Collaboration with Arper UK Blog article

MA Curating Contemporary Design at Clerkenwell Design Week 2018

Students from MA Curating Contemporary Design, taught at Kingston University and the Design Museum, London, were invited by leading design company, Arper UK, to explore the values ascribed to design installations during Clerkenwell Design Week 2018.

MA Curating Contemporary Design students at the Arper showroom, 23 May 2018

Founded in 1989 as a furniture manufacturing business, Arper is now a global brand with an international design presence. The company’s design ethos is based on the versatility of essential forms. Over time, and after conducting a thorough research on key values in design, their design approach evolved around six core concepts: Balance, Family, Intuition, Light, Colour and Play. Using these as a starting point, we occupied the Bloggers Lounge at the Arper showroom in London during Clerkenwell Design Week (22-24 May 2018) and carried out a series of interviews with visitors to the Lounge. Our aim was to evaluate the significance of these values in the practice of current design professionals.

Answers to our questions revealed that many of these concepts are reflected in designers’ own practices in ways we found unexpected and inspiring - they shape their business but they also reflect a lifestyle and business ethos.


Anna Sjöström Walton, Founder of Chalk & Moss, Brighton, UK

“I have founded my business, Chalk & Moss, on the principle that we as humans need balance in our lives… I wanted to have less distinction between work and life… I see 24 hours a day as balance, rather than ‘there’s my work balance, there’s my home balance.”

“Balance is also about technology in the home. Technology is a great thing, allowing us to achieve such things as working in the Norwegian mountains, but with technological advancements, you also need to think about what is the balance? How do I manage technology in a way that will keep me sane? What do I need to do to keep balance in my life? For me, it is spending time with nature, family, relaxing, going camping. We spend three days a week in our caravan, and four days at home because we need that grounding.”


Representing Naughtone, London

“Being familiar with something. To me when I think of family values it is somewhere that you always feel at home. That’s why I said to ask a child to draw a picture of a chair, it is such a familiar thing to everybody already that you would suddenly feel so familiar and connected to it, so you would feel at home.”


Jayson Gates, Founder of Absolute Resource, Portland, Oregon, US

“My value of design would be playfulness with sophistication, sharpness. We always want to have a good time, so we are always looking to have fun with design because that is what we do day after day, and that is incredibly important - but we also want our design to be sophisticated.”


Representing, Naughtone, London

“I think Arper are really good at using colour, bring different colours together into a family. I think Arper are probably one of the best in doing that. Different products that you wouldn’t necessarily think are from the same family, when they are brought together with the right use of light and colour, they all work together you know that you can pick anything and it will work.”

MA Curating Contemporary Design students at the Arper showroom, 23 May 2018


Alastair Tripp, Designer for Coffey Architects, London

“Design Refinement. Elegance is increasingly hard to find. I think these days between the cost and the needs of the client and the regulations it is very difficult to keep things that are really elegant in a project and I think Arper tends to hit the balance where furniture is durable, it meets the regulations, it meets everything that is a requirement and at the same time is beautiful. I think that not many people do beauty anymore because it is usually bottom-line.”


Jayson Gates, Founder of Absolute Resource, Portland, Oregon, US

“Well that’s a great question, so I would say rather than focusing on specific things, all of the things are important to understand and consider when you are making cultural connection to the design that you want to bring to your project. For me under consideration at looking at a product, that would be probably the second thing that I would look for…The first thing is what kind of relationship I can establish and what is the culture of the company.”

As well as conducting interviews, we visited the entire CDW fair which included visits to showrooms, indoor and outdoor installations as well as events, to see how these design values informed participant’s approaches. We found concepts of Light, Colour and Play to be prominent, along with Balance and Intuition. Colour was evident in the neon pink graphic identity of CDW which helped visitors to navigate their way across the fair. This was further emphasized by Lou Corio Randall’s ‘Pipe Line’ pieces formed from a single continuous curved line of steel tube. Graduating from Kingston University with a BA in product and furniture design in 2017, the eye-catching bike racks and benches formed part of his graduate collection. At CDW they were located at various points around the fair and painted in CDW’s signature pink hue.

We observed how many of the installations incorporated Colour and Play. ‘Behind Closed Doors’ by Hakwood in collaboration with Shape, London, located at the entrance of Spa Field, presented a miniature streetscape that drew inspiration from the Dutch home of Hakwood as well as Shape’s South East London Design Studio. Each house featured a small door revealing a series of miniature interiors designed by architects from Shape’s Dragon Fly Place Collective. The decorative houses were clad with Hakwood wall tiles and each house had its own unique pattern and colour palette, demonstrating that any interior is an open door for creative inspiration. Colebrook Bosson Saunders at 20 Clerkenwell Green ran a series of hands-on workshops aimed to inspire visitors to learn a new skill. Emma Block, a multidisciplinary illustrator, encouraged participants to learn watercolour techniques and experiment with colour, with everyone participating taking away with them a hand-painted piece of artwork.

Our research at CDW, undertaken through interviews, visits and conversations,highlighted the relevance of Arper’s core values not only to design, but also to an individual’s lifestyle choices. Answers also revealed that Texture and Tactility are essential components in design. Many of our conversations focused on the close link between design and lifestyle and we noted that wellbeing was often mentioned as a key outcome.

Related course

MA Curating Contemporary Design

The collaboration between Kingston University and the Design Museum has grown into one of the world’s foremost MA programmes for design curators. The programme offers students the opportunity to curate live projects and build their own professional profiles.