Tom Dixon, On Finding Creativity From Unexpected Places

Art & Design

January 24, 2017 | BY Leanne Mirandilla

From tables, candles, fragramces to pendant lamps, British designer Tom Dixon has designed all these and more. He shares more about the evolution of his eponymous brand and the importance of new experiences in informing the creative process.

Tom Dixon’s unusual journey to becoming a design giant is a well-known story.

Completely self-taught, he welded his first pieces of furniture using found objects. In the mid-1980s, he created the iconic S chair for Italian brand Cappellini, catapulting him to fame. After serving as creative director of Habitat for a decade, he founded his eponymous brand in 2002.

Known for creating singular designs with a palpable industrial aesthetic, Dixon’s designs—specifically his lighting pieces—have graced many spaces, often serving as the focal point.

Naturally, his practice has expanded to include an interior design and architecture arm, Design Research Studio, which has created distinctive spaces across the globe including Jamie Oliver’s Barbecoa restaurant in London and McCann Worldgroup’s offices in New York.

Your brand has been expanding quite rapidly. Which region do you plan to conquer next?
Tom Dixon We are committing more and more to Asia in general, with our expanded office in Hong Kong, new partnerships in Korea and a store in Japan. We are thrilled with the speed at which projects get decided upon and built in Asia.

How do you ensure that you always have new and fresh ideas?
TD Everybody is different and needs varying levels of stimuli. I’ve learnt a lot from other creative businesses I was involved in and was able to transfer that experience into design. I think doing it on your own can be a useful way of having a unique point of view, which is increasingly important in the modern world. I also try to put myself in unexpected situations so that I can refresh myself. Working as a perfumier for our range of scents, for instance, was a thrilling adventure that would have had a completely different outcome if I had been conventionally trained.

You’ve created everything from tables to candles. What’s next?
TD I think the brand’s development over the past 10 years has probably been more complicated than I had anticipated. So many different things — chairs and chandeliers, tableware and paper clips, scents and textiles — all from different countries of origin, and then all going off to 65 different countries. But, with any luck, now that we have established great relationships with our manufacturers and a growing recognition of our brand, I hope things will become easier.

How has the design industry changed since you started?
TD In recent years, I’ve noticed greater interest in design from a wider demographic. From Mumbai and Tehran to Senegal and Vancouver, we see people interested in what we do. There are more trade fairs, more publications and more designers than ever before.

What’s trending at the moment?
TD Lately, there’s been a huge amount of retro design inspired by the 1980s — geometric shapes, pastel colours and a definite nod to post-modernism. This has been very refreshing, but it’s in danger of becoming a fad because so many people have jumped on it.

Anything else on your wish list?
TD I would love to do more transport and electronics as well as more architecture and master-planning.