BODW, Day 1 – Marc Newson

Fellow Australian expat Marc Newson is definitely a force to be reckoned with on the international design scene. His work on a wide range of projects – from watches and cars to furniture and interiors – for companies all over the globe has brought his designs fame and the man himself many awards and accolades, including a place on Time Magazine’s “Top 100 most influential people in the world today” list. The hour-long presentation that I attended this morning gave us a privileged look into Newson’s work – past, present, and future – as well as some of his influences and methods.

Training in jewellery design rather than industrial design has given Newson more of an artist’s education than most of his contemporaries. Initially, working with his hands to realise his designs was born of necessity – it was the only way to get his designs into production. However, learning how to make the products he designed and the materials he wanted to use was an informative process for Newson and has influenced his career to this day, removing ties to any one particular material and lending a willingness to experiment with innovative techniques. In fact, Newson stressed repeatedly during the presentation the importance of young and upcoming designers learning how to make the items they are designing, and of understanding the materials they are working with (I agree with this ethos entirely), and spoke at length of the heavy influence of three things: technology, materials, and processes, on his work. To me, his fascination and respect for these factors are clearly evident in his body of work.

Physical production wasn’t the only part of Newson’s work born of necessity; he also explained that his desire and inspiration for most of his product design resulted from his lack of options. His design for a Japanese mobile phone for KDD (see above photo of Marc with said product), for example, sprang from him literally not being able to find a phone on the market that he wanted to buy, and his consequent frustration as a consumer at his lack of choice.

As for the future, Newson is already spending sixty percent of his time working on projects for the aviation industry (partly due to being appointed creative director at Qantas, the national Australian airline). His fascination for transportation design, particularly aeroplanes, he says has been mostly influenced by the need as an Australian to spend so much time traveling by air to get anywhere. (I can certainly identify with that!) With a few other trial projects and conceptual work for aeroplanes and other means of transportation (one being a passenger ‘space plane’), his work in this industry shows no signs of abating.

And Newson certainly should know something about travel: he moved to Tokyo after completing university, remaining there for four years until moving on to Paris, where he set up Marc Newson Limited. The company is now based in London, his home for the last ten years. And, despite having lived outside of his native Sydney for two decades, Newson still has a touch of the Aussie twang to his accent, much to my delight!

I’m looking forward to seeing what Marc Newson’s talents hold in store for us – even though the thought of space travel frightens the life out of me!

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