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DesignByThem: Home Grown’¨’¨

Two young Sydney designers keep it local with their quirky products.

DesignByThem: Home Grown’¨’¨


September 16th, 2009

In a small warehouse studio in Sydney’s Chippendale, design duo Sarah Gibson and Nicholas Karlovasitis, are carving themselves a promising career in industrial design.

Strewn around their studio is a collection of work, from finished products, to material samples and a wall of prototype designs, all with one thing in common – they’re 100% Australian made and manufactured.

“We’re seriously passionate about Australian manufacturing and Australian design,” Gibson explains.

Since beginning their company, DesignByThem, three years ago, the pair has produced several successful designs, helping them to join the ‘next wave’ of Australian industrial designers.

Their latest product, the ‘Butter Stool’, is a flat-pack stool made from 100% recycled milk bottles (high density polyethylene) – a material often used for sound barriers on busy roadways. While being very stackable, the stool’s simple construction, light weight and ability to be fully recycled at end-of-life ensures it is also environmentally sound.

Their first collaboration actually began during university with a little piece called the ‘Dorothy Lamp’ – a lit orange traffic cone.

“We’d had a really late night at uni, when we came across this traffic cone in the corridor, and it was really new,” Gibson recalls. “It looked so different to when you see them all rugged and bashed up in the street. I’m not going to say it was a complicated product to design, we really just thought it would be fun.”

This sense of fun is obvious when you meet these two young designers, but this is just part of what’s giving Gibson and Karlovasitis a name in the design. They attribute a lot of their successful start to maintaining their connections with the University of Technology, Sydney, where they both studied and now lecture part-time.

“It’s great having a link at the uni; I really enjoy that. You get out of the office and it’s good for us because we want to bring in other designers as well, and students are perfect to see what’s coming up,” says Karlovasitis.
A passion for materials and manufacturing processes keep Design by Them operations hands-on, while helping them to form solid relationships with local manufacturers.

“We saw a lot of designers out there that design products for other companies, and they try to focus their efforts overseas,” Gibson says. ’¨’¨“Australian [industrial] design really needs to come together and do its own thing a bit more… our aim is to create an Australian design brand.”

DesignByThem will shortly be relocating to a larger studio/showroom a few blocks away.


DesignByThem were finalists in the 2006 Launch Pad competition with their ’Loose Change’ chair.

Portrait photography: Simon Layfield

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