Q&A with Material Source Studio’s Darren Clanford & Michael Rogan

Following from the opening of Material Source Studio in Manchester, Design Insider was intrigued by the concept of the studio and the necessity of its space. We had the absolute pleasure of speaking with Darren Clanford, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Material Source & Michael Rogan, Head of Operations, exploring the journey of Material Source Studio and the sense of community created by visiting interior designers and it’s in house brands.

You can read our previous article on the opening of Material Source Studio here.

Can you tell me about yourself and your industry background?

Darren: I started in surface pattern design within the woven carpet industry, which was wonderful, working with a large and very talented design team, and having won the Design Council Award not long before I arrived. I then moved into carpet tiles and started to touch on vinyl flooring too. It’s around this time that I gained my first board position, managing a large design, product and marketing team.

Before co-founding Material Source, I spent 8 years within the ceramics industry and the same length of time as the creative director at a materials studio in London… it was the natural step for me to then launch Material Source. 

Michael: Whereas Darren is from a large corporate background, my experience is in setting up and running smaller businesses, and I have a background in recycling and sustainability. Something I’m passionate about filtering into all areas of Material Source Studio.

The reason Darren and I work so well together is because we share the same ethos and work ethic. Starting out as friends has helped the business enormously as we’ve been able to challenge one another in a really positive way.

What position is the design sector in as we approach 2022?

Michael: In short, a strong one. With the pandemic having flipped the way we live on its head, we approach 2022 with a real sense of opportunity to create change for the better. Sustainability is thankfully at the top of everyone’s agenda, and as a result the emphasis is on designing for longevity. The hospitality, residential and workplace sectors are merging, with people craving comfort in every environment they inhabit. For product designers, this means quality and material selection is king. And for the architecture and design community, only the best will do. At Material Source Studio, we’ve created a space for collaboration between these two parties.

When did the concept for Material Source first begin and what was the driving force to launch it?

Darren: For the last 30 years, myself and the team has designed, developed and promoted products and materials. And at the same time, we’ve worked with, presented to, and learned from the A&D and creative community, in terms of what they want, and, more importantly, what they don’t want. We genuinely listened to them, and as a result of that we knew our approach could be very different to others.

We specifically pinpointed a growing appetite for discovering how things are made, so, in response, we launched Material Source in 2018 to look at how architects, designers, and makers choose their tools, the challenges they face and the thought process behind specifying for their commercial or individual design projects.

In addition, we covered the latest products and projects from both emerging and established manufacturers and designers, alongside the more avant garde, yet rapidly evolving, biomaterials scene.

The aim of Material Source has always been to be both inspirational and useful, across online, and, more recently, offline platforms, informing and celebrating the importance of materials and products, and championing the people that bring them to life.

What does Material Source address within the sector which is not being addressed elsewhere?

Michael: While inspirational spaces exist for the architecture and design community, we feel they are mostly in silo. A lot of travel is involved when visiting multiple showrooms and tradeshows, and when it comes to reading about products and materials online there is a physical disconnect.

With Material Source, we are bringing all of these elements together to offer a truly holistic experience under one roof.

When did you begin to discuss a physical space for Material Source?

Darren: It was always our plan to launch a physical space. In that respect the project has been holistic from the start. When it came to launching this next phase of ‘Material Source’, Michael and I knew immediately that our first site had to be in the North West.

As well as a thriving A&D community, Manchester has undergone such a massive transformation over the last couple of years, and now finds itself on a larger international stage than ever before. From world class football teams to producing 25 Nobel Prize winners, the city has an incomparable irreverent confidence that we want to harness. The people here are open to the ‘new’, and so we were assured that our concept would be well received.

Can you give us a guided tour of the new Material Source space?

Darren: The first of its kind in the UK, our 15,000sqft studio is situated in the Grade II listed Hanover Building in NOMA. Set across two levels, it features a wealth of inspirational exhibits and interactive displays from 35 leading brands operating in the commercial interiors and built environment sectors. It also includes an 80-seat theatre, a Gallery, CPD area, a 300+ book library, 7 meeting spaces, a co-working hub and a podcast studio. Plus, an internal garden and a fully mature, 6-metre tree, spanning both floors.

Michael: Darren has designed the entire Studio with support with our team and partners, and most of what you’ll see when you visit is bespoke. From Crown Paints colour matching the exact tone and texture of the building’s heritage walls, to our concierge desk made by Gresham’s bespoke team with materials supplied by CDUK, and chairs with Panaz fabrics, to our unmistakable ‘M’ logomark in neon by Neon Creations, with so much to see, our best advice would be to come along and visit the space for yourself!

What need does your new space solve for Interior Designers? 

Michael: More than anything else, the Studio saves designers time. What we’re offering is a one-stop-shop of inspiration from the best built environment brands in the business, alongside up-and-coming makers. On top of this, we are running events, talks and roundtables, plus there’s plenty of space for heads down work to ensure visitors can make the most of their trip.

Sustainability is also front of mind. Concept Cubicle Systems, for example, has created the Washroom Workshop, which allows designers to mock up washroom schemes in the Studio, saving on any unnecessary waste from discarded samples. We know first-hand from the design community that sample waste is a real problem, so through our partner initiatives such as this, we’re directly responding to the sectors’ needs.

Wellness is also a passion that we share with our partners and wider community, and so an integral part of our offering will be our wellness sessions, starting in the new year. After being separated from one another over the past two years, we’re putting a dedicated focus on people. Because, after all, what’s a business, or a building, without them?

How does Material Source benefit the brands it houses?

Darren: Our partners benefit from being a part of our community, which includes their peers, built environment and commercial interiors professionals, artists and fresh talent. Showcasing their products alongside likeminded brands fuels collaboration for better solutions. We’ve already seen this happening, with many of our partners already working together on projects.

What’s next? 

Both: More Material Source Studios! We’ve currently got two more in the works, and others lined up. So, watch this space. There might be a Material Source Studio on your doorstep in the not-so-distant future.

For more information on Material Source Studio, and to plan your visit, check out: https://www.materialsource.co.uk/studio/.


About Phoebe Train

Phoebe is a Marketing and Events Executive, who joined the BCFA as an English graduate in 2021. Working closely with designers and BCFA members, Phoebe has published an array of content for Design Insider.
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