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New Designers 2021: Meet the Winning Designer

In the search of a design that demonstrates both growth potential within the design industry and reflects Sir Terence Conran’s ethos, our judges awarded Cameron Rowley the coveted Designer of the Future Award for his innovative One Step Ladder. Meet the New Designers 2021 victor and learn about his project and next steps right here.

1. Congratulations on winning 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 feel incredibly honoured and grateful to have won The Conran Shop’s Designer of the Future Award 2021. I cannot truly express what this means to me. I love the ethos and design philosophy of The Conran Shop and so to have my work recognised by it is massively gratifying.

I hope this recognition will help kickstart my career and provide me with opportunities that I would not have otherwise had.

 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?

I’ve always loved the work and philosophy of The Conran Shop. I share Sir Terence Conran’s belief that good design improves the quality of life. Plain, Simple, and Useful are three qualities that I always try to incorporate into my designs.

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

I am Cam Rowley. I’m a product and furniture designer who recently graduated from Kingston School of Art. I emigrated from South Africa 4 years ago to pursue my dream of becoming a designer.

While my African heritage impacts some of my thinking, I am heavily influenced by traditional English furniture construction, as well as objects of use such as tools and implements. The techniques and features of these pure, functional objects are what guided the construction of my One Step Ladder.

The idea was born out of an observation that when using step stools and ladders around the house, it is usually for a very brief moment and with only one step. I wanted to create an object that facilitated this behaviour while maintaining a smaller footprint.

My ladder is a domestic tool, inspired by objects of use. Borrowing features from utilitarian tools and other implements, it is for use around the house; retrieving items from tall kitchen cabinets or dusting cobwebs from the ceiling. Like its derivative objects, its beauty is a consequence of its process and function.

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

I am inspired by the attitudes and philosophies of designers such as Max Lamb, Sebastian Cox and Jasper Morrison. Most of my inspiration is drawn from processes and objects which don’t necessarily relate to domestic product and furniture design. I have found that these objects and techniques provide a unique and valuable perspective that design does not always, but should, benefit from.

I also believe that making is an essential part of the design process. I am always making, from start to finish, and it always improves and informs my process and end product.

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

Having known a previous winner of The Conran Shop award I know that the kind of exposure and opportunity it provides is invaluable. I am so grateful to be in a position to make use of such an opportunity. Design is an unending learning process and so it is also a great inspiration to see my fellow designers work.

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

All of my fellow designers have become conscious of our impact of the environment. It is great to see so many designs which use sustainable materials and processes.

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?

While the pandemic impacted the creative arts heavily, there were many positives that came out of it. Kingston University was incredibly helpful and understanding in such trying circumstances. It was a great opportunity for me to further my making skills. Although our workshops remained open with limited access, I did most of my physical work in my bedroom, learning countless new techniques and processes I would otherwise not have come across (Including dishwasher steam bending, a surprisingly practical process). It was also a great opportunity to learn to keep working through difficult circumstances.

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

I believe we have a primitive appreciation for utilitarian objects and beauty. If a design can manage both it will inevitably become timeless.

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

I hope to gain some valuable experience in the next few years and apply that experience in the form of a studio. Many of my classmates share similar interests and beliefs surrounding design, and it is my ambition to start a collective focused on sustainability and function.

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

Naoto Fukasawa and Jasper Morrison’s exhibition and subsequent book; Super Normal: Sensations of the Ordinary had a profound effect on me. Their in-depth analysis and meticulous treatment of everyday objects fundamentally changed the way I see the world. I love their simple, stripped back approach to design.

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 Cameron here.

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