The importance of collaboration

It can’t be said that design collaborations are a new concept; the success of some of our finest human achievements has been built upon collaboration and cooperation of many hands and minds.

Take two examples that celebrate landmark anniversaries this year: the first lunar landing and the formation of the Bauhaus. The ripples of these momentous group projects are still felt to this day. Creatives coming together generally signals new and exciting approaches, take Jasper Morrison and Jaime Hayon’s evolving menswear collection or Tom Dixon and Swedish furniture brand Ikea’s promising DELAKTIG open source collection, for example.

During turbulent times, when division feels like the common force, the notion of design collaboration offers a glimmer of hope; the output a physical embodiment of humans working together with a shared common goal.

Whilst there were many themes bubbling away during this years London Design Festival, there were some shinning examples of creative minds coming together to share ideas and produce products with a combined ethos; a whole greater than the sum of it’s parts.

Legacy, housed at London’s iconic Victoria & Albert Musuem and epicentre of the festival, was one such project. The very concept for the group exhibition was build from the idea of collaboration; Sir John Sorrell, Chairman of the Festival, inviting leaders of London’s cultural institutions to work with some of the world’s leading designers to create a new design object.

The aim of these one-off pieces was that they create their own lasting legacy, with the view that they offer such a relevance to the patron that they become an heirloom to be passed on through their family or institution that they currently lead.  

One stipulation, created as a result of another collaboration with the American Hardwood Export Council, was that each piece be made from American red oak. Whilst the timber is an abundant natural material it is seldom used in the UK, something that the organisation wish to address.

Collaborations include Sir Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum and French designer Marlene Huissoud, who carved a bench that doubles up as a home for bees. Timber craftsman and all round wood advocate Sebastian Cox creates a beautifully jointed writing desk for the CEO of the BFI and Tomoko Azumi explores her Japanese roots in creating a steam bent seat inspired by traditional boats.

Collaboration is at the heart of everything that East London based rug manufacturer Floor Story do. Transforming the designs of young and established practitioners, they create unique and striking contemporary rugs and have worked with the likes of Zandra Rhodes and Sebastian Wrong.

On display at the London Design Fair were an array of new, yet-to-be-seen designs and they didn’t disappoint. By far one of the most colourful and tactile stands across the entire festival, pieces by designers including Camille Walala, 2LG and John Booth were wall hung like worthy works of art, the majority of which having been hand tufted or knotted from Wool and Bamboo Viscose.

Recognising the burgeoning influx of creatives moving to the southeast shores of Margate in Kent, local resident and owner of Handmade Tiles, Sarah Hopkinson has set up a new makers collective.

Margate Tile Makers debuted at 100% Design with a selection of brand new surfaces from a crop of designers who stem from a range of disciplinary backgrounds. The aim is clear – to reintroduce and encourage handmade tile making as a mainstream artisanal skill in the local community.

This model allows for the sharing of skills through generations, thus drawing people together, whilst also creating beautiful and unique products for interior design specification.

Ceramicist Claire De Lune, who has created a tactile range made from Black stoneware with good light absorption qualities, underlines the significance of the venture, “This project excites me because it reminds designers and architects that they can have handmade, artisan products created locally, and directly supports UK industry.” 

Other designers involved in the growing collective are Spacer who use ancient bronze forging techniques to create solid metal geometric tiles and Rachel Ella Taylor who makes less conventionally shaped leaf tiles in brass and aluminium.

There is such potential in collaboration; sharing ideas can lead to unexpected and even unimaginable approaches that have positive effects. Right now working together never felt so important.


About Jim Biddulph

Jim Biddulph is a freelance materials, colour and interior specialist with over a decade of experience working with architects and interior designers. Communicating ideas about design through creative copy has always been at the core of his work, something he has shared with Design Insider for a number of years.
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