DesignedMade Interview: Product Designer Jonathan Krawczuk

Today is it another great pleasure to be once more able to introduce to all our readers; Product designer Jonathan Krawczuk. To get someone of Jonathan’s esteemed stature as a designer on this site not only to showcase his work but for him to take his time out to be interviewed, would have been little more than a pipedream when this site first launched.

We are very proud to introduce to you all a british product designer coming out of Yorkshire, Jonathan is best known and associated with DesignedMade. In the interview we got a chance to sit and talk; about social media in the design world, just who DesignedMade are & more.

Today we introduce to our design juices readers Jonathan Krawzuk. Hi Jonathan, How would you introduce yourself to our readers who may have not come across your work or yourself before.

I’m a 28 year-old product designer who is based in Yorkshire, (Holmfirth, if you don’t know where this is, you must know Last of the Sumer Wine?) I grew up in Yorkshire before moving to London in 2003 to study product design in London, at Central St Martins. I lived in London up until February 2011 and also spent a year in Milan, on an exchange programme, (2004 / 2005). I moved back to Yorkshire last year as I needed to be here, I am heavily involved in the production of the DesignedMade product range, which is manufactured – in its entirety – in Yorkshire.

I would describe my work as strong, bold and graphical – it is fun too but in a serious, practical and functional way. The products that I design need to perform and be fit for purpose. For example, take the rage of bowls that I have designed for DesignedMade: the cut-outs in the surface allow an air supply to reach the fruit. This also gives me opportunity to exploit the graphical potential in the product.

Cubic Bowl in red – designed by Jonathan Krawczuk for DesignedMade, 2009.

We see you work for Yorkshire-based manufacturing brand, DesignedMade. Can you give a brief intro into who the brand are, and how you are involved there.

DesignedMade is a Yorkshire-based design and manufacturing brand. I founded the brand and run the company myself. To date, I have designed the entire product range. Let me give you an introduction into our ethos, process and products:

The DesignedMade ethos
DesignedMade was established in March 2009 by product designer Jonathan Krawczuk with the intention of producing a range of simple and striking products, designed and made in Britain. The brand is committed to supporting the UK craft and manufacturing industries and represents an evolution of Britain’s proud industrial heritage – bringing together the ideas and vision of a younger generation with the skills and expertise of traditional manufacturers.

The DesignedMade process
DesignedMade has established relationships with local businesses specialising in state-of-the- art manufacturing processes and traditional techniques. In this scenario, the role of the brand and designer is not only to design for the end user but for everyone involved in the production process. DesignedMade develops projects that seamlessly blend design, production and packaging, resulting in products that celebrate the skill, knowledge and passion involved in every stage of their creation.

The DesignedMade products
The DesignedMade product range is united both by a focus on consistent quality of production and by a strong graphical aesthetic. Many of the designs are based on archetypal forms that have been reinterpreted to create statement pieces that fit perfectly in a modern context. These bold, contemporary products proudly display their materials and the attention to detail involved in their manufacture. DesignedMade products are the embodiment of a process and a philosophy that is innovative, sustainable and responsible.

The Tarantula Tea Light – designed by Jonathan Krawczuk for DesignedMade, 2009. New white version released in June 2011.

Over the past couple of years since the brand was launched – the output and popularity has increased steadily and our products are now stocked in many leading interior stores throughout the UK, as well as being exported to retailers in Europe and the rest of the world. Recently we started working with a distributor in Japan, a market that we feel the products really suit.

The Cubic Coaster is the sister product to the Cubic Bowl – designed by Jonathan Krawczuk for DesignedMade, 2010

DesignedMade launched a range of products developed with the Science Museum in London. I was approached last year by the buying team of the museum’s shop. The Steel Molecular range applies DesignedMade’s signature graphic style to the molecular structure of steel, resulting in a pattern that is both decorative and informative. The pattern, which represents the combination of iron and carbon atoms that make up the material itself, lends the pieces an educational function in addition to their primary purpose. The range is currently available exclusively in the Science Museum shop.

