Established and upcoming designers from the fields of product design, jewellery, furniture, and textile design have been invited to showcase their models and prototypes to chart the development of an object through its physical experimental steps.
“The goal of the exhibition is really to show what designers are doing and how they are doing it, not to discover the big designers of tomorrow. That’s not what keeps us going, it’s not why we’re here,” explains Héloïse Parke, curator at The Aram Gallery.
The exhibition doesn’t display any final products; instead the initial ideas, mistakes and experiments aim to inspire the audience. “Sometimes things don’t work,” explains Parke. “Failure is part of the process but showing the prototypes like this lets designers get a much broader response to their work.”
Below, Disegno speaks to three of the exhibited designers:
Roger Arquer’s prototype for an adaptable coffee table sees experiments in three simple tables. The tables are attached by a piece of elastic that allows movement, whilst ensuring that the pieces remain connected. For Arquer, creating prototypes for this project allowed him to explore his ambitions in functionality and aesthetics and to make a piece of furniture that could fit into small or awkward spaces.
“Most versatile furniture looks and behaves like Transformers, with the overall look sacrificed for the sake of the transformation," says Arquer. “In this case, I wanted to do something extremely versatile, yet calm and simple-looking.”
For Arquer, creating prototypes is an essential part of the design process. “Computers are a great tool, but in the end the final decisions rely on the full-scale prototype. The reaction and feedback you get from a full-scale prototype cannot be beaten by anything else.”
Arquer, who is currently working on food-related projects for Royal VKB and MENU as well as wooden toys for MUJI, isn’t afraid to show off early ideas and mistakes. “Making mistakes is an essential part of the learning process,” he claims. “Perfection kills creativity as it is associated with the obsession of controlling too much. There has to be room for improvisations and then ideas will flow. Perfection comes from the brain; uniqueness from the soul.”
With an aim of exploring ways of re-using discarded wood taken from a furniture manufacturer, David Amar came up with his offcuts project. The prototypes at Aram feature shelving constructed from wasted pieces of wood and show that the outcome of a production line may be wider than it was originally designed for.
The furniture pays homage to the random discovery of wasted wood by being constructed without its constituent pieces lined up neatly. It’s not the first time Amar has worked with discarded materials. In the past year he has worked with Studio AmiDov on an installation made of waste items.
The process of prototyping is an important step in Amar’s work. “It's a way for me to sketch in 3D, look for new typologies and feel the shapes, volumes and materiality,” says Amar. “It's a process that often ends with mistakes and small discoveries that can evolve into a new project.
“I enjoy meeting people to discuss ideas during early stages of my design process. Putting my prototypes on display may generate interesting dialogues with a wider audience and creative people from other disciplines, which I find very stimulating.”
Daniel Rous is the only designer featured in the exhibition who is still in university. The 23 year old, who is studying at Bath School of Art and Design, created prototypes for a table lamp inspired by the versatility of the iconic Anglepoise.
“I wanted to create a source of light that could be directed at any angle or height and be highly useable in different domestic scenarios,” says Rous. “The results of my investigation are a series of wire structures exploring different kinetic mechanisms. These are then refined in the working prototype, in which movement of electricity is also considered.”
The prototypes on display show off Rous’ use of drawing and model making throughout the design process. “Prototyping and the process of making models are invaluable to my practice because it allows me to sketch my ideas in three dimensions. The outcomes of this are far more valuable than any drawing when trying to convey an idea,” he says.
“I feel humbled to be showing alongside more established designers like Roger Arquer. Exhibiting my work is definitely something I want to do throughout my career and so this is a pretty good place to start.”