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New Designers 2021: Meet D’arby Mawson

Driven by the belief that "design is enjoyment," new designer D'arby Mawson playfully recreated the traditional bench and stool with some much-needed flair; we caught up with the Derby-based creator to discuss all things design, career and craft.

1. Congratulations on being shortlisted for The Conran Shop and The Marandi Foundation's Designer of the Future Award 2021; how do you feel, and what does this award mean for your future and practice?

Getting shortlisted was a great surprise, and I’m proud to be included in a group of very talented people. This would be a great start for my design career, and it’s been wonderful to share my design in a professional context.

 2. Are you familiar with the work we do at The Conran Shop and of Sir Terence's legacy? Did it have any influence on your work?


The products which have stuck with me the most at The Conran Shop are characterful designs that bring life back to stale objects. For example, the Over Expressive Clayman sculptures. This mixture of functional and fun is a design ideology I really relate to. Walking into The Conran Shop it is evident that quality is one of your key principles and this is what I associate with Sir Terence Conran’s legacy.

3. Please tell us more about who you are and your project.

Hello, I am D’arby and I’m from Derby! I have just finished studying product and furniture design at Kingston University.


My project is a series of benches based around a new joint it requires no fixings or adhesives and can be assembled in under a minute. The simple construction of the top and the wedges means the design is scalable to any length, width or height. The holes in the seat top and the wedges are offset by 15 degrees. When assembled the legs are “wedged” in place.

This biscuit range plays with the visual language of the bench. It leans into the aesthetic, extending the wedges to meet in the middle to look like a snapped biscuit. The graphics on the top have been simplified and the type altered to relate to furniture.

Wedged 1
Wedged 2

4. As to your work, who inspires it and do you have a particular process that drives your craft?

This project was created through material exploration, but the main process I am drawn towards is idea generation through sketching and drawing. A big influence on how I communicate my ideas is the work of Heath Robinson, this is because he was able to capture an entire idea into a single illustration.

 5. How important do you think something like New Designers is for emerging designers?

New designers give us an opportunity to present work in a professional environment. It gives us a chance to expand our peer-to-peer networks, as well as giving us the prospect to meet and talk to professionals in our industry.

6. Looking around, did you see any emerging trends/shared concerns/materials with your fellow designers?

Being environmentally aware of the impact of a design is something I always knew was important, but the last three years have taught me how vital it truly is. An observation I have made is how my peers are introducing designs that reflect their individual culture. Looking at the work of others around me, the use of unusual materials is a concept that becomes more prevalent and exciting.

7. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing emerging designers? Did the pandemic impact your work in any way, and how was it working through New Designers virtually?

One of the major issues facing new designers is just trying to get your foot in the door, the design industry is fiercely competitive. I found working from home to be very challenging, although it made projects take on directions they wouldn’t have otherwise. New Designers being virtual has highlighted the importance of communication when presenting my projects.

8. What, in your opinion, makes a design timeless?

Super Normal Sensations of the ordinary by Naoto Fukasawa and Jasper Morrison is what I think for timeless design. They describe normal everyday objects as “things we overlook when we focus too much on design”. The most timeless objects are the ones which we don’t recognise as design anymore.

9. What are your ambitions for the next ten years?

My main goal going forward is to get an internship/job in a design setting, to gain experience in the industry. A long-term goal is to design fun objects which bring joy to the people.

10. Lastly, which is your favourite piece of design history and who is your best-loved designer?

Isokon Penguin Donkey is a design I really love, when I first saw one it reminded me of a dog. The 3Dness of the bookcase, it’s just so much more alive than if it was on a wall.

My favourite designer is Dominic Wilcox, his products are bonkers in the best way. The way he designs takes objects and turns them upside down.

Click here to discover more about our involvement with New Designers and to meet the rest of the 2021 shortlist; plus, be sure to follow D'arby here.