19 May 2024, 08:37
By Furniture News Aug 20, 2018

New Designers opens roads to market

New Designers returned to Islington’s Business Design Centre in July, to present a wealth of work from students of the creative arts and established design practitioners. With a strong complement of furniture on display, the four-day second phase – which also presented graduate work from areas as varied as the automotive products and illustration – affirmed the creative vision and skill of the next generation of designers looking to enter the industry, reports Paul Farley … 

New Designers is unlike the bulk of trade shows attended by Furniture News – there’s no finished, mass-produced product on display, but  visitors instead encounter something between a graduate show and a gallery sale, as over 3000 students from more than 200 creative courses put their best foot forward in the form of wide-ranging product prototypes.

Repeated visits have steadily reinforced the very real opportunities available to the students taking part in this event. As well as prompting each participant to refine their designs, marketing materials and sales pitches, the show puts them in front of decision-makers from throughout the industry, who visit, keen to spot fresh talent, commission promising designs and take on new development staff.

Those students graduating from the better-developed university furniture design courses – for example, those offered by Nottingham Trent, Sheffield Hallam, Birmingham City and Northumbria – approach the event with some assurance, having often spent time in industry work placements, and these up-and-coming creatives are keen to sign off their courses through some valuable exposure.

And the success stories one hears truly cement New Designers’ role in launching the careers of talented individuals. Take Nottingham Trent University graduate Joe Parker, who, alongside three other graduates, was offered a chance to join the Sainsbury’s-Argos Home product design department at last year’s event. 

After winning an innovation award at the 2017 show, Joe went on to complete a 12-month training period, developing his own furniture designs for the retail giant.

This year, Adele Marie Sison, another graduate of Nottingham Trent University, was awarded the Made.com TalentLab award for her showpiece, the Alessia sofa. Drawing on her experience of working with Duresta’s design team, Adele designed a modular sofa that can be easily transformed from a standard model into a corner sofa, chair footstool, and even a bed – addressing today’s demand for flexible furniture suitable for smaller living spaces. 

After completing a year-long industrial placement with Duresta during the third year of her degree, Adele continued to work for the manufacturer part time while completing her final year, and plans to continue doing so after she graduates.

As well as commercial opportunities for those straight out of university or college, New Designers offers more established professionals a useful platform, in the form of One Year In, a curated feature highlighting the work of 100 entrepreneurs who recently launched their own businesses.

This year’s participants unveiled commissioned work of an extremely high standard of craftsmanship – notable mentions go to Jan Lennon, Adam Azmy and Andy King – and, like the student participants, they hoped to catch visitors’ eyes in a bid to take their businesses forward.

Rounding off the event was a diverse programme of talks, numerous awards (both financial and training-related), and nods to emerging trends such as 3D printing and recycled surface materials.

Event director Chris Hall comments: “New Designers is a celebration of creation and connectivity. The event is a vital platform for the design of tomorrow – ensuring the industry is constantly revitalised with fresh ideas and creative energy. Design education and society’s needs are continuously changing, and every year New Designers responds to and anticipates this shifting landscape.”

Much has been made of the skills shortage facing the furniture industry – and while this is true for UK manufacturing on the whole, New Designers demonstrates that there’s no shortage of talent on the design front. 

With more furniture on show than in previous years, countless networking opportunities and the visible presence of enough major retailers and manufacturers to cement its relevance, New Designers continues to be a powerful force for young creatives looking to make the transition to the workplace.

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