Posted Monday 27 February 2017
Designers have an increasingly important role to play in society by helping find creative solutions to issues affecting our communities, according to the new course director of Kingston University's Product and Furniture Design MA.
Sebastian Bergne highlighted the impact design professionals were having on shaping the modern world, either by creating more responsible and thoughtful products and services but also by applying their skills to areas traditionally reserved for politicians and community leaders.
"Being resourceful and creative people, I don't see it as unreasonable that designers could get involved with politics and solving problems within a country's infrastructure, examining how communities work or how to help industry to find intelligent product solutions," he said. "I want to help students discover how to operate in a way that feels right for them and studying an MA is a great way of taking your thinking to the next level and learning how to find your own creative space."
The leading British industrial designer takes up his position at the helm of Kingston University's Product and Furniture Design MA following his time as a visiting professor at The Royal College of Art and previously at the Free University of Bolzano and University of San Marino.
Renowned for his human approach to design, Mr Bergne has worked with a varied range of brands such as De Beers, Moulinex and Procter and Gamble in a diverse and influential career. As well as collecting more than 40 design awards, his work is included in the permanent collections at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Design Museum in London.
Following his graduation from the Royal College of Art, the influential designer founded his studio in 1990 and quickly made an impression with a unique acid etching manufacturing process which produced a distinctive, award-winning stainless steel lampshade. "The product's inception was very much in line with the ‘thinking through making' ethos that informs the work taking place at Kingston University's Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture." Mr Berge said. "I manufactured a product that had a niche, was useful, and the production costs enabled me to sell it at an attractive price - it was the equivalent of my first hit single."
Recent high profile projects include a bespoke device to produce ice cream at Heston Blumenthal's restaurant Dinner, a cordless and bagless vacuum cleaner for Moulinex and a fully functioning greenhouse constructed from 100,000 LEGO bricks.
Mr Bergne told how he was attracted to projects that challenge him to take a different approach to the design process. "I recently worked on a project for the first European Games in Baku - the brief was to produce a torch and lamp that reflected the games' values and Azerbaijani culture," he said. "Next to some of my other work you might wonder if the same person designed these items. The brief inspired me to produce something very different that allowed the local context of the project to come through."
This positive attitude is something he would encourage his students to foster. "My advice would be to take any opportunity you're given and make the best of it," he explained. "Small opportunities become big opportunities - they are steps on the ladder of success. If a client is happy about a small job you've done for them they will tell people, word of mouth is very important."
Phillip Davies, head of the 3D design department in the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, said that Mr Bergne's knowledge, experience and industry connections would be an invaluable asset for students studying the Product and Furniture Design MA course.
"Designers interpret the world and as an experienced curator and design-thinker, Sebastian's observations, insights and connections will be crucial in the development of our practice-based masters course," he said. "This appointment places Kingston University at the forefront of the design agenda, allowing us to share our expertise with a global audience of design professionals."