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Why Excellence Matters

Design Guild Mark - May 1, 2019 - 0 comments

2D category judge Clare Johnston is emeritus professor at the Royal College of Art and a textile designer for fashion and interiors. She talks about why excellence matters.

The pursuit of excellence is so deeply entrenched in the process of design. It is a driving force that pushes the designer to continually stretch their skills, reaching further in their practice, while knowing that their own critical judgement will rarely give the feeling of excellence attained. There is always another challenge and room to improve.

The Design Mark Guild is an award for excellence in the design of furnishings in volume production. Last year I was honoured to be invited to be part of the expert judging panel for the launch of the 2D category for textiles, wallcoverings, surfaces, carpets, floor coverings and fabrics.

As judges, we are guided to distinguish the excellent from the ordinary. This distinction gives rise to challenging questions for the nominees and leads to an open and lively debate between the judges from which we can all learn and benefit.

The speed of change and development in technology, materials and markets make this a complex, exciting and very challenging time for both design and the manufacturing industry.

Designers need to consider so many aspects beyond making their best possible product. The provenance and sustainability of materials and make, the relevance, value and needs of the customer, are all as important as ever but with the addition of increasingly complicated and competitive routes for marketing and selling.

This hugely demanding landscape necessitates the extension of designers’ core skills and, even more interestingly, can often encourage the reach out for more collaborative and interdisciplinary ways of working, which has the potential to facilitate greater experimentation and invention.

During the process of design, it is exciting when risks and experiments result in a breakthrough, showing the designer an unintended or surprising result. This is certainly not a time for designers or the industry to be complacent, but then design as a pursuit is anything but complacent, it is restless, inquisitive and wonderfully obsessive.

This article is an abridged version of one that appears in The Furniture Makers’ Company’s yearbook, Austin Friar. The full version can be viewed here.

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