technical excellence

In very general terms, the designer understanding the materials they are working with and understanding the strengths and the limitations of the production methods and using and exploiting that knowledge to realise their design can be seen as the technical part of the design process.

Unfortunately, technology is often, but not always, seen as the opposite of crafting by hand. 

In reality, of course, ceramics, with the use of glazes and kilns for firing, and the making of glass and of course looms for weaving, lathes for turning wood, machines for cutting veneer and so on are all examples where the technology that enables mass production has been established for centuries and also exist at both a craft level and on an industrial scale. This forms obvious and important links between the making of one-off pieces and multiple commercial production.

So the design and commercial manufacture of items may involve aspects of these older and well-established technologies along with the latest technologies including of course CAD but also the development of new materials, new developments such as LED lighting and new techniques of production such as the potential use of 3D printing.

What I am trying to say, in a slightly awkward and stilted way, is that craftsmen, producing one-off, high-quality pieces can and do use and exploit rapidly changing technologies on their own terms and designers, producing designs on a commercial scale, can and should take from the best craftsmen, their understanding of craft skills and, from the very best craftsmen, their quality control.

For me, there were three exhibitors at northmodern whose work showed exceptional understanding and exceptional use of technology and in slightly different ways. I would go as far as to say that these products are technically brilliant … and that is meant in both ways that the word brilliant is used in English: brilliant in the sense of highly intelligent but also as a superlative.

Ole Palsby Design

Mikkel and Caroline Palsby established Ole Palsby Design to continue to produce work designed by their father who died in 2010.

Just released, the first products are a range of cutlery with two finishes, ICHE Matte, a plain steel cutlery with a matte finish and ICHE Titanium with a coating to the steel that gives the cutlery an amazing dark grey lustre. For each finish there are three sizes of knife, four sizes of fork, including a pastry fork, and eight sizes and shapes of spoon including spoons for dinner, lunch, and for soup, a child’s or dessert spoon, a long spoon, pastry spoon, teaspoon and espresso spoon.



The design was finished by Ole Palsby shortly before his death and the first prototype was made by the Japanese craftsman Kazonosuke Ohizumi.

The reasons for this collaboration are clear. Japan has a well established craft and industrial tradition for making steel blades for kitchen knives and weapons that goes back over a thousand years and modern Japanese craftsmen have almost unmatched expertise in forging steel and resolving technical issues with the flexibility of the piece, the finish and the cutting edge. So Ole Palsby Designs are using well-established experience and and highly developed specialist skills in the design and manufacturing process to produce cutlery of the highest quality.

As with his designs for the Eva Trio range of saucepans, here with the cutlery, Ole Palsby did not choose shapes or forms with the simple intention of being novel for novelties sake but he analyses the way cooking pans and, in this case, cutlery are made and how the items are used … whereas some designers want to develop and take forward current forms my feeling is that Palsby himself was more curious to backtrack down a route of development and think about what might have evolved as the accepted and normal if slightly different decisions had been made at each point of the evolution of a shape or form or method of construction or manufacture.

Here, with the cutlery, you can see that the balance of the pieces has been changed and the modifications are particularly clear in the angle of the bowl of the spoons which is different and the forks are shorter than in many designs and have a bowl shape rather than having long thin closely-spaced tines … so they can be used for holding food in place on the plate while it is cut or used for scooping up food but not for impaling food.

Ole Palsby Design


Oscar Peet and Sophie Mensen of the studio OSOOS in Eindhoven are graduates of the Design Academy in Eindhoven. Their Mono light uses thin elegant LED tube lights with a sleeve that can be twisted round to shield or direct the light. Light tubes are linked by section of soft grey tube - soft in colour but also soft in feel and flexibility so that they bend to form a relatively tight arc. The light tubes are of three different lengths and a line of light tubes is fixed to the power source at one end but can be set at different angles and moved from a horizontal to a vertical alignment and anchored at the free end by using either simple round brackets fixed to the wall or the end of the tube can be dropped into a heavy marble ring that is set down on the floor and acts as an anchor. The lighting can be swung into a new configuration if it is wanted in a different part of the room or moved to change the level and mood of the lighting in the space.

Eindhoven, an industrial city in the south of the Netherlands, is the headquarters of Philips and therefore has attracted a number of specialists - experts and independent technology companies - focusing on the development of glass including companies such as FEI who are specialists in optics.

Design is also very important in the city - it hosts the Dutch Design Week and according to Wikipedia, in 2003 Time Magazine called the Design Academy Eindhoven “The School of Cool” although I can't decide if the students from the academy should see that as a great accolade or now rather ... well ... uncool. The important point is, however, that the city has a major international manufacturer and a major school of design and has attracted technical expertise and designers to their mutual benefit. 


Overgaard & Dyrman

A longer review/assessment of the wire and leather chair from Jasper Overgaard and Christian Dyrman will be published on this site in the next week or so but here what I want to emphasise is that the design combines a very very high quality of finish with a very clear command of the technical aspects of production. 


The upholstery in leather combines saddle leather on the outer side - to maintain the shape - and traditional upholstery leather for comfort on the side of the cushions that you sit on or lean against. That sounds simple but involves considerable skill in production … and meant understanding and mastering difficult traditional craft skills of the saddle maker. The chair would not be anywhere near as good if this quality of work was compromised. We tend to associate the words technical and technology with the here, now and current but that is doing a grave dis-service to the amazing technical skills we have inherited such as leather processing, saddle making or metal working and of course technical knowledge in such industries as weaving, glass making and ceramics.

The complex overall 3D shape of this chair is created with wires bent in 2D so not only the shape but the overall quality of the finished piece depends on how precisely these are made working from computer generated templates as each piece is different. And, of course, what is crucial is how accurately these pieces are joined together to form the basket shape. Again any compromise in technical quality would not only be obvious but would undermine the credibility and the integrity of the product. At this level of design and production Overgaard and Dryman are selling un-compromised quality combined with technical excellence.

Overgaard & Dyrman