Designers today face enormous challenges and very significant opportunities to not only respond to world events with practical design solutions but also to heighten awareness of these issues through design. Since graduating from Goldsmiths’ BA design degree in 2005, David Cameron (1981-) and Toby Hadden (1982-) of &made have initiated such social, cultural and environmental dialogues through their products.
Their 2005 ‘Lost & Found' collection highlighted issues of waste and excess by imbuing new life and meaning into salvaged furniture sections with reclaimed timber. More recently, the noticeable increase of natural disasters – the Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and the Kashmir earthquake – has encouraged &made to investigate issues of climate change through a range of objects for emergency situations.
The Climatised Objects address the fact that in a crisis people generally improvise with whatever is to hand, not matter how ill-suited the object or material may be. In response, &made have embedded dual-functionality into this new range, offering practical and covetable domestic products that moonlight as life-saving devices.
By crafting a sturdy but buoyant dining table with removable legs which convert into oars, &made offer an ad hoc raft in the event of a flash flood. In earthquake scenarios, an unassuming vase switches to an emergency torch on impact if knocked from its ledge, while a series of picture frames convert to flashing navigational aids, much like floor-based emergency lighting on airplanes, at the first instance of a tremor.
Far from being alarmist – the Climatised Objects not only merge concept and solutions led design into a desirable range, but are a wry critique on the production of sensational but purposeless objects at a time of environmental crisis.
? Design Museum
Q. When did you each first become aware of – and interested in – design?
David. My first childhood memory of design was making animals from coconut shells with my grandfather in his garden shed! But my real interest developed while studying fine art at school. I was looking at the sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi and making crazy large sculptures from the scraps of cars and washing machines… I distinctly remember enjoying taking a jigsaw to a washing machine drum, it was pretty messy!
Toby. As a kid I had a raw interest in constructing things. I spent hours making large, strange and dangerous tree houses with my brother, longing to make the ultimate and most comfortable tree house. At college I was eager to exploit the machinery and processes available in the workshop, which were much more alluring than the academic subjects.
Q. Why did you decide to study design?
D. Although I never studied Design & Technology, my art lessons offered an opportunity to spend time in the workshop, while also learning about the history and evolution of technology through various essays and projects. It sparked a real interest in objects and an understanding of how things are made and the practicalities of working with different materials.
T. Partly it was a reaction to the overwhelming academicism at my college – so I spent most of my time sculpting and painting. At Goldsmiths College in London I realised that I could create a balance between the academic and the creative, through their very specific conceptual approach to design.
Q. What was the influence of Goldsmiths on your work?
D. I really engaged with the creative process at Goldsmiths, which helped me approach my work in a more unique way, for example enabling me to design objects inspired by the sausage. What was equally important was the freedom within the course to apply this lateral way of thinking to any discipline of design. This allowed a range of students, specialising in graphics, textiles, furniture and web design to work alongside one another and learn from each other, which is a great working environment to be in.
T. Before Goldsmiths I had an interest in ‘hands-on’ and material based work, but with no specific direction. The College brought some context to my work but also developed the conceptual side of my work. I was now able appreciate how to turn non-functional objects into functional objects – whereas before the focus was primarily on an object’s aesthetic. Because the course encourages you to think rather than do, it makes you realise what you love about design, because you’re the one who has to teach yourself the physical and program based side of design.
Q. How have your objectives evolved since leaving Goldsmith’s?
A. Our objectives have evolved in the same direction, ultimately leading us to establish &made. We share a consideration of what is being made and how it sits within a social or cultural context. Our core interests still lie in development and learning as individuals, but since taking that step from students to ‘designers’, we’ve questioned why and what we are actually doing it for. Our objectives are still to design these conceptual pieces but to introduce socially or culturally ethical observations, which then define the object’s function. We also aim to have a lot of fun doing it!
Q. Which of your early projects was most important in defining your approach to your work?
T. For me it was a brief from Foundation 33 – resulting in the ‘Spair’. In response to the requirements of open plan living, the Spair is a flat packed chair that sits on the wall as a graphic or tableau. When needed, the lightweight piece can be taken down and unfolded into a spare chair. I felt this encompassed all aspects of my design process, thoroughly worked through to completion. But it was also coming to terms with my working method – that my objects develop through a series of experiments rather than sketches. Still to this day I’d much rather work through a 3D programme than in a sketch book.
D. The first university-based project that required us to take a brief and work it through to a resolved outcome was of enormous influence on my working practice. I realised I needed to work through pages of my sketchbook and developing a solid concept, almost a set of rules for the final outcome to meet, before actually attempting to design the object itself. The brief was to design an object for a new office space where three design companies were merging. The concept I took for this project was a set of objects that would reflect the evolving movement and interaction within this new space. I created a range of paperclips that had set locations around the office, including a key-shaped paperclip that lived near the entrance, a coffee stirrer paperclip in the kitchen and a pin paperclip in the notice board.
Q. Given that your working methods are very different, how does the division of labour work at &made?
D. We both see the project through from start to finish. Once we have established the direction of a project, we develop the idea both together and individually. I’ll prefer to get going in my sketchbook while Toby will start in the workshop. We’ll also sit down and discuss it together. When working individually we drive each other on, as we’re both aware of the time and effort the other has put in and aim to balance that out.
Q. How did the Climatised Objects project develop?
A. ‘Climatised Objects’ developed from our diamonds in the rough – rich ideas mined from previous projects that we store for a later point when they may become useful. When working through a project we always hit upon a number of ideas, some of which are relevant for a current project and others that might have potential at a later date. ‘Climatised Objects’ has been something that we have been discussing for a while.
We’ve always wanted to do a project that translates the way people in emergency situations use everyday objects in innovative ways in order to stay alive.
Although we are all becoming more aware of climate change, we felt that it is still a subject that is often put aside. It is not pleasant to consider that we are gradually destroying our own environment, which has led to an increase in natural disasters and extreme weather. The effects of climate change can leave us facing dangerous situations in our own home, where we are affected by destructive elements such as flooding and earthquakes. Rather than shy away from these negative processes, our ideal was to offer functional solutions in these increasing times of crises. In the case of the earthquake series, these objects rely on the vibrations of an earthquake to then offer themselves as emergency aids.
‘Climatised Objects’ address climate while also playing with public perceptions of the objects. In the case of ‘either oar’, people initially see a dining table but are then drawn closer by the subtle nautical detailing that suggest something more. By exploring the table people are drawn to the central influences on the project. Its about &made pushing forward issues of climate change – not by pushing it into their faces, but allowing them to discover this through the experience of the object.
Q. What is the balance between ethics and functionality in your work?
A. At &made there is a definite awareness of what things are made from and how they are made, but the projects prioritise the life of the object and what people experience whilst using them. It’s about both the function of the object and the ethical standpoint from which it is derived. Ultimately we want to create objects that people enjoy, but which also have a serious ethical dialogue behind them.
Q. And narrative – how important is the story behind the work?
A. The narrative defines the starting point from which we begin each project and it is what each object aims to bring people’s attention to. Previously, in our Lost & Found series, the narrative has been the nature of today’s throwaway culture. It differs in every project we undertake, it may be addressing a problem that everyone experiences in their daily life or instead might aim to bring attention to larger but overlooked issues.
Visit &made’s website at and-made.com