Top 10: Ethical design gift guide

By Penny Craswell

Design isn’t just about aesthetics, and to prove it, this ethical gift guide lists a few of the many designers and brands now donating to charity or committed to ethical practices. So, read on, this is your chance to give back this holiday season – not just to families and friends, but also to those in need.

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The Pretty Fly pin by Annie Hamilton. Photo: supplied


1. Increasingly, community-minded makers and sellers are donating a portion of their profits to charities. Sydney-based multi-disciplinary designer Annie Hamilton donates 10% of sales from her pins and art prints to the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre to help support and empower people seeking asylum in Australia. With a focus on insects and patterns inspired by plants, including the Pretty Fly enamel pin set consisting of venus fly trap and matching fly, Hamilton’s work also includes clothing and scarves, made locally and ethically in Sydney by a small team of makers in Redfern. Read more

Iittala relaunches in Australia

By Penny Craswell

The popularity of Finnish design brand Iittala in Australia might not have come as a surprise to International Brand Manager of Iittala Siru Nori during her recent trip to Australia to rerelease the brand. But the ubiquity of Iittala glassware – in particular classic designs such as the Ultima Thule from the 1960s – and the number of collectors that the brand has here might have been less expected.

Iittala X Issey Miyake. Image: supplied
Iittala X Issey Miyake. Image: supplied

Perhaps the enduring power of Iittala is due to its timelessness – many of these collectibles look just as good now as they did when they were first released. The Alvar Aalto Vase is a perfect example of this, retaining its relevance thanks to its sculptural, architectural form without dipping in and out of fashion as so many other pieces do. Originally designed in 1936, this vase is mouth blown in Iittala’s Finnish factory where it takes seven people to make one vase. Read more

Studio profile: Industrial designer Andrew Simpson of Vert

By Penny Craswell

Visiting his studio in Sydney, Andrew Simpson’s approach to design is instantly made clear. His studio and design house, called Vert, is packed full of prototypes, design objects and machines. As well as being a place where the design team gets on with their computer-based design work, the space is full of objects at every stage of making.

The VM Case being hand finished by Andrew Simpson of Vert. Photo: supplied
The VM Case being hand finished by Andrew Simpson of Vert. Photo: supplied

This is emblematic of Andrew’s approach to design. He wants to know how things are made, and to improve on that process himself by making something new, by “experimenting at the process edge of making” as he phrases it. Read more

Interview with Rolf Hay at HAY Sydney store

By Penny Craswell

Rolf Hay visited Australia at the end of January to open the new HAY Sydney store with retail partner Cult. Here is my interview with Rolf Hay on communicating design, the pros and cons of storytelling and what sets Danish design apart.

Penny Craswell: I’m interested in your approach to communicating design, because I’m writing my Masters in Design on design narratives at the moment.

Rolf Hay: To be honest we have always tried to be quite straightforward with communication. I’ve always had problems in wrapping products into stories. Storytelling is interesting if it’s relevant, the question is what is the important information. It’s different when it comes to communication of the brand and the values of the brand. But for products, we try to do as little as possible.

Reception with marble counter, HAY Sydney store
Reception with marble counter, HAY Sydney store

PC: I’m interested in which stories are told about products – and I have been quite critical of the celebrity designer angle.

RH: I totally agree. I think in the fashion industry and the furniture and design industry, a lot of people perhaps feel a little bit insecure in the fancy salons. The design industry has a reputation for being arrogant and hard to get. This has to do with an overload of information and stories behind how fantastic the company is, and how amazing the products are. For us, it’s important when we meet our clients that we meet them with an open and honest attitude. And of course it has been very important that we meet the client with a lot of knowledge about the product – about materials, about production, about environmental issues. For the client it’s less important if the designer had an idea to do this chair when he was at the beach or on the toilet. Read more