Magnus Long is a British designer working within spatial, furniture, product and lighting design. We chat to the London-based designer about discovering his talent, developing ideas and his exclusive design collaboration with The Conran Shop.
How did you discover you had a talent for furniture design?
Out of all of the types of design I do, furniture is particularly fulfilling and attractive because of its subtle complexities and its completeness. It’s a very human scale of building and requires sensitivity to form, beauty and identity along with an understanding of engineering, craft and construction. These are all things I have always been drawn to ever since I was able to connect two objects together, but perhaps it’s noticeable now because over the last few years I have had the opportunity to work with some great clients, such as The Conran Shop, who have more resources and can bring these objects to an audience.
What comes first – the materials or the design idea?
For this collection we always intended there to be flexibility to combine different materials and finishes, so it’s been designed with a view for The Conran Shop being able to offer various options in their stores. There are always many factors to consider for any one design and the starting point changes depending on the reason for starting the project. My way of working is to collect as much useful information, which is often related to people and behaviours, and to define the project’s constraints, which usually includes materiality and construction. From there it quickly becomes a slightly daunting cloud of complexity which needs to be mapped and understood. There’s a lot of analysis, idea generation, modelling and visits to factories and (hopefully) an elegant solution emerges during that time – simplicity from complexity.
Describe a really good day in the Magnus Long Design Studio...
Model-making is incredibly fruitful for building ideas; for understanding construction for manufacture and refining an identity. I’m quite a rationalist at heart and enjoy starting with simple materials such as card, paper or wooden sticks to see how far an idea can go. As the design gets scaled-up, the detail and beauty begin to reveal themselves more and more, but it’s nice to keep the relationship with its origins alive, which you may see in some of the designs.
Tell us about your latest collaboration with The Conran Shop...
We have been working on designs for The Conran Shop since 2013. Some designs were already on our drawing boards when we began talking together, but others were brought to life from the direction and conversations with the amazing team at The Conran Shop.
We created quite a number of different families for The Conran Shop (there’s still more to come), some are quite expressive and others more subtle. All of the designs have various scale models which were built as part of our process, but probably the one I enjoy the most is the construction of the legs of the Stix table. It started life as five cocktail sticks with a piece of bent wire around the waist then twisted and splayed. The structure created is a circular array of triangles so it’s very strong. We went through a few different construction options, but for me the resulting turned wooden legs combined with a solid aluminium disc is a really delightful piece of engineering. Once you get to this stage the stakes can be high because of tooling and lesser companies would back away from making such an investment, so it’s great to work with The Conran Shop, who are prepared to invest in getting the design right and not compromise the original vision.
How would you describe the collection in five words?
Elegant, rational construction with beautiful materials. That's six words – sorry!
What advice would you give to anyone interested in becoming a designer?
The exclusive Magnus Long for The Conran Shop collection is available in store and online now.