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Tag: design

The government’s decision to release 20 empty buildings for start-up businesses at affordable rents has been met with wide debate.

Many praise it for creating more favorable conditions for start-ups in otherwise under-resourced areas[1].  Coupled with the lack of Grade A office space putting increased demand on secondary and tertiary space, and it is a very effective way to create new, cost effective space that gives entrepreneurs a leg-up.

Others consider it a token gesture, an initiative designed to garner column inches rather than improve the climate for small businesses or reduce public spending. The real issue here is that the government’s un-used building portfolio is vast – 20 really is a fraction of its 550 empty buildings.  That’s somewhere in the region of 450,000 sq. ft. of space, costing the taxpayer £70m in empty rates taxes alone.

Although the government intends to increase the number to 300, it has actually missed an early win. Why not start with a more confident target that shows real commitment to small businesses and reassures the taxpayer that one of the many holes in the public purse is being sewn up quickly?

With such demands on the availability of office space, many of these buildings could, with effective office design, fit-out and proper ongoing management, be the answer to established businesses as well as those starting out.  That’s not forgetting other potential uses such as homes for community projects, arts and theatre groups, youth clubs and day centres.  The list goes on.  In resource hungry areas these buildings should be community assets, not reminders of what once was.

Whether or not the government has realised the real potential of its un-used buildings, we’ll just have to wait and see.

UK commercial property leases are getting significantly shorter according to a new report from the British Property Federation and Investment Property Databank (IPD). The survey of 10,000 leasing agreements for commercial, industrial and retail properties showed that average lease lengths fell from 6.2 years to 4.8 years between 2007 and 2011.

This is a trend that will continue for some time, especially for smaller businesses, with over three quarters (78 per cent) of leases to SMEs in 2011 under five years in length and an average lease length of just 4.1 years. The reasons are not hard to find. Occupier demand continues to be weak and for those firms looking for properties it is important to maintain flexible and more short-term arrangements, with landlords keen to oblige them to meet their own liabilities. It is also a sign that occupiers want to plan for change. This means not only working on shorter and more flexible property leases, but also building flexibility into their organisation through the design and management of their workplaces.

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It’s not often the New York Times is interested in office design, so when it does it probably means something important. In a recently published article, it would be reasonable to conclude not only that we increasingly share common working cultures with our friends over the pond but also that we are distracted and annoyed by the same things. Not least by the background din and disturbing sounds made by our colleagues.

Of course we’ve reached this point by different routes. Workers in the UK were never often holed up in the cubicles we associate with offices in the US, but we did have the even more substantial walls of cellular offices to shield us from the racket made by our co-workers. In both countries the problems of poor acoustics and lack of privacy have been exacerbated by the shrinking of workstations as firms take advantage of smaller technology to fit more people into open plan. We can’t help but agree with the people in the article that the solutions are broad ranging. Office design, culture, management and plain old courtesy all have a role to play in dealing with the situation. It’s essential that we do this if we are not to undermine the gains associated with open plan working.

To find out more about office design please click here, call us on 01925 284 000 or email

Augmented reality has really come into the mainstream in recent months with high street furniture retailers using it to ‘try before you buy’. Enabled by the omnipresence of smart phones, this technology is quickly appearing in new sectors and urban planning and interior design is one.

VTT, the Finish research company responsible for this move, uses augmented reality to make digital changes to a physical landscape, allowing users to see how construction or interior efforts will change a space long before the first foundations are dug.

In real time terms, it means you could see the view of the new school development across the road from your doorstep during the planning consultation process or for a director to ‘experience’ his new head office interior before the ink’s even dry on the lease.

In a world obsessed with instant gratification this tool can give us a taste of what’s to come – it removes surprises and gives assurance. We’re all familiar with 3D rendering - buy a new kitchen and you can see how each colour and cupboard design looks until you’ve found the one for you. But augmented reality supersedes this. It digitally overlays 3d design onto real information. It is spatial, showing things at the proper scale and experiential, making things much more realistic than ever before. We can use it to excite investors, wet clients’ appetites, drum up stakeholder support and update on progress.  Its value for architects, urban planners and interior designers is priceless. The question is how quickly we’ll see this become part of our daily working lives.

