The next generation

New Designers, the design show dedicated to graduate innovation, kicks off with Part 1 at the Business Design Centre later this month. Inex caught up with Show Director, Isobel Dennis, to find out what makes this event so unique.

What sets New Designers apart from other design shows?
It has longevity. This is the 29th edition which is testament to its success. It’s also down to presentation. Because it’s graduate work, people often expect presentation to be unprofessional, but in fact people are always surprised at how good the stands look. We encourage the Universities to spread the importance of professional presentation and I think this is so important to the shows success.

We have amazing sponsor support. This year we have John Lewis, Procter & Gamble, Mars Chocolate, Sanderson, Harlequin, Hallmark, Tigerprint, and more, all demonstrating how much value they place in the show. The support of influential names really puts value into the importance of emerging design because they recognise how crucial design is for the future of a business. Our sponsors like that supporting a graduate show publically demonstrates their investment in the future.

The unique thing about New Designers is that it doesn’t need a lot of areas because the graduates are the feature. Other shows will have one company that takes a stand year after year to demonstrate new ranges, but it is always essentially the same name. The thing about New Designers is that this is the one chance to see this exhibitor and that is its absolute richness. Everyone in there is new and people want to see them.

To complement the graduates we have One Year On, which is also really popular. Exhibitors are literally one year into their business, so they are not necessarily a year on from graduating. You can really see that slight difference of transition from the graduates and there is certainly some beautiful designs in there this year.


Why is it so important to support graduate designers?
Because they are the future of the UK economy. It’s as simple as that. Our country has an incredible design industry and others look to us for expertise. We have excellent design education here and consequently produce great graduates. There’s a real determination and pride in the quality and employability of those coming out of our universities. These students have strong transferable skills such as teamwork, self-discipline and time management; all skills that are learnt alongside the discipline itself.


What can the design community do to support graduate designers?
Employ them! When it comes to the unpaid internship debate, I think that there is a lot of scare mongering. I believe that these opportunities provide valuable business insight and experience, plus graduates are much more savvy towards being exploited. The ability to add fantastic names to a CV place them far higher up the pecking order, especially in the company where they gained that experience.

We work alongside companies that understand how important design is to their business, and I think that understanding is broadening. Even the most corporate companies are now recognising that design is absolutely essential and hugely important to a company’s success.

Our visitor feedback indicates that they leave New Designers feeling refreshed and uplifted. Speaking to passionate graduates and seeing fantastic designs reminds them how much they love being in the creative industry and that’s the really special thing about this event. The graduates are always passionate because they are constantly on a trail of discovery of how to do things differently, and searching to differentiate themselves, be that working with a new material, technology or collaboration.

We have a really high calibre audience attending New Designers because the show is a real hybrid of both trade and consumer. Everyone is there because they are interested in and inspired by design. We have talent scouts from a diverse range of influential names – from Warner Brother to Tiffany – all wanting to find fresh talent before someone else snaps them up.

What’s new and exciting about this year’s show?
Despite problems graduates now face, such as rising fees and high unemployment rates, people were booking into New Designers incredibly early and there’s a real energy and pride in what they are creating. The show was over 70% filled six months before the show, which puts incredible confidence in our realisation of what the show can provide.

The universities are also recognising that New Designers is a great recruitment drive for them, as it demonstrates the excellence of their teaching to future students.

In terms of trend forecasting, what we’ve been seeing – and what I noticed in Milan – is a lot of liveliness and enjoyment in work, through bright colours, especially neon. I think that going back to the basics of technique and really recognising the craft and methods behind creating something unique is important. A real confidence in both colour and texture is a big thing this year as people really respond to it. Mixing colour with unusual materials and new technology creates wonderful pieces.


Who sticks in your mind as an inspiring success story from previous shows?

There are too many to mention! I can’t isolate one and that is what’s so amazing about the show. Every year there are fantastic designs that demonstrate innovation, but it’s also important that products are made well. Once the quality of making is exemplary it then leads on to aesthetics. If a designer has the right mix of innovation, function, making and aesthetics then they’re on to a win. That’s a really important thing for me when I see designs.

My background is in 3D design and ceramics, so I’m always interested in the form and quality of how an item has been made. I think if you are creative then you will never lose the appreciation of skilled design. It’s always enjoyable to see well-executed work that leaves you feeling refreshed and inspired.

What does the future hold for designers?
Emerging technologies will allow designers to be as creative as they have always been. Everything was a new technology at one point, so new technologies will be embraced with the same passion as they always have been. The big challenge is the rising expectation and need for items to be produced quicker than before because new technologies allow for everything to happen much faster, creating new levels of timescale.

There’s a lot of talk about a fear of loss of skilled craftsmanship and I honestly believe that this isn’t something to worry about. I see new technologies as complementing traditional methods rather than replacing them. They will work together to make the design industry better.


What do you value most about the design community?
I really love its breadth, spirit and the huge amount of passion. Design is a word with a generous breadth of discipline. It’s collaborative and has genuine integrity. The people are interested and interesting and they value the skills of others as well as wanting to ensure their own work standard is exemplary.

What are you most looking forward to from this year’s show?
Walking in the door! It’s such an exciting show to be a part of because it’s full of vibrancy and energy. We have great relationships with the show partners who come back year after year where we are able to understand how the show dovetails into their business. I also just really enjoy looking at the work! I think it’s a really exciting show to be a part of.
Read Inex’s New Designers event preview on page 44.


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