A bumper crop of Design Guild Marks has been awarded this year to the likes of David Adjaye, PearsonLloyd, Simon Pengelly and Michael Sodeau. Handed out by the Furniture Makers' Company - a City of London livery company - the Design Guild Marks hail excellence in the design of furniture in volume production by the finest names working in the UK as well as British designers working abroad. A flood of entries arrived for the seventh edition, which shows just how covetable the Marks have become.
Twenty-seven Design Guild Marks have been announced after a marathon judging session in which myself and eight other panellists - ranging from Simon Alderson, co-founder of Twentytwentyone, to Jeremy Myerson, director of the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design at the RCA - cross-examined each furniture designer and road-tested their products.
Architect David Adjaye was grilled via Skype before unanimously securing our vote for his 'Washington Collection' of seating for Knoll, a cantilevered duo of chairs that challenges materiality and form, while PearsonLloyd's Luke Pearson came in person to pitch two products, the stackable 'SixE Chair' for Howe and 'Riya Chair' for Bene. Both scored a Mark; the former for its considered and ultra-robust rethink of the classic plastic shell chair, and the latter for its humanised take on the task chair, complete with refreshingly intuitive controls.
Not every entry came from internationally known names, however. One unexpected gem came courtesy of designer Ben Fowler, who instantly won us over with his 'Hat Tree' for Marque Furniture - an ingeniously simple design on which hats, coats and keys can be hung on branch-like planks aligned in a fashion akin to a hedgerow.
With criteria that take into account use of materials, design innovation, manufacturing and function, the Marks don't just recognise brand new products, they also hail the finest designs from the past. One surprise entry was the 'Supporto Chair' by the late Frederick Scott from Zoeftig, first launched in 1979 by Hille, which was touchingly pitched by the designer's daughter. With a number of the judges being proud owners of Supportos, the case was clear for this enduring icon of office furniture design.