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Kin and Folk: PearsonLloyd on their latest collaboration with Allermuir

We speak to Luke Pearson about the studio’s approach to design, and the process behind their latest collaboration with Allermuir.

29/04/2020 5 min read
Teaming up once again with global furniture brand Allermuir, design studio PearsonLloyd has created Kin and Folk – two furniture families inspired by nature.
Tell us more about the inspiration behind Kin and Folk – how did research drive these projects?

We have had a long relationship with Allermuir and Senator, so we started these projects with insight driven by need and opportunity.

Folk was driven by the observation that glued timber chairs don’t travel well as glue is unpredictable. Assembled chairs are also space hungry which has obvious environmental implications as well as not being cost effective to ship. We wanted to build a great café chair that was mainly wood but that could be shipped unassembled right to the final destination. The potential savings in storage and shipping impact are huge if you can do this. The decision to make Folk flat pack also created the opportunity to mix materials so we have a plastic and ply version for seat and back rest as well as an upholstered version. The chair can be assembled in 1.5 minutes and also quickly taken apart if anything gets broken which makes the chair very repairable. It’s a humble but very sensible product.

 

Kin was quite a different project. We have done a lot of high investment plastic moldings over the years and grown to love using this very precious resource. Plastic has a bad rap presently but the reality of using plastic for long-life high-quality furniture is poles apart from fast moving consumer goods or packaging. It is very energy efficient to produce and can be recycled effectively, which we must do.

Through market research we observed that many poor-quality products are driven by fashion and style and really lack good engineering and good ergonomics. We tasked ourselves to design, originally, an arm and a side chair of the very highest ergonomic comfort, using the least amount of material but built to last and still of broad appeal; by this we mean elegant but not flashy or temporary in feel.  We combined our deep understanding of how plastic really works with a longstanding pursuit of good ergonomics to lead to the fluid form language.

The two are synergistic. Our intention was to ensure many parts would be shared such as frames and as confidence in the two original family members developed, we realised the tub and stool were logical additions to the family.  We used recycled aluminium, which can literally be reused again and again, below the shells and leg structures and we experimented to find the optimum form for the star base in terms of minimal material. The base’s section, a tear drop triangle and steep angle were reduced to the maximum which means although it satisfies all the strength tests, the material content is remarkably small.

The reality is there simply isn’t that much recycled material, so we have to ensure we use what we do responsibly, making products for the long term not the short term.

Furniture design is an important part of your practice, including working with some of the best-known brands in the world – from Knoll, Steelcase, Modus and Allermuir. What was your design process behind Kin and Folk – is it similar when designing for different brands?

 We are lucky that we develop briefs with all our clients as a collaborative process these days. The process with Allermuir is not so different to other companies on that front. They are fast and light footed like many small companies but also have a lot of great capabilities and skills you only find in far bigger companies. It’s a nice combination for a designer and we feel part of the family.

Kin has become one of the most successful products for Allermuir ever – why do you think this is?

I think in a classical way it’s a good product. Very carefully designed, well-engineered and well-priced. It’s very well produced, and the quality speaks for itself. We have huge compliments for the colours, and we spent a long time developing that range from scratch which again, is quite an investment.

 

What themes drive your working/approach to design? Have these changed as the industry has changed over the past 20 years?

As PearsonLloyd has matured as a practice our interests have developed and we are increasingly interested in why people do things and how to develop new models rather than simply make more products. There are projects we have done which we would not do again because our views have now changed. This only demonstrates how we have progressed and how we continue to learn and challenge ourselves which is the real driving theme and force for us.

In the past twenty years we have witnessed incredible change in the workplace, with the last five being the most accelerated. This coming year, with Coronavirus, will promote even more radical change and test so many models of behaviour.

We will all have to adapt, and this will promote great creativity. It will bring our worries about consumerism to the forefront, particularly the quest for new rather than better and the nonchalance about waste. Economic growth can no longer be the sole ambition, the goal posts have changed, and we all have to assess our activity, from the individual to the corporate. We must realise the world is not that big, it’s finite, and it is not ours alone.

You work across a broad and diverse spectrum – how do you successfully work across such different projects?

Repeating the same types of projects tends to promote incremental changes even if there are improvements. Sometimes knowing too much in one area, and focusing only there, stops you asking rather obvious questions or gaining fresh perspective. By working in different sectors, we have had to develop methodologies for testing out ideas themselves. Our process of thinking and enquiry is often similar across the spectrum despite resulting in very different outcomes, it’s the application of this thinking that changes depending on the territory.

In your opinion, what are the key issues – challenges, opportunities – facing the industry?

To imagine we can continue to produce in the same way we have done so over the last 20 years. We have to make less, better and less often. This is mostly in opposition to the standard business model.

We are entering a new phase of humanity in many ways. This reality check is vital and hopefully not too late. The model we have all worked to is not the only model. Most of the things we do are choices. We can make different choices.

As we address these difficult topics it will in turn create new business, opportunities, careers etc. Change is continual.

 

 

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