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“You work your way through the rejects and the great ones remain”

By Ryan Evans

If you look around your home, work, or in public, everything you see has been produced through the trial and error of a number of determined designers. And yet, the finished product underwent multiple changes to the piece you see today; this is what course leader of BA Furniture and Product Design, Simon Hasan, calls “the value of the design process”.

He explains: “You know when you’re in school in maths and they say: don’t just show the answer, show the working? The working is often more important than the outcome.”

For the seven months Simon has taken the lead of this course, he’s always given his students the opportunity to focus on their own interests, with some really interesting, surprising, and awe-inspiring projects coming out of his three different classes.

“We want students to develop their own thing, but really we want them to develop by making and iterating through multiple versions,” he said.

“There’s no such thing as a bad model because they need to go through very crude models to understand how to design and make something more detailed and more resolved as they go through the project.”

One imaginative student’s design, all part of the Art, Architecture and Design Summer Show, which opens on 22 June, included a “post-Covid sink” made entirely of soap, where the user would rub their hands against the basin (or with a soft brush) to apply the basin soap to their hands.

Simon adds: “I guess in a post-Covid world, with the idea of washing and cleaning, he found these lovely books about ritualistic bathing and the ways this is done, especially in Japan, where there is a great appreciation for bathing.”

His student, Miguel Martinez Souto, began “playing around with soap” and his outcome was a basin made of soap, and the tap would run through it.

Photo by Ryan Evans

Another student decided to take a hate symbol and turn it into a conversation point.

Final year student Dylan Dent has a “lovely body of work which has a really unique aesthetic”, which has been informed and influenced by the struggles of gay communities through the 20th century. 

“His personal project really examines the blaming of gay communities through the AIDS epidemic through the 1980s and the pink triangle that was used as a symbol of resistance and protest at the time. This in turn referenced the use of the triangle to badge gay groups in Nazi Germany,” says Simon.

Dylan’s final project included a pink teapot for the sole purpose to sit and discuss this topic over tea.

“It’s really amazing,” Simon says. “Half of his work exploded in the kiln, but he feels like an art student who had ideas growing and growing. It’s going to be the start of an amazing career.”

Another fine example of this process is third-year student Stefania Atzei, whose final contemporary project includes patterns that date back to the Roman empire.  

She said: “My piece is inspired by Sardinian crafts, so I wanted to use these crafts into contemporary design used the pattern of the Pintadera, which was used in ancient times to stamp the decoration on the bread for rituals.

“So I used that pattern and recreated it onto the table making the table, the tablecloth and a set of ceramic tableware.”

Photo by Ryan Evans

The design through multi-disciplines Stefania found was “really challenging” but at the same time “really good” with the techniques she learned as she liked the “combination of materials in a single project”.

Simon says that the roots of the course are in the Shoreditch Technical Institute for Men, where young men were trained to go into cabinet making and furniture industries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Now the course has 35 students across three years and it’s “very much about designing as a verb, where you’re doing something, but it’s more of a process of investigation where you really want people to make a lot of models through the act of making”.

“I say to the students that it’s a bit like taking photos with a camera where only one or two good photos will come out,” he adds. “You work your way through the rejects and the great ones remain.”