Taking a human-centred approach to design, Henry Wilson considers the lifecycle of an object from a human point of view.
October 6th, 2016
Henry Wilson established his multi-disciplinary design practice Henry Wilson Studio in 2012, producing furniture, lighting and objects. Based in a light and airy design studio in Darlinghurst, Sydney, Wilson has a collection of objects on the wall that not only provide inspiration, but also reflect his own attitude to design. “Little machines do things well and are a great source of inspiration,”Wilson explains. “Their shapes are crafted by actions, which gives this incredibly honest result.” Indeed,Wilson’s work too is characterised by honesty and resolution, shaped by material, utility and use.
Wilson’s design practice has a solid grounding in education from some of the world’s best institutions. He graduated from the Australian National University (ANU) School of Art with a major in furniture woodwork; spent one year at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD); and did a two-year masters degree at Design Academy Eindhoven. “It was a very formative two years. I learnt a lot about the European design world and made good connections and it inspired me to come back here and do something different,” he says.
Wilson came back to Australia not only with the drive to establish his own studio, but also with a design philosophy very much informed by his studies in the Netherlands. “That’s something the Dutch are very strong on. They challenge you to find a voice of your own that you can then rely on to make decisions through your practice,” he explains.
This voice takes a very human-centred approach to design, while still satisfying Henry’s passion for making objects characterised by utility, durability and appropriateness. “Thinking about the lifecycle of an object from a really human point of view – the person who has to make it, the person who has to distribute it, the person who lives with it for a certain period of time, and the person who may have to eventually recycle it – became an overarching philosophy of making things that are considered, honest and long lasting,” saysWilson.
One such product is the A-Joint series, which firmly establishedWilson’s presence not only in the Australian design world, but also on the international landscape. It is a range of wooden stools, tables and benches that can be configured with the A-Joint – a utilitarian joinery system cast out of bronze or aluminium. The joint not only eliminates dry joinery, screws and glue, but also resolves a number of design, distribution and sustainability issues: it can be reused if style or requirements change; frame components can be made locally around the world; and users and specifiers can customize their own design changing the material, dimensions or components of the frame.
The A-Joint has lead to a further range of sand-casted products for the home, sparked by Henry’s interest in pushing sand casting beyond its industrial uses. He began with a reversible tray, appropriately named Vide Poche (French for ‘emptying your pockets’), and has since added hooks, trays, bookends and most recently a gunmetal-bronze wall sconce to the collection. “For me there’s beauty in those materials that have life and lustre of their own,”Wilson says. “It’s about creating things that will wear with people.
Wilson not only designs for himself, but also works with architects and designers, creating furniture and products for Aesop and Google, for example, as well as participating in exhibitions, such as a charity project for Cult, and ten-year anniversary celebration for Australian fashion label Basic. But whether it’s for himself or for clients, Henry’s approach to design stays strong. “I’m always thinking about the person who’s going to be using the object and what they will feel when they use it,”Wilson says.
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