New talent: product designers
It's all About the Approach chair by Andrew Watts.
With so many people choosing to study and hopefully forge a career in the creative arts, it can be a real challenge for talent to get noticed, especially in the relatively small sector of product design.
Some product designers, frustrated by a lack of employment opportunities, set up independent design studios or tinker around with prototypes in their spare time. It's often a costly and difficult way to get new designs to the marketplace.
Thankfully there are some amazing opportunities to fast track a fledgling design project. The annual Launch Pad competition and mentoring program is one of them.
Celebrating its 10th year, Launch Pad unearths new talent from across Australia. Entrants submit designs for consideration to a judging panel. A shortlist is compiled, from which a smaller group is invited to attend mentored workshops. Ultimately one design is selected to be developed and produced for retail exposure. This year the competition attracted 151 entries, of which 54 were shortlisted and 11 finalists chosen.
"Launch Pad is a great barometer of emerging trends in Australian product design," says Gavin Harris, senior associate of interior design and architectural studio Futurespace and one of six judges for Launch Pad. "This competition allows new designers to showcase their ability, to present a product to a wider audience, including peers, retailers and manufacturers, and to have a chance to see their design made commercially available."
The winning design is promoted through Living Edge, a company well-versed in distributing iconic design, from Marc Newson to Ray and Charles Eames, throughout Australia. "But even being shortlisted for Launch Pad is an opportunity to network, create new relationships as well as share ideas," says Harris.
For example, this year's finalists, who submitted a range of work in lighting, furniture and tableware, will meet face-to-face with the movers and shakers of Australian design in workshops set up in Sydney and Melbourne. There they'll be offered advice on how to develop a creative business, market their brand and products, find retailers and, perhaps most significantly, connect with manufacturers.
This is why Harris says programs such as Launch Pad are so important. "It's a real opportunity for emerging designers to understand all of the issues involved in being a product designer and to pick the brains of those who've led the way."
The winner of last year's Launch Pad was Andy Grigor from Sydney. His design, called 'Glide', is an LED pendant light inspired by a set of flying ducks.
"The prize was a $10,000 grant to further develop 'Glide' with the aim of bringing it into production," says Grigor. "The exposure introduced me to a number of contacts in the industry I would not have otherwise met."
Paul Townsin also knows the value of Launch Pad's industry introductions, having been a finalist last year with a children's coat rack. This year he's made the finals cut again with 'Me & Me Too' lamps, a floor and desk lamp made from steel and cast concrete and constructed by Townsin in his South Australian workshop.
"I am super excited and grateful to have made it to the next level again this year," says Townsin. "Furniture and product design in Australia is a tough industry to get started in and Launch Pad offers the opportunity to gain much needed exposure and access to people who have been there."
Another finalist is Andrew Watts, a recent graduate from The Australian National University in Canberra. His lounge chair, titled 'It's All About The Approach', is made from oak, felt and plastic.
Watts believes competitions such as Launch Pad and various other design festivals and events in our major cities are generating a groundswell of support from the general public. "They allow up-and-coming designers the chance to show off their work. It's a very exciting time for Australian design," says Watts, who hopes for representation by the UK's Habitat, Herman Miller from the US and the Swiss powerhouse Vitra. "Dream big!" he says.
Update: Edward Wong won Launch Pad for his design, Ella Table Lamp.
2013 Launch Pad Finalist Exhibition will be on display at Galleria, at the Australian Technology Park in Eveleigh from 15-17 August. It is part of the new city-wide Sydney Indesign event.
For more information on Sydney Indesign, visit sydneyindesign.com.au