1. You work as a journalist and design reporter for Dezeen magazine. From this privileged vantage point, what are the macro-trends that characterise the world of design today?
I’d say that the biggest current trends in design are the shift towards using sustainable, raw or vegan materials as opposed to materials such as plastics or leathers that have a really negative impact on our climate. When huge brands such as Stella McCartney and Adidas are using materials like mycelium leather or recycled ocean plastic for high-end accessories you know the trend is here to stay.
2. One of the themes that I am increasingly questioning as creative director concerns the virtual dimension of design. I am thinking, for example, of the metaverse. How is the world of design becoming “virtualised”?
Last year proved that design’s foray into the metaverse has well and truly started and I don’t think we’ll turn back. In the digital world, there’s so much room for creativity which is fertile ground for the quest for newness – something which is so central to design. I also believe that the metaverse has opened up the design world by flattening hierarchies, in the same way that the internet social media platforms such as Instagram have done in the past. Designers from all pockets of the globe without ‘traditional’ art educations have sprung up and begun selling really successful NFTs which has completely upended traditional markets.
3. You lived and worked in Berlin for a period of your life before returning to London. From Berlin, how did you see London?
Moving to Berlin really opened up my eyes to just how diverse, multicultural and international London is. Growing up in London is a blessing and a curse – everywhere else seems a lot more constrained in comparison! It also made me realise the drive and the creativity that comes out of London is second to none. Berlin has a much slower pace of life which is great for your mental health but I really missed the hustling attitude that Londoners have.
4. In your work you often meet young designers. What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing a new generation of talent? What priorities should you give yourself?
In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing young designers today are still the same challenges that designers faced a decade or even two decades ago: barriers to access and participation, especially for designers from minority backgrounds and limited government funding, especially in arts education.
5. One of the topics you frequently address in your articles concerns social battles in the world of design, such as skin colour. Some people, such as Mac Collins, have declared that they do not want to be defined as “black designers”, while others believe that this communicative “force” can at least help to raise such an urgent issue. What is your point of view? What is the state of the design world with regard to ethnic inclusivity?
I believe that I have a duty and responsibility as a Black woman to have these conversations and to write publicly about racial inequlaity within design, especially when I have the opportunity to platform underrepresented voices on one of the world’s most widely read architecture and design sites.Obviously there’s still a long way to go to make design more inclusive however in the years since I’ve been writing about design I’ve noticed that change is slowly happening – for e.g. more designers of colours are becoming household names, design education is becoming less whitewashed and the global south has a thriving design scene that is growing faster than I can keep up.
7. One of the aspects I love most about our work as journalists is that we are able to connect disparate but totally intertwined affairs. I’m thinking of the links between fashion and architecture (AMO‘s catwalks for Prada), environmental activism and product design (Lego bricks made of recycled plastic), healthcare and industrial design (even pregnancy tests are designed by someone)… What is one facet of design that, looking back, has struck you?
I don’t really see design as separate from other fields – I think its beauty lies in the fact that it intersects with so many far-reaching fields. I’d go so far as to say it transcends any definition. The designers who I appreciate the most are almost chameleon-like in their ability to push boundaries between what people might think design is. The other day I wrote about a prosthetic arm that has been developed to be controlled by the human mind and I think that’s such an interesting space. It reminded me of the huge potential design has to impact real people.
8. You are one of the members of the MM Award Jury. From a journalist’s point of view, what do you look for from the contestants?
The same thing I look for in the projects I write about: something that hasn’t been seen before, something that provides a solution to an existing problem or something that demonstrates real craft and commitment. Something that takes us all forward! I’m really curious to see what comes from all the submissions.
9. What is an object in your house that you would never give up? What is the memory attached to it? Can you send us a photo taken by you?
I’m actually in the middle of moving house at the moment and so a lot of my belongings are in boxes/ in different locations which has made this task pretty difficult. If I had it with me, I would have taken a photo of all my pointe shoes! I trained as a ballet dancer until I was 17 and used to go through about a pair a month, so you can imagine how many shoes there are. Ballet was and still is such an integral part of my life and the shoes are a reminder of all my time spent dancing in them.