Some quick thanks

flyerSo the deed is done, the destination is deserted and the design has disappeared.  Until next year that is.  Closing the doors on the Old Fire Station with over 4,500 visitors at that venue alone, this year’s Bristol Design Festival was by far the biggest, and most certainly the best.  As I am sure that a detailed recap of the festival will be published soon, this is just a simple post to say some thank yous.

To all of the sponsors and the supporters who made the festival possible… To all of the volunteers who at times braved the cold and the rain trying to direct unwitting pedestrians into the venues… To the exhibitors who allowed Bristol, nay the world to see just what a creative city we live in and what a diverse range of design we can create… And to the public, who came in their thousands to look, like and love what they saw.  Thank you.

bdf09 team

Finally, the BDF will be back next year, and it is your festival.  Tell us what it is you would like to see.  Tell us what you liked best this year.  Ideas, competitions, venues, exhibits… we want to hear your thoughts.  We will be back, we will be bigger, and fingers crossed, we will be even better.


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Design of the fastest car on Earth

[As with John Bradford, I too must give full disclosure. A member of the 1K club, I also now work on the Bloodhound Project and am fully biased to how great the project is.]

mike turner and the bloodhound sscThe West of England Design Forum have always tried to get a wide and diverse range of designer’s to give talks at the city’s Watershed venue, but it is rare that they manage to get product designers and even more rare that they get one working on such a pioneering project.

Mike Turner, one of the lead designers on the Bloodhound SuperSonic Car Project gave a fascinating and thought provoking presentation on Wednesday night on why it is that he does what it is that he does.

His career, to put it simply, is full of interesting projects. Starting in 1997 with Adtranz designing rail vehicles, he moved his way through the Renfew Group and JCB until he became senior industrial designer working on the JCB Dieselmax World Record Vehicle. Now running his own company (Mike Turner Design Ltd) he came to the Bloodhound through links made with Dieselmax. ‘I got bored, so moved on’ seemed to be a concurrent theme throughout his career.

What was interesting was hearing how much of a balancing act his sort of design really is. Designing the A-Surface bodyshell of the Bloodhound SSC (the surface that interacts with the air) involves continuous liaising between the lead engineer (John Piper) and the chief aerodynamicist (Ron Ayres). Mike works with the CAD software Alias, trying to make the profile of the car as sleek and as ‘slippery’ as possible whilst still accommodating the package that needs to be carried within.

One of the more surprising points that he raised came down to the time that he actually spends on the project. As each new configuration of the car body needs to go through CFD testing, it could be a case of several weeks between design iterations. The results would come back from the analysis, twenty to thirty changes would be listed, Mike would redesign the model and off it would go for another round.

What was clear though from his talk was that this project held its own unique constraints. This is design at its absolute limits. Very few rules are known. What is more though, this is a one off project. This means that there are no manufacturing constraints; each part is bespoke. Neither I nor the organisers of the event had seen so many questions raised by the audience. It is a captivating project; one that inspires and begs you to find out more. Mike Turner only gave a taste of the challenges and complications that building the fastest car on earth holds, but nonetheless it was worth it, just to see where design can take you – to the borders of what is possible.


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On the couch for some design therapy

Oskar Furniture (Whiteladies Road) played hosts to ‘On the Couch with Paul Goodchild’ a hugely successful interior design evening on Tuesday fuelled by free-flowing Pimms and delicious canapés.

Goodchild Interiors, run by Paul and Gill Goodchild, were recently named one of House and Garden’s 100 Best Designers 2009 so expectations were high.

Having been given a drink as soon as I walked through the door, I knew I was going to be well looked after for the evening. And I really was.

I happen to be in the midst of renovating a tiny and ancient cottage, so I jumped at the chance to have 5 minutes on one of Oskar’s sumptuous sofas to pick Paul’s brains. As it goes I didn’t need to. Rather, I hadn’t got any further than the word ‘cottage’ before Paul anticipated every single one of my design conundrums with frightening accuracy and gave me some absolutely platinum advice on how best to visualise my storage needs, how I can make the most of my external spaces, and what I can get away with in terms of décor!

