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10 Minutes with Josh Carmody: Haworth Great Design Winner

Indesign catches up with one of Haworth’s Celebrating Great Design Winners, Josh Carmody. Here we find out about the story of design in Melbourne, Milan and Shanghai: a truly global journey.

10 Minutes with Josh Carmody: Haworth Great Design Winner

Josh Carmody at Haworth Shanghai

The Celebrating Great Design Contest was launched as a platform for imaginative and experienced designers to launch their original creations on a global scale, and receive exclusive tutelage from Patricia Urquiola.

The team behind the winning entry, Penumbra – a dynamic set of designers including Jess Dootjes, Brittany Pearce, Sue Fenton and Josh Carmody – joined famed designer and contest judge Patricia Urquiola in her studio in Italy to develop their award-winning design. Here, we chat to one of the winning designers – Josh Carmody – about their journey.

What inspired team Penumbra to enter the competition? What were you hoping to achieve?

We were intent on creating a product and furniture range that responds to the growing demand for flexible landscapes and collaborative work environments in the workplace.

With a team consisting of three interior designers and an architect – all of whom have worked extensively in Woods Bagot’s workplace sector – we were able draw inspiration from a shifting workplace culture that we have become accustomed to responding to and striving for in our work.

In addition to our respective interiors and architecture careers, each team member comes from different creative backgrounds. Sue is an Interior Designer, with a background in sculpture. Jess is a Workplace Interior Designer with a background in Millinery. Brittany is a Workplace Interior Designer and craftsperson; and I myself am an Architect, while also running my own studio, designing and making furniture and other products.

These differences in our perspectives, matched with our overlapping workplace architectural and interiors experience was a great advantage from the outset.

Can you give a brief outline of the project you submitted?

Looking at the brief from our various perspectives, we quickly noted that many products we consider to be fundamental to a collaborative workspace, do not seem to exist in any discernible range by a particular designer or supplier.

At this point we zeroed in on the important functional requirements for collaboration in an increasingly agile workplace and designed a range of furniture to facilitate flexible and responsive working environments.

In early 2016 I had designed and made two large standing height tables for Woods Bagot’s Melbourne Studio. As a result, I had paid particular interest to the rapid change in work practices that emerged with the arrival of these two tables. With no prompting, many people in the studio began holding their meetings around these tables, and other people began using these tables for marking up drawings. Previously these tasks would happen seated in meeting rooms and at desks.

Needless to say, tables of various working heights became a major focus of the range and equally important are the furniture products that support these working surfaces and breakout spaces, such as lighting, and visual or acoustic screening, all of which are addressed in different products within the range.

Since announcing your success what has happened and what’s left to happen?

So far, three workshops have taken place, one in Melbourne, one in Milan and one in Shanghai. Prototyping is underway with the product launch planned for March 2017.

Workshop #1 in Woods Bagot’s Melbourne Studio was our first opportunity to present the deeper design intent of the Penumbra concepts to David Barrass (Product Marketing Director at Haworth) and Liz Teh (Head of Design at Haworth).

This was also the first chance to speak directly with of one of the judges (David Barrass) to find out what it was about Penumbra the resonated with him. At this point in time, Penumbra was in the fledgling stages of the design process and moving forward it was crucial to ensure that every idea, function and layer of this rather ambitious range, were communicated to Haworth.

Over the course of the two-day workshop, the entire Penumbra range was reviewed by Haworth and the Penumbra design team together. Everything designed up to that point was interrogated – from the broader functional and conceptual intentions, right through to the materiality, manufacturing intent, and fixing details we envisaged. By the end of the two-day workshop we had revised number of ideas – and began honing on the overall scale and dimensions of each piece in the range.

But for workshop #2, Haworth flew us to Milan to workshop Penumbra range with Patricia Urquiola and her team at Studio Urquiola. We were all eager to hear Patricia’s thoughts on Penumbra and after presenting an overview of the range to Patricia and her team, we got straight to work.

Patricia and her team at Studio Urquiola engaged with us and our Penumbra range with the confidence and decisiveness one would expect – while also having respect and curiosity about what we were trying to achieve.

A number of revisions had taken shape during the workshop – all of them positive developments. Patricia pointed out that there were some symbolisms within the range that we could let go of without hindering our original design intentions.

This change was a major breakthrough, lifting a layer of complexity from the range – allowing each product the space and presence they each deserve, while also simplifying the user experience. By the end of the workshop, we had a clear direction in which to develop the range and zero in on the final products.

Workshop #3 saw us travel to Shanghai to visit the Haworth factory and view the first Penumbra prototypes, this was an opportunity to see the machinery Haworth has access to in-house, and in turn gain a deeper understanding of how Penumbra would be manufactured.

At this more advanced stage of the design process, Haworth had prepared the first 1:1 prototypes for the team to review. It was great to see the ideas taking shape before our eyes and get an understanding of the physical presence and usability of each piece.

How do you feel this will benefit Woods Bagot?

Woods Bagot works at across multiple disciplines at varying scales, from urban design, to architecture and interiors. Loose furniture is not a common area of work within Woods Bagot, so this was a great opportunity to apply Woods Bagot’s extensive workplace experience and design practices to furniture design specifically for workplaces.

And you personally?

Well, this opportunity has had a major impact on my career and given me experiences and knowledge I will take forward with me in my own career and furniture design studio.

As an independent furniture designer and maker based in Melbourne – working with larger furniture companies seemed a distant dream. Working with design icons and one of my idols, Patricia Urquiola, in her studio in Milan seemed equally unattainable.

Having both Haworth and Patricia Urquiola take an interest in Penumbra has been an invaluable motivation to me. Standing in Studio Urquiola in Milan and presenting a range of furniture to Patricia Urquiola and her team was a surreal experience and a career highlight to say the least.

How do Patricia’s design processes differ to that of Woods Bagot? Have they changed/informed your approach moving forward at all?

While Studio Urquiola and Woods Bagot both work in architecture and interior disciplines – the major contrast between the studios is product design.

Patricia’s design processes are well known to be quite hands on, with material exploration, model making, detail and form studies as well as prototyping. In my opinion this level of exploration at the smaller product scale translates into all of her work, whether it be architecture or product design.

Patricia was adamant that we trust our instincts and defend the ideas we really believe in. Instincts are such powerful drivers in the design process, and after working with Patricia I am more focused than ever to take notice of my instincts, and decode them to ensure my work reflects my values.

What’s been your rose and thorn of this process?

In all honesty, this experience has been nothing but positive throughout.

The rose was being given the opportunity to fulfil a dream of mine, to travel the world and work with some of the best designers in the world.

This rose had no thorns.

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