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Interview with Alexander White

Home > Designer Interviews > Alexander White

Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer Alexander White (AW) for A’ Design Awards and Competition. You can access the full profile of Alexander White by clicking here.

Interview with Alexander White at Thursday 3rd of May 2012
Alexander White
FS: Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
AW: Ever since I can remember, I have always been interested in objects and how they are made. As a kid, making was an urge for me. I used to make my own toys, spending more time in my dad's workshop making them than actually using them to play with. Doing an Art and Design foundation course was just the next step for me to pursue my desire to make, then I got the bug. I am still at the early stages of my career but after graduating from '3D Design for Sustainability' at University College Falmouth I had the privilege to co-lead the realisation and fabrication of a 107 square meter oak frame barn in the south west of france as I also have a massive interest in architecture. After that I then applied for an internship with Fred Baier, in Wiltshire, UK which I started in October 2010 and still to this day find myself working for him or using his workshop to produce my own work. Since january 2012 I have also taken on the part time position of 'Design andTechnology' technician at Marlborough College.

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
AW: I haven't as yet got my own studio but I have the freedom and privilege to skip between the two places I work, giving me access to a lot of kit that I otherwise wouldn't have been able to use. At Fred Baier's the machinery is top end but fairly traditional and I get to learn lot from the man him self. At Marlborough College I have access to all the latest kit, including CNC routers and laser cutters.

FS: What is "design" for you?
AW: Design is the medium through which progress and change occurs. For me it is a tool that inspires and shows the world the latest of what is possible, design is always wanting to do better or differently than what has occurred in the past. Design is a fundamental part of human progress, without design we don't have evolution and for me it's just another word for 'thought process'. It challenges preconceptions and broadens everybody's view on what is possible and how it can be achieved.

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
AW: Furniture is the one for me at the moment, it's affordable, manageable in size and I get to explore the things I'm interested in. Out of a lack of funds and less and less free time, I find myself designing and thinking about clever ideas that would enable me to create things cheaply and fairly rapidly, which in turn has it's own aesthetic. I don't design for sustainability like I once did, when I was a college, but the principals are still always lurking in the back of my mind.

FS: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
AW: It has been too good to me so far that I couldn't possibly not mention the very chair that won this Award, The Monroe Chair.

FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
AW: When I was at college I designed a self-supporting coffee table for a kitchen worktop manufacturing company that wanted to reintroduce their wooden offcuts back into their manufacturing process inorder to save money and add a new product to their current collection. What I designed was essentially a wooden triangular component that when slotted into many more of the same component became a self supporting surface to which one only needed to add legs. It was a clever way to reuse a load of smallish bits of wood to create a self supporting surface with a marquetry like pattern to it.

FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
AW: Wood and sheet materials tend to be a favourite of mine but I will use what ever is best appropriate for the job in hand. CNC machinery also seems to be an essential part of my design work.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
AW: When I'm in the zone! And zones come and go...

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
AW: The original concept is important to me, I generally can't justify making something that isn't worthy of existing. Otherwise detailing the design and making sure it is well made are all priorities of mine.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
AW: Fulfilment. It's extremely rewarding when things go well.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
AW: Self-content and pride most of the time, sometimes boredom from having looked at the same piece for way too long!

FS: What makes a design successful?
AW: If it does what it was intended to do, whether that's being comfortable, elegant, both, solve a problem or save the world. But one that is truly successful should amaze and inspire and leave its stamp on culture.

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
AW: My intuition. But more seriously... if it does what it's meant to do, if it looks right, its impact on its audience, price.

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
AW: Their responsibility is to show innovation, push boundaries, change paradigms and behaviours, improve on what has come before, encourage change, impress/influence an audience, emervieller...

FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
AW: Exploring technologies, I believe we've only just scratched the surface of the potential of the latest technology. On a more general note I also believe that design has a crucial part to play in solving the world's problems, through emerging new design disciplines, bringing people and ideas together and making real things happen. It also has the power to trigger shifts in people's consciousness and behaviour, such encouraging change/evolution.

FS: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
AW: October 2011, at Candid Arts Galleries, Islington, London. The next, as soon as possible. I am currently looking at applying for one starting in January 2013. But I ideally need to find another before then.