Steel Molecular Bowl in red – designed by Jonathan Krawczuk for DesignedMade, 2011

Steel Molecular Coasters in blue – designed by Jonathan Krawczuk for DesignedMade, 2011

To keep up with the latest DesignedMade news, updates & behind-the-scenes:

Alongside this you also work as an independent designer, what kinds of projects do you undertake as a freelance designer?

Do you enjoy working more on your own or as part of a big team such as with DesignedMade?

Over the past couple of years I’ve undertaken less freelance work. DesignedMade occupies nearly all of my time (and more!) I do occasionally work on web-based projects though, as you’ll see from my work (especially that for DesignedMade) it is quite graphical and I do enjoy working on projects that aren’t just designing objects. The same thought process can be applied to a number of different mediums. I find that it’s sometimes good to work on different things and look at them from a slightly different perspective. I enjoy creating and making things and that can be something tangible (physical) or something onscreen. I am currently working on some designs for other brands, this is something that I like doing and I think is healthy for a designer, as it gives me opportunity to think differently and work with other materials and processes.

I’m going to come to your second question now. In direct response to that, (Do you enjoy working more on your own or as part of a big team such as with DesignedMade?) I would say that I enjoy both and I feel that a healthy balance is important. For DesignedMade, I design the products by myself. That’s not to say that in the future we won’t be looking to take on designs from other designers or establish an in-house design team. I feel it’s important that the brand develops and evolves enough under my direction and the way I envisaged that from the start. We are however currently working on an exciting collaboration with another British brand, we’re designing a product together that will be launched soon. This is particularly enjoyable and insightful as we have very contrasting styles and work with different materials and processes.

Globe Bowl in blue – designed by Jonathan Krawczuk for DesignedMade, 2009

A couple of projects that I’ve worked on with another designer, Caroline Sipos have been really pleasing. In 2009 we collaborated to design a sculptural olive tree – used for serving and presenting olives. The design was in response to an aperitivo-themed competition brief, set by Peroni and Alessi. Our design beat over 2,000 entries worldwide to win the Peroni Blue Ribbon Design Award. Caroline and I also worked on a design (in 2008) for a competition called, ‘Beyond Silver’, where the brief was looking for functional and prestigious silverware with a new twist. We came up with our Salt & Pepper Sterling Crown Mills: The most historically significant of the spices, pepper is re-instated as the “king” of spices and paired in this project with the “queen” of spices, salt.

Olive Tree, winner of the Peroni Blue Ribbon Design Award – designed by Caroline Sipos & Jonathan Krawczuk, 2009

Salt and Pepper Mills with Sterling Silver Crowns – designed by Caroline Sipos & Jonathan Krawczuk, 2008

I’m just going to pick up on something in your question, where you mention, “…part of a big team such as with DesignedMade?”

The model I have set up with DesignedMade means that I don’t have a full time or permanent team. I do however work very closely with Jo Swetenham, who has a communications consultancy, Jo provides brand and PR strategy and her work with DesignedMade has been and continues to be invaluable. I also work closely with Alyn Griffiths, who works on our press material and helps us write nice things about the brand! I’ve known Alyn since 2005 when we were both living in Milan. He has followed the brand from its inception and is the perfect person to narrate our story.

Certain stages of our production are outsourced, all in Yorkshire. Our products are fabricated in my family’s workshop, which is based in Huddersfield. The brand has a desire to support British manufacturers and utilise their knowledge and expertise.

How does social media interact with the work you undertake in a business sense, and in a more informal way as a tool to network with other creatives?

Social media is an extremely important business tool. It’s not just important in the sense of making announcements and promoting what you’re doing. It’s important to share and keep an eye on what’s going on. I feel that there is a lot to be learnt from engaging in discussion and debate, especially on Twitter. I get to hear about things that I wouldn’t otherwise know about. I like how concise Twitter is, it’s great too for having a bit of fun and reading witty tweets.

