One word cropped up repeatedly during the judging of the ninth Design Guild Mark last month: interactive. Spearheaded by the the charitable Furniture Makers’ Company and celebrating British design excellence, the coveted prize allowed the judges panel to thoroughly examine each of the entries within the confines of the medieval Carpenters’ Hall, with the shortlisted designers presenting the materials, inspiration, and manufacturing behind their products.
The vast selection was whittled down to 34 Guild Marks, including Forpeople’s ‘Keyn Family’ task chairs for Herman Miller; and young designer Charles Dedman’s ‘Turner Carver’ chair, originally launched as a prototype, before being put into production by SittingFirm. Elsewhere Bisley’s classic filing drawers were honoured, alongside Robin Day’s colourful armchairs for Hille.
Judge Jeremy Myerson – the Helen Hamlyn professor of design at the RCA – noted the diversity among the applicants this year: ‘There was a marked accent in terms of design quality on furniture for the workplace, signalling a blurring of the lines between office and hospitality.’ This shift was reflected in a number of designs: Sebastian Conran was awarded for his workstation that utilises craft from the Japanese region of Gifu, while Another Country’s farmhouse-style dining room collection charmed judges for bringing a little English countryside into the modern home.
There was a strong array of wooden design that flourished including two Benchmark pieces, both by Nathalie de Leval in addition to Matthew Hilton’s adaptable desk and shelving for Ercol, as well as David Irwin’s nifty foldaway wooden chairs for Case Furniture.
‘The calibre of 2017 applicants was extremely high and a diverse range of typographies, materials and processes were judged over an engrossing day,’ commented Twentytwentyone co-founder Simon Alderson (a judge for DGM many times over). ‘The vitality and quality of British design remains in excellent health, and the Design Guild Mark acknowledges this. The interactive judging process allows a level of communication between designer and the panel that is both instructive and stimulating, for all parties.’