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
AW: My inspiration can come from anything that I see as interesting. A lot of my influences come from natural, physical or geometrical phenomenas. I like clever things but at this stage I'm still exploring and finding my way.

FS: How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
AW: Contemporary, clever, technology led, nature inspired design is the direction I tend to go down. My approach is to apply interesting things or phenomenas that I research or come across to the work I produce.

FS: Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
AW: I live in Bristol/UK, work in Wiltshire and spend a lot of time in London. I can say that, as yet, cultural heritage has not affected my work but maybe one day it will! The pros of designing in England are countless, from having pretty much everything you need never very far away (small country with lots going on), unlike France where I grew up. A very cultured and openminded audience, a prolific art and design scene, very good design education... The cons are that one has a ridiculous amount of competition and it's not a cheap place to live in times of struggle.

FS: How do you work with companies?
AW: I don't really unless I'm using one to subcontract out.

FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
AW: My design process always starts with an idea, pen and paper follows very quickly so that I can start to envisage the potential of this idea. Most of the time I have no idea of what I'm going to apply it to. When I'm happy with a direction and I'm convinced it's worth pursuing I generally make one or several rough model so that I can start to think about overall looks and how it's going to come together. I then go back to my sketchbook for further detailing. The computer comes next, where I use it to finalise the design or do some more messing around with shapes and colour. When necessary I start playing with the design in CAD, offering me the potential to visualise in 3D several versions of the same idea, which sometimes helps to make decisions. Then maybe a final model is made followed by the construction process.

FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
AW: The sentimental ones, my mug

FS: Can you describe a day in your life?
AW: As a general rule I never start too early as I was probably still at it till late the night before. Often someone gets to the workshop before me, cup of tea and a quick catch up with who ever is around, Matt or Fred and if I'm lucky both! Then I'll pick up from where I left the night before, at the moment I'm half way through the construction stage of a swing seat. Quality over quantity is the general rule in this environment. Till the end of june my days are also split with working as a Design and Technology technician at Marlborough College, where I help the school kids with their design thinking and making, which is also good fun... when I'm in the mood.

FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
AW: I am a young, up and coming designer.

FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
AW: Positive: Creative, always learning, rewarding, exiting, innovative, challenging... Negative: Time consuming, not always well paid.

FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
AW: To have an underlying idea or principle behind your design and to realise it as best you can.

FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
AW: Being able to visualise finished objects in your mind and as much as possible thinking like no other.

FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
AW: I always start with pen and paper, then when necessary photoshop, illustrator or CAD to further visualise the potential of the design. I try not to get too much outside influence so as to create truly unique objects.

FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
AW: Not very well! Being a designer seems to me like it's more of a life style than it is a job. It takes over your life, and one has to love it or leave it!

FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
AW: It all depends on the type of object and its size, anything from a couple of weeks to over a month.

FS: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
AW: What was your inspiration? How did you make it? What's it made from?

FS: What was your most important job experience?
AW: Without a doubt, being Fred Baier's apprentice/assistant!

FS: Who are some of your clients?
AW: As a young designer, my clients are still restricted. However I have made sculptures for Lucy Strachan and assisted Fred Baier on a few of his recent projects. I have also made a couple of bespoke pieces of furniture for a chap named Henry Zarb in London.

FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
AW: All aspects of what I do I enjoy... and that's why I do it! From early stages coming up with the initial concept, through to drawing/CADing it up, all the way to making and exhibiting it. I couldn't do only one aspect of the design process over and over, I need to take part in the whole development or else I get frustrated. Who needs to be frustrated these days???

FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
AW: My plans for the future are to further my thinking. I will be applying to the Royal College of Art in London.

FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
AW: I mainly develop my designs myself, but I have been known to do the occasional collaboration.

FS: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
AW: For my next project I will be making a desk entirely made from interlocking puzzles, making the whole desk one giant puzzle structure, no glue or screws are needed. The overall shape of it will be based on a classic traditional writing desk.

FS: How can people contact you?
AW: white.alexander.w@gmail.com 0044(0)7907539964 www.awhiteworkshop.tumblr.com


FS: Thank you for providing us with this opportunity to interview you.

A’ Design Award and Competitions grants rights to press members and bloggers to use parts of this interview. This interview is provided as it is; DesignPRWire and A' Design Award and Competitions cannot be held responsible for the answers given by participating designers.


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