Michael MarriottProduct + Furniture Designer (1963-)
Design Museum Collection
As a product designer and a curator, MICHAEL MARRIOTT (1963-) explores the influence of objects, and the way they are constructed, on our daily lives. His goal is to design “truly modern objects” through “the honest and appropriate use of material, process and function”.
When Michael Marriott was a child, one of his favourite weekly television programmes featured glimpses of life on factory production lines by filming the process in which different objects were manufactured and packaged. “What intrigued me about this spectacle was the opportunity to understand how foreign objects came into being, how things were made using technology beyond the garden shed,” he later recalled. “It is this continuing fascination with the manipulation of materials into objects that makes me a designer.”
Born in London in 1963, Marriott studied furniture design first at the London College of Furniture and then the Royal College of Art. After graduating in 1993 he opened his own design studio and started to design furniture and household objects for industrial production and to manufacture himself. Delighting in finding ingenious means of designing and making objects simply and inexpensively, he often incorporates everyday components such as peg boards, wing nuts and plastic buckets into his work, as well as banal materials like plywood.
While continuing to develop furniture and household objects, Marriott has also developed – and articulated – his ideology of design by curating exhibitions at institutions such as the Geffrye Museum and Camden Arts Centre in London. Like his design projects, these curatorial exercises explore his vision of material culture. “I spend a lot of time observing and studying things and the world, analysing objects consciously and unconsciously in terms of material, function, use, misuse, form, colour, texture, finish, fixings, age, patina, junctions of line and material.”
© Design Museum + British Council, 2004
Q. How did you first become interested in design?
A. As a kid I was always interested in how things were made and put together, so that started it.
Q. How has your design education influenced on your subsequent work as a designer?
A. Enormously, in lots of ways, but I’ve learnt as much other stuff outside education.
Q. Which of your early projects were most important in defining your approach to design?
A. The XL1 Kit Chair was my major project whilst studying at the RCA, and as such it focussed my intentions at the time; to design comfortable, affordable, produce-able, friendly, honest, real furniture as opposed to irrelevant prototypes. The Postcard Light was important as my first wholly sub-contracted product. Previously I was more involved in the making process. This meant that I had to design around other ideas such as quality control.
Another important early project was the Croquet shelving. Having completed a few projects with SCP (the London-based furniture manufacturer) this project, whilst being as straight-forward in design and production terms as others, also managed to be a bit deluxe and less idiosyncratic too.
Q. How has your work evolved since then? How have your goals changed?
A. My goals have stayed the same, I think, but my work has become more and more varied. I have ended up doing a lot of work on the periphery of actually designing products and furniture: exhibition design, writing for exhibitions, books and catalogues; designing installations for museums and galleries; teaching; and art directing a kids furniture design project.
Q. How would you describe your approach to design? What are your goals as a designer?
A. Primarily as a problem solver, looking for intelligent, resourceful, and beautiful solutions, that will provide objects with long, rich and satisfying lives. The type of problems I try to solve depend on the project. Designing an installation for Camden Art Centre requires a different approach to designing a sofa for SCP. They are both informed by the same thinking though.
Q. Who or what inspires your work?
A. Life, living, looking, people, things, cinema, music, lots of different designers, architects, artists and other people and thinking. Achille Castiglioni is probably the most obvious inspiration in terms of designers and like most designers I am always inspired by materials.
Q. Which of your design projects have you found most satisfying and why?
A. The current project is always the one that occupies so much of your mind, it's difficult to have a real perspective. But I always enjoy a different challenge, with a new set of issues to engage with.
Q. Which have you found least satisfying and why?
A. Ones that fizzle out due to unclear briefing.
Q. How have your cultural projects as a curator of exhibitions at the Geffrye Museum and Camden Arts Centre influenced your work as a designer?
A. It’s more the other way around; they are all design projects, just different contexts that require different and appropriate responses.
Q. What are the most important challenges facing designers today?
A. To make valid and relevant things.
Q. Will the design historians of the future see this as a positive or negative era for design?
A. Both, there are always some good things, but due to the way the world has changed, there is more of everything, and the good things are often obscured by the bad things.
© Design Museum + British Council, 2004
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