“People don’t need more stuff for the sake of more stuff,” says UK industrial designer Benjamin Hubert in his matter-of-fact tone. The sentiment clearly articulates the motivation behind his work. Drawing on various natural and found materials, wastage is not in Hubert’s professional vocabulary.
At only 27 years of age, Hubert has forged a reputation as one of the UK’s leading industrial designers. His furniture and lighting designs take inspiration from raw materials and an awareness of the links between product, process and craftsmen. In his short but prolific career, he has won several prestigious awards including the British Design Awards Design of the Year 2010 and EDIDA International Young Designer of the Year 2010.
In Australia for the first time as a guest of Great Dane, whose Danish and Scandinavian furniture showroom aligns seamlessly with the simple but innovative, clean-cut lines of Hubert’s pieces (which they also stock), Hubert is imparting knowledge and workshopping ideas with emerging designers keen to gain insight into his process and career. Having just completed a stint in Sydney as guest of honour at Saturday in Design – which included conduction a public lecture at University of Technology, Sydney and judging young designers as part of the event’s Launchpad competition – Hubert will be in Melbourne for a panel discussion at BMW Edge on Wednesday this week, alongside Great Dane, RMIT and Broadsheet.
Hubert’s take on his career success is typically disarming. “It’s no real secret,” he offers. “Just time, hard work, being creative and bloody mindedness really.
“I worked for some really big multinational brands making things like consumer electronics before I stared making my own stuff,” he continues. “But I wanted to make stuff that can be kept for a long time; a phone devalues very quickly these days.”
Materials are key to Hubert’s work. “The materials are the reason I do it”, he says. “It’s almost a reaction to the other places I worked at before. I like to use natural materials, often in combination with manmade materials, but it is the involvement and hands-on approach that excites me.”
Using materials such as cork, concrete and clay for lighting, and felt, metal and timber in furniture, Hubert is something of a forager. “I collect these things from different sources. Some online, from architects and in factories in developing parts of London,” he says.
That said, materials don’t inspire works on their own. “There needs to be a reason for [the item] to be used,” says Hubert. “I create things that are functional, usable and simple. I think particularly now, people want things to last a long time. If you make things with solely a stylist approach, you are not really doing things right for the times we live in.”
Chatting over the phone, it’s hard not to be impressed by Hubert’s manner. He speaks with clarity and resolve about his vision and is comfortable with his processes and motivations, respecting other people’s work but taking his own initiative. This propensity is reiterated in the mission statement on his website: Materials Driven. Process Led. Industrial Design.
“I think it’s really important to justify why you’ve done things,” says Hubert. “If you can’t do that, I think you need to question why you’re doing it in the first place.”
Benjamin Hubert speaks at BMW Edge, Federation Square on Wednesday August 24 at 6pm for Design: From Concept to Consumer with Great Dane, RMIT and Broadsheet.