As part of The London Design Festival’s Global Design Forum internationally acclaimed design duo Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby gave a masterclass talk at the V&A on Monday evening. Presenting to a room full of eager design fans, the charismatic pair talked about their passion for design and gave an insight into their processes and iconic projects.
Having designed a plethora of objects, from furniture such as the Loop Table and Tip Ton Chair to the Olympic torch for the London 2012 Olympic Games Ed & Jay have a wealth of knowledge and expertise when it comes to all things design.
‘We just have a genuine love for making things,’ explained Jay, closely followed by Ed, ‘and we are extremely passionate about understanding how things are made.’
They started off by explaining that the very first thing they do when starting work with a brand is visit the factory. Despite their hugely diverse body of work, it’s obvious to them every detail is integral whether it be for a teapot or huge instillation. Jay sums this up by explaining, ‘We are a little bit nerdy about it really – how products are born.’
As they continue to talk to the room and educate the design enthusiasts present it’s impossible to ignore their chemistry. They have a certain rapport that is only reserved for the very best of friends, or even siblings. Their brotherly jokes and banter serve as a great entertainment to all those present and result in lots of laughter throughout the session. A quiet confidence exudes gently from both of them as they deliver their talk to the room, showcasing their genuine love of design and a great passion for the things they talk about.
Discussing their old school methods they explain that they are traditionalists in the way in which they work, creating many sketches to a multitude of model making for each and every project, stating that everything in its first instance is purely aesthetic. Manufacturing is clearly very important to them, and they also explain that when designing anything for mass production it is extremely important to think about how it will be shipped.
‘A lot of thought & engineering goes into making something simple, and making it look simple,’ Jay explains. He goes on to add that everyday objects are usually the hardest to design, ‘you have to create a form and personality for the objects.’ They then show their recent Royal Doulton collection, Olio, where they have added their own spin to everyday tableware.
‘The idea of exploring is what we focus on, which is why I think our work is quite diverse’ Ed Barber.
They finished their fascinating discussion by highlighting some of their favorite projects. When talking about the £2 coin they designed to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the London Underground Jay sounds almost apologetic at the thought of their design being thrust upon the population. They both talk fondly of the London 2012 Olympic Torch that they designed, and of the exhibition, Double Space, that they created in collaboration with BMW for last year’s LDF.
The Tip Ton chair is probably their most well-known and most successful project, and as they explained it originally started out as a school chair for British schools. One of which is now sold every 3-4 minutes with around 26,000 sold every year to education institutions. Crafted from polypropene, it’s manufactured from a single mould making it extremely durable and 100% recyclable. It can be tilted forward by nine degrees, where it will stay in place, and this forward leaning position straightens the pelvis and spine, improving circulation to the abdominal & back muscles and boosting the supply of oxygen to the body.
They explained how they went to Vitra with a brief, and then began by chopping up chairs, followed by lots of sketching and talking to schools about what they needed. It is a design originally meant for education but in reality it is used everywhere, from the typical home as a kitchen chair, to Universities to American penitentiaries. The design duo explained that it is also the first design where they get lots of feedback from fans, with people all over the world sending them photographs of how they are using the chair, including a potter from Australia.
The floor is opened up to questions and there is of course a flurry of hands that go up, Ed & Jay enthusiastically answer as many questions as they can, even handling some awkward ones well along the way. The best question by far was actually not related to design at all; ‘Your partnership has lasted longer than most marriages – what is your secret?’ To a room full of laughter the pair tried their best to share the answer. Ed started with, ‘First you have to be friends.’ He then goes on to say that with every year comes a new project and every new project is a new experience in which they both take on different roles. Jay adds that just like this talk, which they didn’t prepare, they just seem to work well together, ‘Somehow we just naturally alternate, we are just lucky.’
We are not sure how much luck has to do with their astonishing success in the design industry, we think it is more talent and hard work that has made them the icons they are today. During London Design Week the pair were also awarded the London Design Medal 2015, further cementing their ranking at the top of today’s design influencers across the globe.