What members of your social media circle would you recommend our readers to follow on twitter for example?

This is a hard one as there are so many. I’m not going to single out any design blogs / bloggers as there is a plethora that I follow and like. The following is a very small selection (in alphabetical order!) I value the tweets of everybody I follow on Twitter, I wouldn’t be following them if I didn’t!

@AW_FT – posts really good links to articles, discussion and has a superb website about products that are manufactured in Britain.
@faveplaces – independent guide to the best places in Sheffield. Excellent and very supportive of local businesses, creatives, etc.
@j_krawczuk – a cheeky plug here! I’ll be tweeting from this account a bit more in future
@lunaandcurious – my friends who run a boutique in East London. Lots of good events there and plenty happening!
@maxfraserdesign – plenty of thought provoking and interesting tweets from design author, journalist and curator, Max Fraser.
@TweetSmarter – love this account, lots of tips, info and opinions about using Twitter.

With such a wide ranging career so far, how did your route through education lead to where you are today? Did you have a very specific path through college and university?

Mine was an unconventional route. I left my A-Levels halfway through, I wasn’t that interested at college or school. I wasn’t even studying design at A-Level, after getting a D in my GCSEs! At that point I didn’t really have any direction or proper interest in design, I wasn’t interested in education at all. (I was however working part-time at my father’s small sheet metal fabrication company, which further down the line – started to shape my thoughts.) I have my mother to thank for persuading me to take a part-time introduction to art and design course at Leeds College of Art & Design. I was a bit reluctant at first but the more I got into it – the more I enjoyed it. When it came to the final project we had an open brief and I decided to work on a Hi-Fi rack for my separates. When it came to the end of the year, the director from the ‘College Diploma in Design’ course (which is the equivalent of a foundation) came round to look at our work. He spoke to me about the course (sold it to me) and I got a place on it. I originally wanted to take the graphic design pathway but he thought I would be more suited to the 3D pathway so I studied that, the next year. During that one year course I was a little unsure about what I wanted to do and even flirted with the idea of photography. I finally made my mind up that I wanted to study product design – and that I wanted to go to London. I decided that I was going to apply to Central St Martins. From that point onwards, I started working really hard and long hours, for the first time in my life. I got an interview at CSM and to my delight, was accepted on the course!

My degree took me four years, due to the fact that I had a year in Milan. That year was one of the best of my life – it was so much fun and a great eye-opener. I met some great people, who I’ve stayed good friends with. I would highly recommend it to anybody who has the opportunity to participate in an exchange. Milan is a great city and one of the best for design and style. I certainly appreciated my time in Milan a lot more once I had returned to the UK, I started to miss things. Milan was the place where I started to work independently, on my own projects from my bedroom. I stopped going to the university towards the end of the year because I didn’t enjoy the style of teaching or the lectures. I decided to spend the time teaching myself new skills, such as learning a CAD programme and some graphical software. I had a lot of time to think during that year and I decided that I needed to build up skills so that I could execute projects myself. I struggled with my first year at university and was perhaps a bit overwhelmed, I felt that because I hadn’t come from a typical / traditional arts background that I was behind everybody else.

One thing I did throughout my degree was get involved in projects outside of the course, whether it be competitions, exhibitions or self-initiated projects. I knew that this was important and that it was a great way to gain more experience. The tutors advised against this but fortunately I was strong minded enough to make my own judgement. I think my decision benefited me hugely, you can’t teach experience in an educational institution and there’s nothing like actually doing something and learning first-hand.

Finally, I’d like to thank Design Juices for having me on, I’ve enjoyed answering the questions! If any of the readers are interested, we have just set up a facebook page so if people want to keep up with what’s going on – through that platform, they can do so here:

All the best Jonathan Krawczuk

We must thank Jonathan for his time in working with us here at Design Juices in putting such a magnificent interview together. You can follow Jonathan and all his work at DesignedMade on their website and on twitter @designedmade.