A good few years ago we were fortunate enough to be invited to the Wembley home/studio of Red or Dead founders and influential designers Wayne and Gerardine Hemingway. We’ve been wracking our brains to recall whether we met the couple’s then infant children that day.
Over a decade later we’ve come to Clerkenwell’s über cool Zetter Townhouse to (once again?) meet with Jack and Tilly Hemingway – to chat about the next generation’s influence on the family business, HemingwayDesign.
The firm has come a long way in that time, moving away from the world of fashion and into the wider design spectrum, as a mere glimpse at the website will confirm. ‘We design things. As a multi-disciplinary team, our diverse and high-profile client list reflects the strength of talent behind the young creative team of urban designers, planners, product and graphic designers. Over 30 years’ experience has seen us collaborate with the likes of Sainsbury’s, John Lewis, Coca-Cola, The National Trust, B&Q, eBay, Southbank Centre and Royal Mail, to name a few.’
Now, led by Jack and Tilly, HemingwayDesign has collaborated with renowned flooring company Forbo Flooring Systems to create an innovative, exciting and cohesive new approach to the design of flooring materials.
We begin by recalling our visit to Wembley all those years back. ‘It must have been a long time ago,’ Jack grins. ‘It used to be the family home but that’s now on the south coast. It’s changed a lot since then.’
“We don’t necessarily have a house style – we talk about whether we should…”
We ask the pair to tell us more about the HemingwayDesign of today. ‘We are multidisciplinary, so we have designers who have come from a fashion background, designers who have an architectural background and people from an illustrative background,’ Jack explains. ‘I think that gives us a base to be able to work in all these different sectors and also, as creative people with ideas who have good taste – which we do – and are good designers – which we are – then there’s no reason why we can’t work across all these sectors. That’s one of our key strengths and was key to this new project for Forbo – we used our creative and illustrative strengths to create a canvas on the floor, to create a graphic design by utilising existing products and reimagining them and laying them down in different ways. The core of our business is regeneration and urban design, but product design often comes hand-in-hand with our other work.
‘We don’t necessarily have a house style – we talk about whether we should, but then we don’t want to become the same as everyone else. We like to be a little shocking!’
Jack tells us that HemingwayDesign has something of a history with flooring, having designed products for a leading carpet manufacturer and a rubber flooring company in the past. ‘We’ve also worked with other interior products, such as wallpaper for Graham & Brown and furniture for G-Plan,’ Jack adds.
We move on to talk about the aforementioned new collaboration, HemingwayDesign X Forbo. This is a forward thinking reinvention of Forbo’s products into various distinctive, graphic compendiums of fun designs, inspirational for all sectors.
‘We first met with Forbo three years ago,’ Tilly recalls. ‘We had done a rebrand for Unite Students – the student accommodation provider – to start with it was just the branding and identity. We gave them a fresh logo and look.’
‘It was quite easy to confuse them with the trade union at the time and their identity wasn’t right for them and what they did,’ Jack continues. ‘That then filtered through to the design of the communal spaces, the reception areas and the external areas. As part of that we started to specify new products – and a lot of Unite’s properties are quite old. On a very small budget we looked to add light-touch enhancements and this involved specifying the floor – which is how we met Forbo.
‘We worked with their existing products to create something bespoke for Unite,’ Tilly explains. ‘We used Westbond carpet tiles – within that brand there is a palette of primary colours and we used these to create a kind of graphic carpet pattern that reflected the Unite Students’ brand colour palette and incorporated elements of the graphic devide we had developed as part of the rebrand. We wanted to create a flexible colour palette within the identity.
‘We ending up using the Westbond carpet, Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) Allura wood and Marmoleum – so we used different materials to create something quite bespoke with our own stamp on it.’
Having worked in fields ranging from urban regeneration through to bespoke chinaware, flooring design must sit nicely in the middle in terms of scale?
‘Yeah, it does,’ Tilly considers. ‘Because we have worked in so many different areas it did feel a very natural process. We went through quite a long process of testing with Forbo to get the colours right and to see how they wear with the printed products. I think we went through five samples before we found the right pink, for example.’
‘One of the biggest challenges was working on the pattern repeat. That was quite difficult because there are some pretty complex patterns.’
‘It was quite difficult to get the alignment spot on,’ Jack adds. ‘It took a real understanding of the manufacturing process before we really got to the results we were looking for.
“There was really no brief at all. We just said, ‘We like your product, we like you, can we have a go?”
‘There was really no brief at all. We just said, ‘We like your product, we like you, can we have a go?’ They said yes – they looked at our work and then sat down to work out what could work and what ideas our design team had for the project. We didn’t consider colours or patterns, we thought about the floor first and how we could utilise the existing materials – it all came from there really.’
As Jack said a little earlier, HemingwayDesign X Forbo plays with pattern and shape, placing an emphasis on the floor as a surface for graphic art and geometric design. The result is eight stunning and carefully considered design options encompassing Tessera carpet tiles, bespoke vinyl, Marmoleum and Forbo’s flocked Flotex. Additionally, there is an exciting bespoke design service by HemingwayDesign – the brilliantly titled Marmolaid – which offers a variety of colour and aesthetic options.
Mid Century Weave – a subtly flecked carpet tile – has a timeless Modernist aesthetic, bringing the sophistication of upholstery and textile fabric to flooring. Available in three complementary colours: Sunbeam Yellow, Lagoon Blue and Dawn Grey that all work beautifully together in an array of original combinations for use in a wide variety of interior spaces.
Snakes and Ladders, Lizards and Ladders and The Slide all use elements from the Marmoleum Modular Shade collection. The designs feature oversized geometric graphic grids using cool and warm greys, monochromatic and rusty orange shades. The tiles are available in up to four different sizes.
Meanwhile, the extent of Forbo’s digital printing capabilities has led to an exciting set of designs available across digitally printed Flotex and vinyl sheet products. Hopscotch, a hand painted monochrome checkerboard recreated as printed flooring; Fresh Cut Graph, a subtle yet striking cut up grid graphic repeat – ‘Op Art’ for the floor; Mix & Match, a selection of bold geometric graphic patterns printed in pastel tones and HemingwayDesign’s exclusive take on a traditional herringbone parquet floor, Hemingbone, complete the inventive collection.
Before we take our leave, dad himself – Wayne Hemingway MBE – joins us. Although Jack and Tilly led the project with Forbo, this was very much a team effort – and that includes the client. We’ll leave the final words to Wayne. ‘The great thing about Forbo is that the team clearly embrace new ideas – plus there are so many different options in terms of flooring and materials to experiment with. Hopefully this collection pushes floor design in a different direction and people will see something in this that they haven’t seen in recent times.’