Rado: Future Now

By Jo Phillips

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Our world is a better place for design. But what makes design move forward? Usually its about technology being implemented into materials. If the raw materials are improved then the attributes can be better utilised. Think of a simple example of Lycra in the 80′s. It revolutionised not just the clothes designed that were able to be made (figure-hugging dresses that sat literally on the skin) but also how we approached the very way we dressed, seeing say far more ‘sports’ inspired clothing in everyday items. This was pure technology; where technology meets materials meets design. These are the things that truly change our everyday lives


Design: it’s a word built on imagination and originality; a word not restricted to its basic form as creativity, but it builds upon an individual’s mind to create something original and brilliant. Design is the author and the author is design; there is a mastermind or source behind all designs and ideas. One of these authors of design and originality is RADO, a Swiss watchmaker who like a brand champions design, materials, technology and celebrates this with the RADO Star Prize. It is held around the world, from Spain, the United Kingdom to Taiwan, and Hong Kong, discovering design and creativity in all corners of the world.


RADO has earned its claim to originality and design in its hundred-year history. They are very much known as the leaders in watch manufacturing from the materials they use, pushing the boundaries within the craft, and encouraging others to follow. The annual prize is highly thought of and always throws up groundbreaking thinking from new young and most of all exciting talent.


Judges Winner: David Knowles – Coffee Table


David Knowles GC18 is a table-based design inspired by Giant’s Causeway, capturing its unusual structure of hexagonal columns but boasts an extra-terrestrial twist. The naturally formed Giant’s Causeway already looks extra-terrestrial on its own but adds a dash of black to it and you get GC18. The GC18 is a “statement piece for a home” as Knowles calls it, being a combination of sculpture and functional furniture. There is no other furniture that can accompany it either; it stands on its own and will stand out among all other items in your home. One thing for sure is that GC18 is original and bold that expresses itself with a design that will be familiar with most people. Although it is something you can’t quite pin to what it reminds you off, it needs little explanation as you will find the answer by just thinking about it


‘The piece is inspired by the Giant’s Causeway, and the idea behind it was capturing the essence of the place, after being there and being inspired, to bring that into a piece of furniture. It’s a mix between sculpture and a functional piece of furniture, so it’s a statement piece for a home. It’s created from cast jesmonite, which is an acrylic-based resin. Each hexagon is cast individually, and the spacing between them is meant to amplify the individuality of each component’.


Heleen Sintobin, The Tartufo Collection – Stool and Bench


When you observe the stool and bench of the Tartufo collection, you may describe it is as simple and attractive. It does not boast an array of colours and does not try to stand out among the rest. Yet, it is the craft behind its design that makes The Tartufo Collection interesting. Sintobin has used a vegetable-tanned leather that has a natural process of tanning leather. A mixture of vinegar and steel wool call vinegaroon is also used that reacts with the leather for that classic aged look. Sintobin explains how “Leather is a very natural product, so literally, every piece will turn out differently” and thus each item is unique despite being made in the same way. Her collection is very much like wine; time will play a part in developing its quality and appreciation. RADO’s runner-up is a design that changes over time and therefore is an ever-evolving piece of creativity that continues to impress as time goes by.


What I’ve used here is vegetable tanned leather, which is a natural way of tanning leather – you also have the chrome tan which is used in the fashion industry as a quicker process but this one takes three weeks. So they use tannin which is around the barks of trees and the tannin reacts with the vinegaroon. Vinegaroon is a mixture of vinegar and steel wool: the steel wool starts to rust and the rust reacts intrinsically with the leather. In the middle ages, this technique was used to colour the leather black but I also played with the in-between colours – playing with different concentrations, different timings, and that’s how I got this range of colours. Leather is a very natural product, so literally every piece will turn out differently. As a second part of the project, I’m also looking into a new way of upholstering – there are grooves in the seat and I calculate the right ratio of leather to fit the grooves, so it’s purely the tension of the leather you see here. It’s softer than you’d think and it will soften up through use and time. Normally upholstery is just foam and then a tiny bit of leather but I think leather is such a nice material I want to celebrate it – so I used a thick one and then played with the proportions.

Heleen Sintobin


Georgina Heighton, Kel Lamp


Children don’t need a reason to play so why should adults?

– Asks Georgina Heighton having designed the Kel Lamp. Taking inspiration from her father.


Heighton wanted to figure out what would be an exciting way to interact with an object. With age, our interaction with objects changes drastically over time. When you were a child, toys were the pride of your life, but when becoming an adult, playing with toys appears to be the luxury of being young (excluding collectors of course). Heighton wanted to play with this idea; throwing things; pulling stuff; and just trying to develop her design in a more hands-on creative way. Her design is built on this exploration, using Oak as the main material with rods peering through the lamp to give it a warm embrace of light that is bright but gentle. Heighton’s father will surely be impressed that her design came as a runner up; and with that said, where are my childhood toys!


I designed it because Kel is the name of my dad and he’s quite a serious man but then around Christmas time if you give him a pack of cards and some magic tricks he’ll become a child again. I wanted to prompt that part of him again, and it was also because I’m a really hyper person, so I thought that to throw myself into a project I’m going to have to really love it and enjoy it. The designing and development of this were fun because I was basically just trying to figure out what would be a nice interaction with an object. I was throwing things, rolling stuff around, pulling at things – it was really fun actually!


It’s a bit of a crossover between art and a functional lamp: the idea is that if it were to be placed in a room it’d be a warm central point. I used oak because I knew that after a few coats of varnish it would go a nice warm colour, especially with the added orange detailing. The light itself isn’t a harsh white light because I wanted it to be bold but also quite soft on the eyes. I love art installations and interactive installations so that was also a big part of it.


