Inside Out Contracts offer a large and diverse range of products in the hope that there will be an option for every design scheme. When clients are after something a little more exclusive or have a vision in mind, Inside Out Contracts have an in-house design team on hand to create the bespoke solution. Based at their Greenwich office and headed up by Design Manager, Doug Crichton, their years of experience working with clients and factories mean that they’re the perfect people to guide you through the process. We thought we’d ask Doug a few questions about his experience of being a UK-based furniture designer in an Internationally reaching business.
How does your design process usually begin?
It begins with the client setting us a brief. Sometimes that brief is highly detailed, sometimes it is a little vague and needs more input from us. Either one of those presents its own challenges and so it’s important for us to discuss the options with the client to ensure that what we design will meet their expectations – it’s key to get a clear vision so that what we have a starting point for the design, and so that the endpoint is something that they are excited by.
What things do you have to consider when designing a piece of furniture for the contract environment?
There are lots of factors to take into account that differ from the residential market – from the foam to the fixings, making sure that you understand and meet these factors in the product that you’re designing is extremely important. Also, with so many different types of contract environments, there are always different considerations that make the job interesting. We design for all sorts of hospitality, leisure and healthcare markets such as restaurants, hotels, bars, offices etc.
An environments that throws up a particularly different set of factors are care homes and retirement living – in this kind of design understanding the requirements of the user is the priority over other factors, as their needs will differ from the traditional user. Things such as seat height, padding, support etc. are of even more importance. If I was designing for a restaurant my priorities would differ.
What do you like most about designing specifically for a contract environment?
To be honest it’s just that, the variety of projects and environments that clients come to us with. It can be almost anything and that’s exciting.
What part of the whole design process excites you most?
Designing is great as there are lots of exciting parts along the way but the most rewarding part is of course seeing a design come together – from render to reality. We’re taking rough ideas, sketches and concepts and ending up with a tangible product. Working in a job where you can see your ideas come to life; seeing the product starting with just a simple conversation, to an initial digital concept, to a physical product used within a larger space is very fulfilling.
How long does it take to develop a product?
It really depends on the product and what it is. Lead time and the complexity of the design are also big factors. The nature of our industry is pretty fast paced so the actual design element, consisting of the initial drawings, generally takes around a week or so depending on development with the client. Then the construction can range from anything between four to six weeks. So, our part is quite speedy as we need to get something visual for the client to see so that it can go forward to the factory.
Do you sketch designs out by hand or always with software?
Because of the fast pace that I mentioned and the quick turn around that we strive to achieve for clients, we do minimal initial concept sketching. Though sometimes it is the easiest way to show different concept variations during the discovery phase of the brief with the client, but with the final technical drawings we like to show our clients the truest representation of their product so digital design and 3D rendering provide us with a reliable way of showing realistic visuals.
When designing with software, what tools do you use at Inside Out?
We use Rhino 3D as our modelling software – it gives us great control for modelling and designing. When it comes to the visuals for clients and the website, we use Vray – it enables us to produce realistic images that best show and represent what the final product will look like. It can be really helpful for a client to see this as it’s not always easy to visualise and it gives reassurance in the investment they’re making.
What is your favourite style of furniture to design?
My favourite design style is contemporary modern design – this style of furniture the materials and function of the piece is considered to be just as important as the form and appearance.
Do you have a favourite famous design piece?
I have a soft spot for the LCW by Charles and Ray Eames. It’s the perfect pitch and moulded shape that accommodates the user that really appeals to me.
Do you have a favourite project that you have designed for?
There have been so many great projects that we’ve worked on, but in terms of experience, it would have to be Dano’s Restaurant in Portugal. It’s situated in the grounds of the boutique Magnolia Hotel and features plush furnishings in cool tones. We got to see the project from start to finish with the chance to install the furniture and see the site itself in Portugal which is always so gratifying.
What project are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a number of things at the moment from finalising drawings for the Mondrian Hotel, to folding banquet tables for multiple projects and designing an exterior area for Lightbar for which we have already supplied interior furniture.
As a final comment, I know you work with interns a lot, is there a piece of advice you like to give aspiring and trainee designers?
Don’t overcomplicate things. Dieter Rams said that “good design is as little design as possible.” so to have this in your mind is always useful as you focus on keeping things simple and essential. Also, a tip for everyone, is to write things down – the smallest details are the easiest to miss!
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