Ending up with a nice piece of furniture that you’ve made yourself is pretty satisfactory.
But there’s more to worry about than just cutting the joints or polishing up the finish.
Sometimes the hardest part is choosing what to build. And often it’s easier to come up with something from scratch than trawl through plans that are available, hoping to find something that perfectly meets your needs.
I’m not much of a woodworker myself (though I’m certainly happy to give it a go).
My role’s all the rest of the business & the video making, and at the core to everything I do I’d say is my background in design.
What first drew me to design was making things pretty. Combining colours, creating patterns, beautiful artworks etc. These things have excited me since I was a kid. But once I got old enough to take my training seriously, I realised that design went so much beyond surface decoration, and it’s actually the more practical side of things that really gets my interest flowing.
Everything we see around us owes its successes (and failings) to a process of design. It doesn’t matter if it’s an item of furniture, a huge feat of engineering, or a piece of software you use to organise your calender.
Everything is brought to life by some kind of design process.
It’s not uncommon for people to say they can’t design. They don’t know how to, or don’t have the right eye.
It’s also not that uncommon for it to be considered blind luck when some things are successful.
I think both of those just dismiss the importance of the first stage in the process though. Prior to design there has to be a vision. And design seems a whole lot less mysterious if we look at it as the steps taken to bring a vision to reality. The stronger that vision is, the more the steps will write themselves.
If you combine your vision with any known restrictions or fixed elements, then you have your guidelines to get you through the process.
Your restrictions could be your skill level, the space available for the piece of furniture, and maybe you want to use timber that you already have at hand.
That all gives you a pretty good starting point, but it still leaves a whole lot of possibilities.
Choice and options are the biggest stallers when it comes to design. In fact they are the perfect excuse for procrastination for just about anything! Too many possibilities can feel more disruptive than having no options at all. And that’s where the power of vision comes in.
An inspiration or spark of thought that says, ‘I want it to have this nifty feature or a specific feel’. Once that idea is defined and you really commit to it, then you’ll run through the design process and not even know how you did it.
A strong vision doesn’t mean you know what the outcome will be. It’s more that you’re choosing the flavour for your piece. If you want to build a bookshelf and know the rough dimensions that’s one thing, but it’s still a blank canvas. But if you say, I want to build a bookshelf and want it to have a sense of an olde fashioned apothecary, with distinct little pigeon holes that offer order and give intrigue. Now you have a direction for your design.
A vision won’t replace the need to follow through a design process, but it will always make the steps feel more natural and obvious.
Over the years Richard has developed his own approach to designing furniture. It’s certainly not the methods you’d find in any text book, but is based very much on practical understanding of the craft, and often overcomes complexities in a very satisfying and elegant way.
I know which ones are going to come out well, because he’s excited and really clear about what he’s going for at that initial ‘vision’ stage.
In our latest series, the design transformed quite distinctly during prototyping. The initial concept became realised in a stronger and more original way, by doing an overhaul of the approach to hanging a drawer. The solution was one long narrow drawer, suspended from above (rather than sat on runners). It gives a very sleek appearance and storage which is perhaps better suited to our modern needs of stashing a laptop or tablet.
Design tends to be an ongoing process, and now the concept has been brought to life, there’s a few tweaks and other ideas that Richard would like to explore based from this.
The series is now complete and we’ve included the prototyping as a chapter at the beginning, along with a lot of the thought processes throughout as the design comes together.
If you’re eager to take a look at this one, now’s a good time because the introductory price will be increasing next week.
You can find full details here.