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What makes great design? MADE and Michelle Ogundehin discuss

What makes great design? MADE and Michelle Ogundehin discuss

Michelle Ogundehin is an internationally recognised authority on interiors. Trained as an architect and formerly Editor-in-Chief of ELLE Decoration UK, as well as a Trustee of the V&A, we tapped into Michelle's expertise to curate the next collection of products from our crowdfunding platform, TalentLAB. Here, she speaks to MADE's Design Director, Ruth Wassermann, on her definition of great design.

Ruth Wassermann, MADE.com's Design Director

So. What does great design mean to you? I thought I'd start with an easy one!


Michelle Ogundehin, interiors expert

I really do subscribe to William Morris's edict: anything you have must be beautiful but also useful. So, great design has to be something you really need, but you go and source the most beautiful version of that. But beautiful according to you, as it's entirely subjective, after all. It can't be beyond either of those two things, because if you don't need it it's entirely pointless in your life.


RW

Or it's art.


MO

Yes! Basically.


RW

I think 'useful' is a key tenet of design, isn't it? You obviously go and see lots of things all over the place. What new products have you seen lately that you've really loved?


MO

Usually that's a really hard question to answer but recently I saw Barber & Osgerby’s 'Lane' tile collection for Mutina.

RW

Oh yes, I've seen that!


MO

I thought it was brilliant. It's a tiling system, based on the colours of London. It's sold as panels in a collage of shades, making it easy for people to do something interesting in their home. They're what I'd call 'quiet' designers. Designing to experiment for themselves, but also things that actually benefit the world at large. I like design with a story, that there's a point to it.


RW

They are great. Every time they do something new, it's quite exciting to see. Is there a common thread with these new designs?


MO

I like things that make me stop and think a little. Things that imply considered choice. Things with a story to them. Not just 'stuff’.


RW

How do you spot good design? How do you define it?


MO

It's the something where you go 'oooh!' and it either looks completely unique, or it's a combination of components you've not seen put in that way before. It resonates with you on an emotional level. Which, when you see tonnes of stuff, becomes more and more rare.

"Great design has to be something you really need, but you go out and source the most beautiful version of that."

RW

Sometimes, you know you’ve never seen it before but it feels like, as soon as you see it, that it’s always existed because it feels very right.


MO

Yes. It’s about proportions as well, isn’t it? And the balance of materials. Hard and soft; dark and light. It’s a combination of many different things.


RW

What attributes do you look for in a new designer?


MO

Motivation, conviction and having worked at their signature. I also love the mavericks, the outliers. The people who do something completely insane. Where equally you think, 'where has that come from?' but you have to marvel at it because it is so unique and bonkers. That can be just as exciting. Because we're all reacting to the same stimuli, but some people seem to be able to go off on some kind of wonky tangent.


RW

Seeing how other people’s brains work is fascinating. How important to you is supporting independent design talent?


MO

It's vital. Young designers or emerging designers are caught in a Catch 22. If they don't get something made, they'll never get anything made. But we need fresh thinking.

RW

And TalentLAB is a good opportunity for that.


MO

It's amazing. TalentLAB gives anyone who has a good, innovative, unique idea the chance to be a designer.


RW

It's really exciting. Plus, we let our customers look at all the ideas and decide. This gives us a different point of view to just the internal one. What current moods are reflected in your curated edit?


MO

When I pulled together the colour palette, I wanted a sense of timelessness, with a top note of fashionability. Pieces that capture the attention for being different, as well as great forever buys that work now, tomorrow and onwards. Underpinned with wood and brass, as both have an intrinsic sense of truth, honesty and authenticity.


RW

Having you involved with this curation has given a completely different slant to it, you've really elevated it.


MO

There's a lovely sculptural sense to some of the pieces. Quite beautiful pieces on their own — just as an object before you even know perhaps what some of them are — which is really important. Because it goes back to having a want and need for these items — but they should also give you pleasure to look at. They make you happy. And that's what we're after.

"TalentLAB gives anyone who has a good, innovative, unique idea the chance to be a designer."

Celebrating the ritual of tea

"When I'm working from home and writing, it's a real ritual for me to make a pot of herbal tea. To honour that with a beautiful pot savours the moment. Plus, the colour is gorgeous!"

Honouring plant power

"It's hard to find really wonderful planters that add to a plant without detracting. This is such a wonderful concept to honour one small plant, I love it."

TalentLAB is MADE.COM’s crowdfunding platform. It’s a place to discover new talent and unique products you won’t find anywhere else. Where upcoming designers can be discovered and get their products MADE.

made.com/talentlab

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