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New Designers 2021: Meet Diane Sinclair

Inspired by observations of trees growing around pathways on her daily walk, Diane Sinclair conceived of her Kinship kitchenware collection, an integrated cookware design that was shortlisted for New Designers 2021; read more about Diane’s holistic approach and thoughts on the future of the design world below.

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?

I’m elated, it was a complete surprise but I am just so excited for my design to be shortlisted. As for my future, it will be an excellent way to start off my design career and would help me progress as a designer.

 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 Conran Shop was one of the first design stores I visited when I moved to London for university and it is one of my favourite stores to visit. If I am in the area, I will always make a point to go there. There is such a wealth of fascinating furniture and products that I always leave the store inspired and excited for the possibilities of what design is and what design could be

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

My name is Diane Sinclair, I have just graduated from Kingston University. I was born in Zimbabwe and moved to England in 2004. 

My project is a cooking pot, a wooden spoon and a trivet lid. The interesting aspect of this design is how the parts nest together. The pot is shaped around the spoon so that when it is in use the spoon can be stored directly across the pot, to prevent bubbling or partially so that only the head of the spoon remains in the pot, preventing any mess. The lid acts as both a lid and a trivet. It has ridges on the bottom so that the heat can circulate and prevent any burns to the surface it is placed upon. These ridges are sized in such a way that the spoon can rest comfortably across the pot if needed and the ridges are long enough to prevent steam from escaping by simply turning the lid.

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

This project was based on an observation I had surrounding the walk I would make every day to my university. Down one particular road, there was a line of trees that grew next to a public pathway and I noticed how the trees grew around people. It was a busy path so there were people constantly going up and down and as such the trees had shaped themselves around average human height.

This interaction between two objects fascinated me and I wanted to do a project based around the interactions of things. I started to look for products that fit into that train of thought, how two or more items could be used collectively and what interesting behaviours these interactions inspired in us. The main idea that drives this project is wanting to understand why do we do this certain behaviour and how can I make a product that fits into these rituals and behaviours, highlighting these interesting aspects that are instinctual but are rarely thought about.

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

Extremely important. It really helps spread their names and gives us a good place to exhibit our work. It is an incredible opportunity to show off the work we have completed in a professional environment. It is essentially the foot in the door that helps us into the design world. It is also a great place to meet new people and to expand your network.

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

From what I have observed through my own work and through my peers, some of the trends seem to be; waste or unusual materials and making them usable in some form. There is of course the focus on sustainability and products that are environmentally friendly. Space-saving furniture was also presented, as well as furniture that either doesn’t require fixings or where the number of fixings is greatly reduced.

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 problems facing new designers I have found to be job searching, as in most cases there are far more people looking for jobs than there are jobs available. There are also entry-level jobs that require a certain amount of experience to enter.

I know I really struggled in such an isolated situation this year, there were only three of us in one flat and fortunately for me one of my roommates was also part of the design course so I had someone to bounce ideas off of. But even then I really struggled with the lack of a studio atmosphere. It's great having someone to brainstorm with, but in the studio, you could have multiple people to do this with, with a wider range of perspectives. Even with other communication methods such as video calls, it was sometimes very hard to get your ideas and thoughts across.

On the plus side, I have never made better digital presentations. Working with New Designers virtually was good, I didn’t encounter any problems, but I am going to miss the physical show.

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

For me, a truly timeless design is one that makes the design almost invisible. It is so well thought out and so well executed that people don’t even have to think about what it is or what it is used for. The product becomes a standard, like a paper clip.

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

Currently, my plan is to find an internship or apprenticeship in design, preferably one on the CAD side of it, then to work my way towards a full-time job designing products.  I would like to be able to design products that feel personal to everyone by exploring connections we make to objects.

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

One of my favourite design pieces is the 9091 Kettle by Alessi. The whole kettle is well designed and elegant but I just love the whistle they added to the design. It brings such character to the kettle, and it is such a subtle thing that gives it a personality.

My best-loved designer would be Dieter Rams. He was one of the first designers that really got me into design and his design philosophy is fascinating to read and understand. To see that ethos reflect so elegantly in his work, his dedication to design and the longevity of his designs is something I greatly admire.

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 Diane here.