Layer is here: London-based designer Benjamin Hubert just unveiled his new studio, completing the transition from eponymous designer brand to a larger entity, with a wider scope and reach.
'My team and I have been working in a more research-led, user-centred manner for the last 18 months,' explains Hubert, 'The reason why we are changing the studio's branding now is that the projects we are working on are tools for change; we are talking much more to consumers about how they live their lives and how the world is changing, and responding to that with our design work.'
Trained as an industrial designer, with experience in three large studios in Europe, Hubert's remit has been broad throughout his career. He decided that the projects his 10-strong team are working on ('projects that employ design as a tool for change and design at the service of businesses', he explains) no longer fit under a single designer's sense of style and taste. As the name suggests, the new studio represents a much more multilayered approach to design. The work he and his team have been carrying out has evolved to represent more than just his point of view, he notes. Coinciding with the new brand's launch, Layer presents three projects that exemplify its work – mixing good design with wider social, ethical and environmental concerns.
The first is a new collection tub for the cancer charity Maggie’s. Hubert noticed how each charity uses the same collection box, a standard model. His design is the first to re-think the ubiquitous object, specifically in line with Maggie's mannered aesthetics. 'Every touch point of a charity like this should be considered and designed, and I think this is a great example of something that's very overlooked and needed reconsidering,' explains Hubert, also noting how his format hopes to encourage donations while at the same time becoming an object specifically synonymous with Maggie’s.
Another is Scale, a modular acoustic panel designed for Australian textile company Woven Image. The triangular panels can be assembled in a variety of standalone forms, giving new meaning to the concept of sustainability. Not only does their production follow a strict environmentally friendly protocol, but they are also developed to adapt to the changing requirements of interiors, making sure they can adapt into new assemblages where necessary.
A more research-based project – and perhaps the one with the greatest depth among the new launches – is a collaboration that Layer has undertaken with the Carbon Trust. The project includes an app and a wearable device, the designer says, ‘to get everybody more engaged with the issue of climate change’. There is a lot of talk about the climate, he notes, but people don’t really know how their lifestyle affects it. Currently at prototype stage, the project proposes an improvement in responsible lifestyle. ‘It’s not a wearable for the person, it’s a wearable for the world,’ Hubert explains.
The studio’s upcoming work will also include new furniture pieces and objects, created in collaboration with companies that Hubert finds an affinity with, and that have a smarter approach to design and production. ‘I think design is a much more important tool than just putting something on a poster,’ he notes, ‘and I think that’s the trouble with a lot of the industry: design is often used as a poster boy for creativity, while actually design is a tool to help the way people live.’