Mad Men has taken our TV screens by storm and much has been made of the beautiful clothes and authentic styling deployed in the story of the 1960s ad men of Madison Avenue. But the real star of the show is the interiors, rather than the fashions. Viewers are coveting desk lamps, lampshades, plush velvet headboards and sleek office chairs as the period now dubbed mid-century vintage returns to vogue.

Many of the pieces in Don Draper’s office could just as easily be in your lounge at home – a neat summation of the convergence of work and home in design perhaps.

We’re all familiar with the rise of collaborative kitchen-table type spaces and soft furnishing breakout areas reflecting the changes in our working habits and styles today.  But it seems Mad Men may have taken the first step.  Don’s pitch meeting debriefs and copywriting brainstorms take place in low backed sofas, surrounded by dark wood sideboards, large table lamps and drinks cabinets.  A more literal recreation of their homes perhaps, but the premise is the same.  Work and home influencing each other is nothing new at all.

High end interior retailers have been attributing an increase in requests for 60s designer pieces by name, to the success of the show. It appears it’s prompted a design education and promoted a better, more authentic, understanding of the period’s style.  But it raises questions too. How much of this is real or just media hype? Do we have a genuine love of 60’s bold and progressive design, or is it the functional truth of a decade that saw real civil and political change that has made this a hit show?

Maybe the answer doesn’t matter – fashions come and go after all. As season five unfolds, the Don Draper effect looks set to just keep going.

* Image to be found here.

The International Interior Design Association and BMW Group DesignworksUSA have announced the Best of Competition winner for the second annual Global Excellence Awards: Water Chamber in Suzhou designed by Shanghai Lv Yong Zhong Art & Design Co., Ltd. in Shanghai, China. The Global Excellence Awards is an international Interior Design competition honoring the best in Interior Design projects from around the world. The winning entry was selected from 92 international design firms from 32 countries around the globe.

The Best of Competition winner was revealed and all winners were celebrated at a special presentation during Maison&Objet on January 21, 2012 in Paris, France. The 2011 judging panel included Mari Balestrazzi, Senior Vice President of Design at Morgans Hotel Group; Julio Braga, Design Principal at IA Interior Architects; Patrick McEneany, Creative Director of BMW Group DesignworksUSA and Joey Shimoda, IIDA, CEO of Shimoda Design Group.

The judges recognized the sophisticated style and excellent design in the Best of Competition winner. “The project was elegant with restrained solution that weaved together a diverse program into a unified concept,” said Mari Balestrazzi.

See the photos of the winning scheme here.






To coincide with the Government’s Innovation and Research Strategy for Growth, The Design Council have published their own set of facts, figures and practical plans for growth. The purpose of this design plan is to bring the design elements of the Innovation and Research Strategy together in one place and to communicate these as widely as possible across design, industry, government and education. The aim is to provide a useful strategic framework for organisations, institutions and individual businesses with an interest in making design-led innovation happen on the ground.

Design can help organisations transform their performance, from business product innovation, to the commercialisation of science and the delivery of public services. That is why design forms an integral part of the Government’s plans for innovation and growth and features strongly in our Innovation and Research Strategy for Growth. The UK has the potential to succeed globally but to do so we must harness our strengths. Design is undoubtedly an area where we are amongst the best in the world, with potential to do even better.” Rt Hon David Willetts MP, Minister for and Science

For more information, click here Design Council

Six of the UK’s best designers are to be recognised for their outstanding contribution to design and society by becoming Royal Designers for Industry (RDI) at an award ceremony held at the RSA on November 17.

Neville Brody, Margaret Calvert, Andy Cameron, Mary Restieaux, Peter Saville, Michael Wolff, will join a select group of designers who currently hold the RDI. Regarded as the highest honour a designer can receive in the UK an Honorary RDI award will also be given to Canadian designer, Bruce Mau.

