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 continue our series by meeting Elliott Koehler, Creative Director at JPA Design.

Design Guild Mark.  An award for excellence in British design.

American industrial designer Elliott Koehler brings complete travel experiences to life with a holistic approach to the overall transport environment coupled with a passionate attention to product finishes and details.

A graduate from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Elliott Koehler leads JPA’s London studio as Creative Director. The studio is uniquely positioned to deploy its extensive hospitality experience to place more emphasis on elevating the customer journey and creating future travel experiences driven by human centred research. Since its founding over 30-years ago, JPA has developed innovative products for Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, JAL, American Airlines, Air China and flydubai, many of which have shaped the industry and won awards from Red Dot to Crystal Cabin. Completed hospitality projects such as the Venice Simplon Orient Express, Taj Hotels, Hilton Hotels have fed into JPA’s aviation work and differentiates the company’s approach to transport design.

With over 10 years of industry experience from the in-house design team of Fortune 500 leader GE to the diverse product design studio LAYER, Elliott has developed hundreds of products from strategy to production ranging from tech products, furniture, and aviation cabins for global brands including Airbus, Google, Vitra, NIO, Bang & Olufsen and Adidas. Elliott’s focus is creating a studio that will define the way we work, live and communicate in the future, exploring the possibilities of transportation, materials and the next generation of human interactions.  When discussing the Design Guild Mark 2021 Elliott said: 

“It was a fantastic opportunity to see some of the best design work coming out of the UK, and to hone in on the fine details of some really good work from 2018. The diversity of the projects was refreshing and the crafted skills of the selected work really sparked some good discussions within the judging panel. The Design Guild Mark is an honour to win and the selected designs will really live it to this highly regarded award and will no doubt stand the test of time as design classics. It was a real privilege to be part of the Design Guild Mark judging day.”

What does design excellence mean to you?
When evaluating the design of any product, the fundamental question to answer is: does it solve a problem? If it does so in a way that addresses the brief, is constructed in conscious materials, and is a success to the overall brand – that is a good design. Design excellence is something that not only does all the above but solves the problem in an unexpected and memorable way which ultimately questions the design approach of previous solutions.

The goal for our project AIRTEK was to do just that – to solve problems that have pre-existing solutions, but to consider new ways to solve them in an innovative way.
What is your personal approach to design/design ethos?
My approach to a design project is driven by two key steps. Once the core challenges are identified, the ideal manufacturing method is carefully and thoughtfully selected to address constraints such as cost, longevity, logistics, and brand. Second, the aesthetic direction of a product is crafted – a form driven by its function to intuitively communicate its use.
Why is it important to you to support the Design Guild Mark?
The Design Build Mark is a celebrated platform that evaluates and rewards design excellence within the community. As designers, it’s important for us to continuously critique and push our field globally. An award that increases visibility and creative output of the community allows us to recognise British talent and celebrate its design leaders.

What are you looking forward to discovering within the 2022 entries for the Design Guild Mark?
As judges, we are very privileged to see the most exciting design projects of the year from the best emerging and established talent in the industry. I most appreciate the process and approach of each project – and always find delight in innovations in materials and technology.

Which previous winning design particularly caught your eye and why?
The Latis chair (2019) from Samuel Wilkinson was a contemporary use of a classic material that was unexpected and delightful. The material contributed to the chair being extremely lightweight for its physical size and structurally robust whilst maintaining a high degree of comfort.

DGM 226 – Latis Collection by Samuel Wilkinson for The Conran Shop 

The Latis Collection is based around the centre peice of an elegant side chair made from steam bent ash and Vienna straw. The chair is lightweight, effecient in its material use and concieved to be part of a chair collection sharing components but offering multiple chair typologies dependant on customer requirements making the collection suitable for a wide variety of domestic and contract environments.

“Winning a Design Guild Mark is a great honour. It the first time we have entered a product so we are really happy to receive an award. I first became aware of the Furniture Makers company during an inspiring manufacturing trip organised by them as a student. We travelled all around the country visiting every type of British manufacturer and company within the industry so it’s nice to come full circle to celebrate and connect with them again.”

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. 


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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