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Interview with John G Williams

Home > Designer Interviews > John G Williams

Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer John G Williams (JGW) for A’ Design Award and Competition. You can access the full profile of John G Williams by clicking here.

Interview with John G Williams at Wednesday 2nd of May 2018

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?
JGW: My work only began in earnest just over 2 years ago when I was made redundant from my long time employer. I had always been interested in art and design, inspired partly by my father's interest in design technology (he was head of the craft department in a local secondary school). I have worked in wood since my teens, but only recently took it more seriously. I perfected the ZENE design in 2016 and constructed 6 of the dining chairs in 2017.

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
JGW: I work on my own as an independent designer and craftsman. My design studio is a purpose built space at home with a selection of woodworking machines i have built up over the years.

FS: What is "design" for you?
JGW: Design is all about seeing. Seeing the beauty in something. Seeing as en engineer how the form should best support the function. Seeing how the user would interact with the design so that they would be enriched. Seeing how to simplify the ideas to make the outcome as elegant as possible

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
JGW: I love working in wood, and building furniture that is beautiful and useful on a regular basis.

FS: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
JGW: I love the CH33 chair by Hans Wegner. Many of his designs are iconic, and i think this chair is beautiful, simple, elegant. Each aspect has been well thought through, and as a collection they look stunning.

FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
JGW: Hmm. I have not got there yet. I have been designing for my own pleasure so far !

FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
JGW: My favourite material is wood. In particular I love working with indigenous hardwood timbers from Africa, which exhibit an incredible depth and richness in grain and hue. I love the way the finished product also changes over time as it slowly oxidizes.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
JGW: I feel most creative when I have had time to admire other people's work. For example, I loved wandering around the Danish Design Museum which was very inspiring.

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
JGW: Initially I focus on overall form and function. Then I dig deep into the manufacturing process and how I could realize a given design. Then I come back to the aesthetic and see if I can simplify and further strengthen the design.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
JGW: Totally absorbed. Focused. Satisfied

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
JGW: When the design 'pops', you finish a piece and think ' yes that's actually good' - that's the fun part

FS: What makes a design successful?
JGW: I think if other people instantly recognize it as beautiful, and something they want to engage with to understand it, and see how well it works for them

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
JGW: Overall aesthetic and engineering logic

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
JGW: To leave the space in a better place than when you started - upgraded, not downgraded

FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
JGW: I think design is benefiting from increasing professionalism and technology, so that craftsmanship can push new boundaries

FS: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
JGW: This is my first exhibition

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
JGW: My inspiration comes from other designers (eg Danish Modern), and from nature - I love forest walks and see a lot of possibilities or analogies in the natural world.

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?
JGW: My design attempts to get to the essential; to be as simple as possible; and highlight the beauty in the materials used

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?
JGW: I live in Johannesburg in South Africa where we have lived for over 20 years. I think on the downside, there is quite an emphasis on 'country' style wooden furniture with limited design content so I tend to look elsewhere for design ideas. But on the upside, the intrinsic beauty of indigenous timbers is amazing and the range of colours and textures is huge

FS: How do you work with companies?
JGW: I have yet to collaborate with a production house but I would love to commercialize my design(s)

FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
JGW: A bit early for me to say

FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
JGW: I have an idea. Do some rough sketches. Move quickly to prototyping in pine wood. Figure out where the real technical challenges are. Focus in on those and see if I can properly design for manufacture the most challenging aspect of the design. Then cycle back to fine tune the overall dimensions, aesthetics and ergonomics. This often involves a number of loops.

FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
JGW: 1. Leather sofa 2. Alto Saxophone 3. Our home itself which I designed 4. Occasional table 5. ZENE

FS: Can you describe a day in your life?
JGW: It's very varied at the moment. I have just recently completed launching my latest music album - I play soprano sax and this has kept me very busy

FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
JGW: Again a bit early for me to say perhaps. Maybe be true to yourself; stay honest; go after what you really admire

FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
JGW: Designing is great fun; makes a difference; impacts people. You are not always understood. Or properly remunerated for your contribution

FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
JGW: Keep it simple

FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
JGW: Craftsmanship. The ability to conceptualize the manufacturing process and how that should impact the design itself. The ability to understand the use requirements (ergonomics etc) and how design can directly address the core needs

FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
JGW: A rather blunt 2B pencil and lots of scrap paper.An A4 hardback book to record all the important ideas; shapes; dimensionsAnd my regular workshop tools for prototyping

FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
JGW: I generally start, and then keep going until I am finished.

FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
JGW: Depends. ZENE was refined over a long period (over a year)

FS: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
JGW: How did you construct the complicated parts of your design?

FS: What was your most important job experience?
JGW: Getting helpful and encouraging feedback from other designers

FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
JGW: Refining a design that you already think is great, to turn it into something you are truly proud of

FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
JGW: Depends on how some of my early work is received. I would love to purse this avenue - I have ideas for other furniture projects

FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
JGW: I tend to design as a one man team, but with inputs at different points such as from my father.

FS: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
JGW: No. I have some ideas but nothing that I can really discuss yet

FS: How can people contact you?
JGW: I am contactable on email: johngriffithwillams@gmail.com

FS: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
JGW: no thanks


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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