Chloe Duran Stone, BO’OY


Chloe Duran Stone presents an object that isn’t simply just an object. The typical house owner will flood their homes with ornaments, pictures, and other items to make their house more presentable. The issue, however, that Stone tries to address with her entry to RADO, is that we often overlook these items; sometimes we even forget they are there and are nothing more than still ornaments. But Stone’s sculptural shelf unit that is inspired by Mexican Luis Barrágan will change in composition depending on the light source, angle, time, and position. Of course, there are many items in this world that can do an array of things; but Stone’s design has emotion and more importantly, in her words, makes us “more aware of our surroundings and the object itself”. Since finding young designers and talent around the world is endless it is fitting that Stone’s entry to the competition changes its own design depending on the environment – a design that keeps on designing.


As an Interior Architect and designer my interest consists of exploring the experiences and emotions that space and furniture can evoke in those who use it. Through the exploration of light, colours, and materials such as acrylic, it is possible to incorporate unexpected and unconventional elements that can change the ambience of space as well as our experience within it. Sáas is a sculptural shelf unit inspired on the geometric forms and layers found in buildings of architects such as Mexican Luis Barragán. It can be arranged in endless compositions and will constantly change depending on the light source, angle, time, and position in space making us more aware of our surroundings and the object itself.


Levon Lim, Spin – Desktop / Table with Shelving


Buying or having a typical desk for the home office never looks very exciting. They have the same look, same style, and the same table-look with additional draws. Why do designers have to make the same design with a couple of little reinventions here and there?


RADO has surfaced a young mind who has designed a desktop table with a twist – literally. It features flexible furniture that allows it to accommodate small spaces. Levon Lim’s aim was to create a product that would “inspire a sense of ownership among users” as it is entirely unique and developed by exploring the “products utility and simplicity of assembly”. No more of them hard-to-read instructions and the annoyance of getting it right. The Spin furniture is a design that suits everyone with its users feeling a stronger sense of ownership over this unique piece.


Lewis Small, Wilf Lamp


The Wilf Lamp is a simple design that on the first impression might seem like lighting used for a film studio. It utilises the latest advances in battery and LED technology and despite its tall structure, it can be conveniently carried and moved away wherever you go. Lewis Small is giving us a lamp that does more – a trend it seems among all RADO finalists. Instead of being a typical lamp, Lewis Small wants you to engage with it and interact with its technology and its functions. Small might be a finalist to the RADO competition, but maybe from now on Lamps will have more of a character in our homes.


‘Utilising recent improvements in battery and led technology, this is an exploration of a novel product type—a lightweight, portable, free-standing task lamp. The counterbalanced adjustment mechanism invites interaction and enables you to relax or work wherever you like, without compromising on the quality of light. The little brother of the Wilf floor lamp, this is a similarly portable, desk-based task lamp with 12 hours of battery life and finished in pastel blue. The counterbalanced mechanism enables a vast range of positions.’


There were 10 finalists in total so here is a summary of the rest of them:


James Mosely’s A.P.I is an item that takes inspiration from a well-known issue that affects how people respond to the change of season. When it is sunny, we feel lifted by its association with happiness; but when it is winter or when grey skies appear over us, we are brought down to its sad connotations – or in some cases the opposite. Mosely takes Season Affective Disorder and plants it into his product, incorporating the endless and often spontaneous nature of light by using body through motion, focusing on its aesthetics. The lighting product’s time changes at one revolution per day, appearing blue at 8:00 AM and red at 9:00 PM and therefore, like other designs in this article, is a design that keeps on designing


Aaron Mitchell: LIFE AND WORK USB STICKS It would seem the typical USB stick can be useful for data storage, but also as an attractive personal item that goes beyond its own basic functionality. A USB stick never needed to be a simple device; it is simple in its use, but we never consider its appearance being of any importance even though it may hold our most valuable documents and files. Aaron Mitchell makes a functionally important item of our everyday lives into something that is functional, but attractive, combining pewter and walnut that focuses on its user’s needs. With two USB’s that can separate and join together for convenience, Mitchell’s USB sticks separate your personal files from your work files, conveniently attached as one item so you never lose grip on either of them. Work and personal items are the functions of the everyman and everywoman, and the USB is an attractive item that takes its own superior functionality in everyday life a step further by bridging your work and personal life whilst keeping a solid grip on both.


Scott Ridgway: THE MAGE CABINET The East meets West, and the West meets East. That is essentially what Scott Ridgway’s The Mage Cabinet is, championing Japanese and whisky culture. History and time have gradually contributed to either part of the world, an everlasting contribution to each other with an item that takes two halves of a relationship by bringing them together. Its eastern influence is observed in its craft called Magewappa; a traditional Japanese method of bending cedarwood to create boxes and has been applied here to make the Mage Cabinet’s top-half structure. The western influence of the cabinet comes is brought about from its material; oak, a traditionally British choice in hard furniture, solidifies this already strong piece inspired by history and tradition. Perhaps it is time to open up a bottle of whisky ourselves to celebrate a world built upon each eastern and western influences – two worlds colliding together for the common good.


People’s Winner: Martina Taranto, The Limescale Project – Pipe Moulds


When you think of limescale, you are reminded of that one thing that occurs in your home that you ultimately despise and are challenged to rid of. But Martina Taranto wants you to think differently about this problem of limescale. The Limescale Project takes what is associated as a problem and turns it into something usable and functional whilst saying no to this eclectic world of industrialisation and production for the masses. By turning a problem into a usable positive, it shows problems are not problems, but rather, solutions to new ideas. Her limescale project harnesses this naturally occurring phenomenon featured in a selection of items and presents how limescale can be a solution to the hydraulic system and beyond that. It is not limited to fixing or improving upon one area but should be utilised in other ways also. And why not? It’s natural!


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