I just sat there slightly agog. After thanking him profusely I waddled off full of design confidence and feeling totally inspired to paint my lounge olive grey. In my book this makes Paul Goodchild some kind of design consultant genius/clairvoyant.

While I waited for the Q&A session to begin I took my drink on a little tour of the shop. Oooh Oskar have got some nice things. There is a lot of glass, and goodness I love a lot of glass. In fact my purse and I will be returning for some of the citrus-edged tumblers in time for the barbeque summer we keep being promised. Oskar also have a lot of extremely stylish and comfortable chairs, and lots of lighting with some extraordinary engineering.

In the background of the picture above you can see the UTO light by Lagranja for Foscarini which not only plugs into the mains but is waterproof and can just be draped wherever takes your fancy. The TWIGGY ceiling light by Marc Sadler for Foscarini (below) turns through 360° and has amazing texture and a diffused lamp. Another had a satisfyingly fat brushed chrome pull, which when pulled actually changed the height of the lamp!

The Pimms continued to flow while Paul and Gill delivered some top quality tips on interior design, and we were treated to some delicious canapés as Alex from Taxi Studio in Clifton paid tribute to their fearless approach to design. Alex suggested that this fearlessness was something much of Bristol design personified from Brunel, to Wallace & Gromit, to Banksy. Also that this was something that had been captured well by Bristol Design Festival, particularly through Bristol’s quite unique attachment to Street Art and we toasted ‘fearless creativity’.

Feeling fearless? Oskar Furniture is on the BDF Design Trail, follow the link for the full map.

– Karen Dawe

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Design, faster than a speeding bullet!

Just back from a cracking talk by Mike Turner, Senior Designer on the Bloodhound SSC project. [Full disclosure, I’m a member of the Bloodhound SSC 1K Club; everything I say is highly biased, I think this is a fantastic project to be based in Bristol. 🙂 ]

The talk was introduced by Bob Mytton, Chair of the West of England Design Forum.

Mike began with a bit of background on his career so far, from trains to cars to JCB diggers. This last culminated with JCB’s DieselMax project, to design a diesel that would go over 350mph. Speed was definitely in Mike’s future!


Although Bloodhound is an “Engineering Adventure”, their tagline, it’s ambition is to:
1. To create a national surge in the popularity of Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects
2. To create an iconic project requiring extreme research and technology whilst simultaneously providing the means to enable the student population to join in the adventure
3. To achieve the first 1000 mph record on land

09_09_015_MTMike quickly moved on to his core specialty of designing the outer surface, the bit that interacts with the air flow. Beginning with the outline design concept, Mike developed a refined shape for the car. This went to the team at Swansea University that were handling the CFD work. The results from the CFD, together with the engineering structural & package development (steering, suspension, controls, Andy Green, etc) were then fed into the next design cycle with Mike.

In the Q&A afterwards Mike was quizzed on the time the CFD added to the design cycle time. When they first started each CFD run was taking a couple of weeks (to run the numbers, check them and be confident of the answers). After going public with the project they were picking up additional computing support, each run was around a day.

09_09_014_MTThe main challenges are to make the whole car as strong as possible (without increasing the weight too much); as slippery as possible for a Eurofight jet engine with a solid fuel rocket strapped to it; as stable as possible in a straight line (without being so stable that Andy can’t direct it at all); and keep it on the ground (without turning into a 1,000mph plough).

So no conflicting pressures for Andy to juggle in his design decisions!

For all the CFD modelling, I was particularly struck by the comment that Mike put up from Ron Ayers, Chief Aerodynamicist on appreciating the designer’s eye for form & proportion “if it looks right, it probably is right”.

yewenyi, 16 April 2007

yewenyi, 16 April 2007

As an aside, it was Ron’s earlier work developing the Bristol Bloodhound Surface to Air Missile that gave rise to the project code name.

The Q&A was lively with Mike fielding questions for at least half an hour and staying around for another half hour as people continued to discuss the car, the design activity, and a bunch of technical questions that demonstrated real interest and enthusiasm.

A fantastic evening, thanks to the Bristol Design Festival and West of England Design Forum for organising.