“2011 marks the 75th Anniversary of the RSA’s Royal Designer for Industry. As an organisation we are committed to encouraging and rewarding outstanding designers who challenge convention and improve our quality of life,” commented Matthew Taylor, RSA Chief Executive. “The work of these seven individuals is varied but they share a common link of having made a significant benefit to society as well as demonstrating design excellence.”

The title ‘Royal Designer for Industry’ (RDI) was introduced by the RSA in 1936 to honour designers of excellence and promote the important contribution of design in manufacturing and industry.

The RDI award that began as a means by which to enhance the status of designers today remains the highest accolade for designers in the UK and is conferred to those who have shown sustained design excellence, work of aesthetic value and significant benefit to society. Only 200 designers may hold the title at any time.

Since it was introduced, recipients of the honour have included Eric Gill, Gordon Russell, Barnes Wallis, Jonathan Ive, Vivienne Westwood, and Marc Newson. Royal Designers are responsible for designing the Millennium Bridge, the iPod, the Rolls-Royce jet engine, the Harry Potter film sets and the miniskirt among other things.Outside the UK, a limited number of designers are given the award of Honorary Royal Designer for Industry (HonRDI). These include Dieter Rams, Milton Glaser, and Yohji Yamamoto.

Following the announcement of the new Royal Designers, Dinah Casson RDI, exhibition and interior designer and incoming Master of the Faculty of Royal Designers for Industry, will give the annual RDI lecture.

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For a century, Chevrolets won America’s love with their safety, convenience, style and speed — even if sometimes they were clunky, or had problems with rust or their rear suspensions.

Chevy, which lays claim to being the top-selling auto brand of all time, celebrated its 100th birthday last Thursday.

For most of its life, Chevy stayed a fender ahead of the competition by bringing innovations like all-steel bodies, automatic shifting, electric headlamps and power steering to Americans at a low cost.

Chevy also embedded itself in American culture, sometimes changing it by knowing what people wanted to drive before they did. Snappy jingles and slogans dominated radio and television, and bands mentioned Chevys in more than 700 songs. No other automotive brand has come close to the adoration that Chevy won from customers, especially in the 1950s and ’60s

This undated photo provided by General Motors, shows a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Nomad. Featuring a sleek roofline first seen on the 1954 GM Motorama Corvette ìNomadî concept station wagon, the 1955-57 Chevy Nomad put ìdream-carî design into thousands of American driveways. (AP Photo/General Motors)

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The chairman of British Design Innovation (BDI) has made a public appeal for increased collaboration between engineers and Industrial Designers for the greater good of the UK economy.

Gus Desbarats stated that building a stronger knowledge-sharing alliance between Industrial Designers and engineers would establish a “great leap forward” in developing and commercialising new innovations, intellectual property and technology transfer within the UK. “Working together would lead to increased sales, stronger brands and more successful companies.”

BDI believe that greater collaboration between the UK’s world-leading creative design talents in both engineering and Industrial Design can play a significant role in driving forward growth in British companies. The organisation’s appeal follows James Dyson’s call for greater training of engineers and designers and Chancellor George Osborne’s recent announcement of a £195 million investment in engineering and science to position the UK as a world leader.

“Championing UK technology needs to be balanced by the insight that companies like
Apple and BMW have complemented their technological engineering design with significant investment in Industrial Design to become ‘customer experience’ leaders,” Desbarats said, adding that UK Plc needs an industrial strategy that also recognises the critical role of Industrial Designers as experts in the human behaviour which ultimately determines the commercial return on most investments in technological innovation.

“There is a mutual lack of acknowledgement on the part of both the design and engineering industries of what the other contributes to the UK economy,” he said. “Instead, each sector places itself in a separate box, rarely collaborating – and indeed, barely communicating. Collaboration between the two professions would create greater knowledge-sharing, streamline the route to market and ultimately produce more successful world-class products benefiting everybody involved, from concept to end result”d.

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