The Design Museum's Designers In Residence speak ahead of the show

5 September 2014

Next week one of the UK’s major exhibitions of young creative talent opens at London’s Design Museum. Designers in Residence selects four emerging design stars and works with them over a period of several months to explore a certain theme, which this year is the overused but often misunderstood idea of disruption.

As broadcast partners we have worked closely with the project and will be covering it in-depth over the coming weeks. But before the show begins next Wednesday, we decided to catch up with the 2014 cohort – James Christian, Ilona Gaynor, Patrick Stevenson-Keating and Torsten Sherwood – to see how the past few weeks have been for them, and how they’re feeling ahead of the opening…


Patrick Stevenson-Keating (Picture by Cat Garcia)

How have you found the DiR process so far?

The DIR process has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster! With any project of this scale there are always periods of stress as well as elation, but thankfully it’s mostly been somewhere in between. For me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of the programme is the ability to mix with other designers working in vey different areas to myself. It has been a really pleasure working alongside James, Torsten and Ilona, and I think I’ve learnt a lot from them all.

The biggest challenge for me has been the financial side of it. I think we all wanted to try and push the boat out after finding out the space we had been given, but it has been difficult to balance this with the budget.

How do you feel ahead of the opening next week? What is your single biggest hope for the exhibition?

A mixture of excitement and trepidation. Doing anything interactive always carries an element of risk – will it be alright on the night, and after four months’ use? But it’s shaping up to be a great show.

I really hope the exhibition continue to build upon the wonderful previous DiR shows, to be one of the stand-out exhibitions at the Design Museum. There is a lot of diversity across the four projects, so hopefully everyone who comes will get a flavour of the different areas where design can play an important part.

From a personal view, I want people to go away from the show looking at economics in a less passive way. Hopefully people can start to ask: “Is this the economic system I want to be a part of? Is it doing what I want it to be doing?"


Ilona Gaynor (Picture by Cat Garcia)

How have you found the DiR process so far?

It’s been challenging, but interesting. The biggest challenge so far has been budget constraints and time, but all in all I actually think that had a very positive effect on the work. My previous body of work has been quite complex and deemed not very public (museum) facing, but this process has allowed me to think carefully about how I address public understanding and the perception of design. 

How do you feel ahead of the opening next week? What is your single biggest hope for the exhibition?

That it is interesting, and consequently that the audience won’t be disappointed about not seeing a chair on a plinth…


Torsten Sherwood (Picture by Cat Garcia)

How have you found the DiR process so far?

More than anything it’s has been a real privilege; it’s an unbelievable situation when you’re commissioned to freely develop your own work, particularly when you have an institution like the Design Museum backing you. But it hasn’t been stress-free either; having only graduated last year DiR has at times felt like a jump into the deep-end, but I think I’ve survived.

Most challenging of all has been the technical challenge of figuring out how to actually produce the prototype that is on display in the museum.

It’s a task that you would imagine to be incredibly straightforward considering how simple and low-tech my design is, but was actually a real headache to solve and is still not completely there so I still consider the project to be work in progress.

How do you feel ahead of the opening next week? What is your single biggest hope for the exhibition?

Generally I am quietly confident. recently I’ve been testing the design out with lots of different people and have had nothing but positive responses so far; so I feel as if I’ve managed to get the design to a stage at which it can be shown with some pride.

But it is still a prototype; so I am nervous to see how it survives over the six months the exhibition is up for. Most of all I hope it’s a lot of fun for the visitors to interact with and given that I have plans to develop the design, I hope the exhibition might introduce me to some contacts who could help me take it further.  


James Christian (Picture by Cat Garcia)

How have you found the DiR process so far?

The DiR process has been exhilarating. This naturally has two sides to it being either immensely exciting or extremely stressful, and both at the same time. I would say the greatest challenge has been in the coordination of all the different fabrication processes that have gone into creating the models, ensuring that everything has been considered in fine detail to allow every process to occur smoothly while maintaining a clear vision of the overall intent for the work. 

How do you feel ahead of the opening next week? What is your single biggest hope for the exhibition?

There is a great deal of excitement ahead of next week, I’m sure if I wasn’t having sleepless nights due to all the work involved I’d be having them in anticipation of the opening instead.

I’m eager to get people talking about what kind of housing we should be building in order to move the debate forward from the simple fact that we need more. I really hope that the project will play a part in opening up the conversation of what dense infill housing could be and reveal the possibilities of homes that are designed to be sociable.


This year’s Designers in Residence (Picture by Cat Garcia)

We are excited to present a social evening with this year’s Designers in Residence and Special Guests on Tuesday 14 October. Come along to meet the designers and find out more about their interests and working methods through informal presentations, followed by drinks and discussions. Tickets cost £14 (£10.50 students) and includes entry to the show. Find out more here.

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About the Author

Rob Alderson

Rob joined It’s Nice That as Online Editor in July 2011 before becoming Editor-in-Chief and working across all editorial projects including, Printed Pages, Here and Nicer Tuesdays. Rob left It’s Nice That in June 2015.

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