The nominees for this year’s Design of the Year Award were announced by the Design Museum last week, so for this weekend's Phaidon Muse Music playlist on Spotify and iTunes we thought we’d take the opportunity to talk to last year’s winner, Samuel Wilkinson, to find out a bit about the music that has inspired his designs over the years.
Wilkinson won the prize (beating over 90 other entries) for his low-energy light-bulb, Plumen 001. The two elegantly intertwining swirls that form Plumen 001 revolutionised the look of the low-energy bulb, previously often a somewhat clumsy-looking and aesthetically displeasing object. It's as good for the environment as it is for the eye, using 80% less energy and lasting eight times longer than a traditional incandescent bulb. "The Plumen lightbulb is a good example of the ordinary thing done extraordinarily well” said Stephen Bayley, last year’s head juror. Bayley was joined on the panel by renowned art and design curator Janice Blackburn OBE and novelist Will Self.
Samuel Wilkinson’s commitment and enthusiasm to designing interesting objects is apparent in his work, always looking to add a fresh dynamic approach in either form or function. Biome, is a miniature garden in a glass bowl whose climate conditions, water level and nutrients are controlled via an iPhone or iPad app. Low energy lighting replicates sunlight while the temperature is controlled via the app. Wilkinson has referred to it as a "live Tamagotchi", saying, "The idea promotes digital downtime by finding an alternative use for smartphones and encouraging their owners to consider a slower life. The control and nurturing of a real mini eco system takes patience and care, contrasting with the immediacy of messaging or tweeting that is so characteristic of the smartphone generation."
"The music I listen to in the studio depends on the nature of the work that is going on at the time. I have two specific styles. One playlist consists of tracks that inspire. Beautiful and reflective music that stirs emotion without being too distracting. When I'm conceptualising a design I will listen to these slower and more evocative tracks by bands such as Sigur Ros, Cinematic Orchestra or maybe something a bit more classical. At the other end of the scale my playlist includes uptempo tracks that energise me and help me pick up the work pace especially when there is a project deadline. I DJ’d for a few years when I was younger which heavily influenced my taste for electro and funk."
Little Dragon Twice - Yukimi Nagano has a pure and gravity-defying vocal accompanied by simple piano. It is quite stripped back but incredibly atmospheric. This is the type of track that helps inspire to push a design further. When trying to finesse the final shape for the Plumen 001 I would listen to this as it reflected the purity of form that I was trying to achieve.
Beirut Vagabond - I have only just got into Beirut but they have become one of my favourite current bands. The production is timeless and each song has so much character. The album is great for playing loud in the studio.
Maximum Balloon Tiger - Killer bassline with some funky guitar lines thrown in. Maximum Balloon are interesting because their sound is a bit of a mixture. This has a distinctive New York electro punk sound. This is great for when making models. The last time I listened to it a lot we were making a few early prototypes for a new design that launches this month at Maison&Objet, the Hoof lounge tables for Danish manufacturer &Tradition. Really gets you moving while still keeping focussed.
Justice Vs Simian We Are Your Friends - Unmistakable French electro sound that is one of the best tracks to get you dancing. There has been so much great electro out of France, from classic Daft Punk and Air to more recently Justice and M83. It's a track that reminds me of many great festival moments.
Cinematic Orchestra featuring Patrick Watson Build A Home - If I could ever design something that had anywhere near the beauty of this tune it would be amazing! It’s so simple but so powerful. Patrick Watson's voice combined with drifting piano moves me every time, whether happy or sad.
Sigur Ros Heysatan - Another paired back track that plays with the silence as much as the sound. This, like Build A Home, takes you on a journey of reflection. I saw Sigur Ros at the Montreux Jazz Festival a couple of years ago and it was one of the most inspiring gigs I have ever been too. They were amazing!
Don’t Joke With A Hungry Man Quantic/Spanky Wilson - Quantic have so much great music. The man behind Quantic is producer musician DJ William Holland. Each album he creates has a new sound as he searches around the world for new inspiring musicians to work with. Always fresh.
The Free Association Sugarman- This seriously slick, downtempo big beat track comes from producer David Holmes. He has created a lot of fantastic music over the years as well as a few brilliant soundtracks. The perfect for track for a Sunday morning.
LCD Sound System Someone Great - What a great track. Powerful, emotive, and very special. The bassline of this is so good live. I listened to this album a lot during the final stages of L’arbre de Flonville. We had a lot of late nights to finish details so it was a perfect companion!
Massive Attack Teardrop - I get bored of some music by overplaying it, hence my playlist all being fairly recent, but this track is timeless. It has an ethereal beauty which can only be described as epic. It gives you that ‘in a movie feel’ especially when I'm travelling and listening to it on headphones.
You can also listen to these creatives' Phaidon playlists:
Michele Howarth Rashman
Edmund de Waal
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