Samuel Wilkinson, Designer

Samuel Wilkinson’s commitment to designing interesting objects is apparent in his work, always looking to add a fresh dynamic approach in either form or function.
His deep understanding of materials and manufacturing helps him to push the boundaries, whilst still achieving a high level of detail and craftsmanship.

The studio’s work diversifies across various disciplines from small consumer products to large public projects. Samuel’s work has been published worldwide and has won numerous awards including two of the highest honours in design: Design of the Year from the London Design museum and The Black Pencil from the D&AD.

What was your first memory of creativity?

Probably when I was 7 or 8 making Christmas decorations with my mother.

What was your creative journey to get to where you are?

Growing up I was always interested in sculpture and photography such as Constantin Brancusi or Cartier-Bresson but wasn’t particularly artistic at school. My favoured subjects were Maths and physics as i found these the easiest. Then after leaving school I managed to get some work experience for an architect, this really opened my eyes towards the power of design and its impact in the world which led me into an art foundation, then degree in Furniture design. The first five years of my professional career were spent working for various international design studios, on anything from Airline seats to technology. Then in 2008 I found an opportunity to work on a big public installation and the Plumen 001 followed so this set my path to starting my own consultancy.

What impact have big name clients had on your career?

Big named clients, especially in technology, had a huge impact on the start of my career in the sense of the frustration I use to get from working for them when freelancing. Before I started my own studio I worked with large international brands on projects from mobile phones to airline seats. When you work with really large companies, you’re always serving them. It’s less of a balanced conversation. I think the best way to work with any company is if you can have really good dialogue. Even though sometimes a company will give you more carte blanche to do whatever you want to do, there always has to be an understanding of each other’s point of view. With a smaller company, it’s easier to get fully involved in the process which I prefer.

How do you establish your own style over a period of time and still stay relevant?

I love design and am very lucky to be able to practice my hobby every day so being constantly a student hopefully keeps me relevant. I don’t think I have a particular style but generally try to create products that not only look good but function well. Although being functional does not mean they all have to be sterile, for example when designing the Plumen 001 the brief was to create something unique so the function was the aesthetic, aiming to attract attention through its individual character. In my eyes best design looks to improve or enlighten while still function effortlessly.

Another theme in my work has always to try to achieve pieces of industrialized craft, pieces that convey a level technicality and detail, looking for an organised complexity usually associated with craft that is distilled into a piece of mass production. I love the challenge of searching for a unique approach that retains efficiency.  There is always a consideration for the sustainability embedded in my work, whether producing objects through a singular process or through material use or reduced components that have been beautifully engineered so to be strong and last a long tie.

Does your work/process develop thematically, or is it more distinctive and random?

The creative process can change at any time depending on the project and inspiration can come from many sources, from research or observation or trial and error. There are many elements that cross pollinate during the process when you have a number of projects running simultaneously so themes naturally develop. At the same time others can be quite random. Also if I find myself getting set in a process i will try to shake it up a little and try
a new approach to keep it fresh.

One set process that we always do before starting any new project is to go through a deep research stage to explore material or manufacturing techniques and then general context. I always want to understand where a new object sits within the landscape of products with a similar typology in respect to the present and in history.

What inspires you or provokes the motivation towards creativity within?

I like to take on new challenges, it’s so inspiring going into something I’ve never done before. That sense of unknown is what really pushes me towards new exciting areas.

Which artists/designers do you admire or inspires you the most?

Masters like Castiglioni, Magistretti, Jacobsen, and of course Eames. The quality of their designs were amazing, especially considering their analogue process compared to the way we rely on the computer in modern design.

Event Details: Conversations in Creativity at 6.30pm on Thursday 4 May (Blackburn Cathedral)