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London graduate design shows | icon 051 | September 2007

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words Anna Bates

London Graduate Design Shows kicked off at the beginning of summer, prompting the capital’s biggest annual display of talent outside of September’s design week. The RCA had its graduate jamboree in a wooden tent-like structure near the former site of the Crystal Palace in Kensington Gardens. Inside, the college’s schools of Architecture & Design and Applied Art demonstrated that they are still worthy of their reputation. The show was split into Design Interactions, Design Products and Industrial Design Engineering, but the distinctions didn’t seem to matter to the visitors, emphasising the extent to which all these fields are crossing over. Design Interactions was overwhelmed with conceptual pieces exploring ethical issues, causing course head Anthony Dunne to express concern over where some of his graduates were going to find jobs. “It’s a reaction against the heavily digital body of work last year,” he says. 

On the other side of the city was New Designers, a five-day event showcasing work from the country’s design colleges. This was also very strong. Interestingly, though, we kept coming across pieces that seemed familiar. Most students thought they were the originator, making us wonder how much attention they pay to what’s going on around them. One student explained that her reading list hadn’t changed for years, so maybe that’s the answer.

Encouragingly, the New Designer of the Year Award was won by an architecture student, suggesting that the built environment section of the show, normally weaker than product and furniture design, is improving. Overall there weren’t the shining stars of previous years, but that was because the general standard of work was higher, making it hard for us to award our prize for the best stand. Northumbria, Ravensbourne and Bucks Contemporary were our highlights.

01 Mikael Metthey
MA Design Interactions,
Royal College of Art

Just as we were tiring of design for children, we saw these silicone teddy bears that have the chicken pox virus injected into their bellybuttons. Designed for busy mothers that want to control when their offspring become ill, the bears are scented with flavours that will encourage children to use them as dummies. “Today, chickenpox parties are frequently organised to synchronise children’s exposure to the disease,” says Metthey. “I question if it is ethically correct to facilitate contagious behaviours.”

02 Ines Sanchez Calatrava
Whistle cup, Flute cup
BA Product & Furniture Design, Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication

Inspired by people blowing on hot drinks to cool them, these cups have a whistle incorporated into them. Calatrava also designed some brilliant plane-shaped magnets to attach to children’s cutlery.

03 Greetje van Helmond
MA Design Products,
Royal College of Art

Van Helmond grew her collection of jewellery from a sugar solution. String is dipped into the solution and crystals start to form around it. “With a lot of time and effort I believe one can make apparently banal and cheap materials into something beautiful,” she says.

04 Susana Soares
MA Design Interactions,
Royal College of Art

Soares designed diagnostic tools that use trained bees to perform health checks. Bees can be taught to detect pheromones and toxins, so Soares suggests they could be used to help diagnose diseases and pregnancy. The conceptual pieces contain two chambers. When the patient exhales, bees move from the larger chamber into the smaller if they detect the smell they recognise.

05 Sebastiano Oddi
Meet, Eat, Drink
BA Three Dimensional Design, University of Brighton

This tablecloth embraces spills and stains. Ornate images are revealed when food and drink is spilled, to create a memory-evoking patchwork of colours and patterns in the fabric.

06 Luke Bowers
Touchcrete Switch

BA Furniture and Related Products, University College for the Creative Arts, Rochester
Bowers invented touch-sensitive concrete for his project Touchcrete Switch, a light switch for kitchens and bathrooms. He also designed a clever lamp out of the same material.


07 Alexandra Sten Jørgensen
“Pay it Back” Kitchen Island
BA Contemporary Furniture and Related Product Design,
Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College

Comprising a sink, bench and compost box, this kitchen uses a living plant to monitor the chemical content of our cleaning products. Leftover food is used to make compost for a climbing plant.
The plant is fed with waste water, so the more chemicals and water used, the more chance the plant will die. It looks great, and it’s a clever way of weaning people off harmful detergents.

08 Maya Goldblum
BA Product Design, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, University of the Arts

Now that smoking has been banned  in all public places, these clamps are the perfect aid for socialising on the street. They fasten onto posts and can be used to support pint glasses, or hang up coats or bags, so smokers can fiddle with their fags.

09 Gael Horsfall
Paperclip light
BA Contemporary Furniture and Related Product Design, Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College

These oversized neon paperclip lights holds in place their own shade, which you can make yourself out of a rolled piece of card.

10 Jessica Nebel
Take-Away Sink
MA Design Products,
Royal College of Art

Tackling the awkwardness of filling a bucket in a sink, Nebel decided to turn the sink into the bucket. Once the aluminium basin is removed, a deepened base beneath it acts as a stand-in sink.

11 Sarah van Gameren
Burn Burn Burn
MA Design Products,
Royal College of Art

Burn Burn Burn is a paint designed to be set on fire. Once ignited, the flame burns slowly across the paint leaving a black, smoked trace. The material can be painted onto surfaces including wood, and will be available clear (so it is invisible until burned) or coloured.

12 Anna Bullus

BA Three Dimensional Design, University of Brighton

This set of four wonky stools is made of MDF with a blue lacquered finish. They can be slotted together in a number of configurations – with legs kicking out, or neatly slanting in the same direction – to form a side table.

13 Céline Shenton
Big Bird Is Watching You
BA 3D Design for Sustainability, University College Falmouth

These CCTV-shaped bird boxes swivel round to offer the occupants
a number of views from which to spy. A sweet commentary on our surveillance-obsessed society.

14 Geoff Jackson
Pet Coffin

Jackson’s biodegradable pet coffins provide a pleasant alternative to shoe boxes, the bin or wherever
else it is we dispose of our small pets when they die. Bigger ones
are available for larger animals.

15 Benedict Calland
Corner Lounger

Northumbria’s students took green design very literally. One of the five green chairs on the stand, Calland’s Corner Lounger has a curved headrest for comfortable napping.

16 + 17 David Irwin

Lounge Chair

Irwin won the Peter Walker prize for his Lounge Chair. The machine-knitted seat is held in place with straps that tie through the frame.
Dining Chair
We also liked his Dining Chair, which has an extra back for coats and bags.

18 Jonathan Aspinall

These mugs slot together so that as many as your arm’s length can be carried at once. Perfect for office tea rounds.

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