design made from carbon powder. Custhom’s innovative process of hand-foiling wallpapers creates a uniquely distressed or highly polished finish in a wide range of metallic hues which imitates the crystallization of igneous rocks formed through the cooling and solidification of magma or lava. The pattern is non-repetitive down the length of the wallpaper.

Design Guild Mark.  An award for excellence in British design.
The prestigious Design Guild Mark is awarded by The Furniture Makers’ Company in order to drive excellence and raise the profile of British design and innovation.  Applications are now open. Don’t miss the extended final deadline: 28th January 2022.
Find out more about criteria, categories and application process by clicking here.


About Alys Bryan

Alys is a knowledgeable design editor who is focused on instigating conversations, both online and in-person, with industry experts which challenge, educate and advance the commercial interior sector. Her training and 15 years of professional experience as a furniture designer for the commercial sector makes her uniquely placed to lead Design Insider as Editor
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