With a heritage spanning over 50 years, the Conran name has established itself as a brand synonymous with all areas of design. Since opening our doors in 1973, The Conran Shop has been committed to supporting the design community, from events and panel discussions to building long-lasting relationships with up-and-coming designers and makers as well as established industry names. Through our partnership with New Designers, we continue to champion innovation whilst ensuring the next generation can access our incomparable resources, experience and knowledge.
Thanks to invaluable support from The Marandi Foundation, a key provider of training and educational opportunities for young people and disadvantaged communities in the UK, we scoured this year's entries in search of a design that demonstrated both growth potential within the design industry and reflected Sir Terence Conran’s ethos.
Hosted virtually, our judges considered an impressive 97 entries before selecting the final dozen. This year's panel included none other than Lord Norman Foster, Anya Hindmarch, Narmina Marandi, and The Conran Shop's Chief Creative Officer, Stephen Briars, Buying and Merchandising Director, Henrietta Klug, Head of Furniture and Lighting, Campbell Thompson, and New Designers 2019 victor and recently appointed Product Developer, Huw Evans.
We are honoured to declare Cameron Rowley of Kingston University the winner of the Designer of the Future Award for his forward-thinking One Step Ladder. The prize comprises an unmatched mentorship and product development worth up to £40,000, including a cash prize of £3,000. We are also pleased to highlight four other designs for potential future development with The Conran Shop. Find out about this year's daring dozen below, and congratulations and a big thank you to all the talent that took part.
One Step Ladder by Cameron Rowley
Cameron's award-winning One Step Ladder was born out of an observation that when using step stools and ladders around the house, the action usually lasts but a brief moment and with only one step. Thus, the design aims to facilitate that behaviour while maintaining a smaller footprint. Its main body comprises a single piece of steam-bent ash, riveted at the neck to prevent any splitting. This technique is used in shovel handle construction and can be achieved with a simple jig.
"Sir Terence Conran always voiced a philosophy of good design being ‘plain, simple, useful.’ This is a good solution to a frequent challenge; its purpose is easy to see and understand. Elegantly executed, it also serves as a great looking product,” proclaim the judges.
HAT Lampshade by Hyunsik Yang
Hyunsik's HAT Lampshade is highlighted for potential future development at The Conran Shop, improving the quality of everyday life by simplifying the shade-fitting process. Each HAT is crafted from natural wool felt through an intricate steam-forming method, resulting in its unique, flexible shape. After, the middle of the lampshade is cut to be folded, and magnets are concealed on the surface, allowing an uncomplicated one-step installation.
Wedged Bench by D'arby Mawson
D'arby's innovative assortment of birch hardwood and plywood benches is based around a new joint. Wedged requires no fixings or adhesives and can be assembled in under a minute, easily portable to accompany one's adventures. The seamless construction of the top and wedges also means each bench is scaleable to any length, width or height, and D'arby's design is one of the four highlighted for potential future development at The Conran Shop.
Quercus Collection by Callum Wardle
Callum's Quercus is a collection of playful yet sustainable furniture, the result of a material-led investigation into cork. Highlighted for potential future development at The Conran Shop, the two stools and trestle are designed to faultlessly complement one another while maintaining their own individual character. The trestle utilises the natural grip of the cork, to firmly hold the glass tabletop in place, and the cork surface on the stools helps to bring a warm soft material into the home.
Cut + Crease Side Table by Elliot Payne
Another highlight for potential future development at The Conran Shop, Elliot's gratifying Cut + Crease collection of colourful side tables results from a "material exploration project focused on creating structure from thin materials using minimal processes." Manufactured from a flat net, the table is assembled remotely with no tools, and conveniently occupies minimal space.
The Potters Chair by Darcy Eloise Hill
Nottingham Trent University
“A chair for makers, designed by a maker,” combining Darcy's two disciplines in the creation of a beautifully crafted chair. The principal purpose of the chair is to work alongside a potter’s wheel; the seat and frame are not connected, which enables the seat to be positioned on different tilts, allowing the potter to sit in a better position when throwing. Designed for utilitarian use, every element is considered and serves the motive.
Life Tools Collection by Arun Kirwin-Singh
Manchester Metropolitan University
From an AirPods Pro case with built-in ear fins to better their fit during rigorous exercise to an ergonomic, double-walled and lightweight, transparent water flask, this collection is made for living, inspired by everyday needs and gaps in the market discovered by its enterprising maker. "Once you have the right tools, you have the freedom to live your life exactly how you want it," declares Arun.
Kinship Collection by Diane Sinclair
Diane's project flaunts a cooking pot, a wooden spoon and a trivet lid, all beautifully nesting together. The pot is shaped around the spoon so that, when used, the spoon can be stored directly across the pot, preventing 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, with ridges on the bottom to allow heat circulation and prevent burns.
Habitat Shelving by Roku Gega
Nottingham Trent University
Habitat is an opportunity for plant enthusiasts to create their own garden of Eden. Roku's eye-catching cabinet gives the freedom to choose how to best present your indoor jungle while accommodating their needs with its original shelving, providing endless combinations. Its minimalistic appearance serves to spotlight the plants and accentuate their beauty while adhering to their surroundings.
Multi Wheel by Aidan Johnstone
Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design
Aidan's Multi Wheel is designed to give a gym-worthy workout, while in the comfort of your home, all while taking up a fraction of the space. Using several magnets, the Multi Wheel is produced an adjustable amount of resistance far heavier than the product itself, allowing people of all strength levels to use it. It is also paired with an app that tracks your workout and allows you to compare and compete with your friends.
Motion Side Table by Alexandra Record
Nottingham Trent University
Alexandra's Motion Side Table was designed to make it effortless to set up high-quality camp furniture. While outdoor and glamping furniture does exist, it does not make for an easy setup and often brings weight and size limitations; hence the Motion offers a high-quality piece of furniture that feels like home without losing the benefits of easy storage.
Aperture Shelving by Cai Smith
A sustainable, contemporary shelving system, designed for the home to display treasured objects and belongings. Cai's shelving joint is designed in such a way as to allow the shelving unit to be tailor-made. The lucky user can decide how many shelves are needed, as well as their height and length. In addition, the finish of the aluminium frame can be anodised from a curated range of colours, and the wooden shelves can be personalised with one's desired colour palette.
The Previous Winners
Cameron joins the ranks of previous winners, including 2020's Frank Winter and 2019's Huw Evans. Click below to read their individual Q&As, and read all about where Huw Evans is following his New Designers victory here.