By John Bradford, jbsh LLP

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I should eco

The Eco Design Show – You can currently get your fill of eco-design goodness at The Create Centre, Cumberland Road, Bristol BS1 6XN until the 29th June between 9-5pm (closed at weekends).

The Eco Design Show represents the best in ethically-led design from companies and individuals in the South West. If you think that sounds a bit straight-laced and sensible, be prepared to be pleasantly surprised by the rampant desirability of it all!

I was curious to see whether the ‘design’ element of the exhibits would be compromised to accommodate the ‘eco’ element. Absolutely not. Quite the opposite in fact.

This was particularly evident among the business cards some of which were fabric-backed (Bristol Recycled) while others were made or corrugated cardboard (re:store).

All manner of eco-design is on display here. From jewellery, textiles, and sculpture to biodegradable picnic sets and shoes made from bus seats!

Rubber, specifically the use of old tyres, is also well represented. Depending on how you take your rubber you can have it as a belt, a satchel, a storage pot, or even a life-sized crocodile.

For me, standout items were ‘ugly ducklings’- beautiful things made from items originally of questionable aesthetic value. Such as the truly stunning ‘grow table’ from Deborah Elsaesser of re-ply designs which is made from the plywood waste of several local companies. The wonderful grow table has a central integral plant pot/bowl to grow plants in or serve from.

I’d also say the Coffee Cup Coasters from Fig.1 fall into this category. Made from vending machine cups direct from they look great – just like slate. A far cry from their origins as hot beverage waste.

This exhibition demonstrates how the constraints placed by a desire to be sustainable and ethical have forced some truly creative design solutions and delightfully unique products of the highest standard.

– Karen Dawe

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Same same…but very different

Image found here

Back in March Bristol’s best graffiti artists, designers and illustrators vied for the chance to be given one of 26 sets of pure, white, unadulterated Russian Nesting Dolls to customise at their will.

The products of the fertile imaginations of the likes of Cheba, Heidi Gough, and Mr Jago can now be seen at the Matryoshka Army exhibition.

I was so excited to see this – who doesn’t love a Russian Doll? And despite being given the exact same ‘canvases’ to work with the designs couldn’t be more different. One of my favourite sets simply had ‘chicken’ ‘egg’ ‘chicken’ ‘egg’ on each ever decreasing doll, while Heidi Gough’s designs were beautifully intricate and sensual.

You can see a very cool little video of Albinal’s dolls, which I love, here. Also worth a look are the ‘refuse-niks’, each little Matryoshka covered in tiny items of rubbish! All sets are available to buy so be sure to get down there soon!

Facebook group here

The Army have their own blog here

– Karen Dawe

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Keeping the Doors Open

Jamaica Studios

Jamaica Studios describes itself as Stokes Croft cultural heart and houses a diverse bunch of illustrators, artists, textile designers and even an embroiderer tucked away in its rabbit warren of white cubes (admittedly white cubes with a fantastic view and great natural light to work in).


But now continued operations are under threat and they need to raise 1 million to buy the building and secure the future of the building, part of this has become the annual open studio event were locals get to gaze at the artwork and if we have the cash to splash take it back home with us. As an added fundraising bonus each of the artist has donated a small-framed canvas to the cause that was auctioned Sunday afternoon and you would be pretty hard pushed not to find a style of art to suit all tastes.

The real joy for me though was getting to see not just the diverse array of talent but of the diverse personalities up on display as well as the artwork, from the inspiration walls of Illustrator Bjorn Rune Lie to the cubby-holes and pot plants of Textile designer Harriet Powis. Every artist had their studio set up uniquely to their own needs and is unintentionally giving us a secret glimpse of the creative working life of the studios for the other 364 days of the year.

TextilesTales of vegetable planting by the artist and the obvious involvement of local business such as niche framing in the art auction help to prove the point noted in the fundraising brochure

“The positive effect of artist on our cities is too often underestimated…artists have brought so much more to enliven an area than the developers who have followed them”

Here’s hoping that there will be another open studio event to wander around and wonder at next year rather than a soulless block of flats to walk past.

By Sammi Richardson

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