“I live in an old cottage I like to call the Ramshackle Mansion,” says freelance designer Marcus Piper. “I’ve built a photographic studio and a workshop in the basement. I refer to myself as a digital craftsperson. It requires taking an understanding of the processes from an analogue era and being able to apply them in a world where most of the tools are digital.”

Piper, who is also the editor of quarterly design magazine Mezzanine, is one of four finalists shortlisted for the 2016 Mercedes-Benz Design Award by Broadsheet.

This year the brief called for entries that enhance the outdoor dining experience. The winner will work with renowned outdoor furniture designer Tait to develop their design from the prototype stage through to production. The finished product will then be added to the Tait range and offered for sale nationwide.

Piper was shortlisted for his design, the LazyG – an outdoor update of retro design-piece the Lazy Susan. Piper’s LazyG is a reversible timber platter that clamps to umbrellas, sits on tables or comes freestanding as a table.

“The LazyG is an incredibly innovative design that can be applied to various contexts,” says Susan Tait, co-founder and company director of Tait and a co-judge of this year’s awards. “The design takes note of Tait’s portfolio of products, yet fills a gap to deliver something really dynamic with awesome use of materials too. I can definitely see us using one of these at home.”

We spoke to Piper about his multidisciplinary approach to design.

Broadsheet: Tell us about your background and your earliest experiences with design. Where did you start out?

Marcus Piper: My father was a school-teacher, so we moved around country New South Wales through my childhood. When I was a kid I was fascinated with technical drawing. I used to draw mountain bikes and different things as a teenager in a boring country town.

I studied Industrial Design at University of Canberra, and then found myself working as a designer for magazines in Sydney. I then moved to London for two years and worked in [graphic designer] Neville Brody’s studio for a year. It was a really nice experience because there was no job title. It didn’t matter how experienced you were, everyone was given the same respect.

BS: Does your work in publishing and graphic design influence your industrial design process?

MP: Because I studied industrial design, not graphic design, I’ve got an understanding of materials and process and the third dimension. In graphic design I’ve always taken an industrial design approach. I’ve always wanted to throw that back into industrial design and furniture design.

Flipping that on its head, if I’m going to design a piece of furniture or an object, then I’m going to use my graphic design skills and experience to generate an idea. Rather than it just being a product based on its aesthetic.

BS: Where do you work?

MP: I work from home in Thirroul on the south-coast of New South Wales. If I stand up, I can see the ocean from my desk.

BS: Explain your design for the LazyG.

MP: It comes from a number of things. It comes from a love of pizza. It comes from a lifestyle where I try to cook outdoors as much as I can. I enjoy throwing a party where I spend the entire time at the barbeque cooking pizzas for people.

My creative process happens away from the computer – the computer is just a tool. So the LazyG is basically me thinking: What do I want? What would make my life more fun? An outdoor table with a hole in the middle for an umbrella? Well, you could put a Lazy Susan on that and serve pizza on it.

BS: Which materials have you used in your design?

MP: Timber, metal, and a neoprene cup that sits in the top – that would hold chopsticks or cutlery or swizzle-sticks to mix your cocktails. It would also keep water out of the hole in the middle. The table version would have a concrete base.

BS: What makes it particularly suitable for the outdoors?

MP: I live 200 metres from the ocean and I understand things need to be made incredibly well to withstand this environment; both sun and ocean spray. So that would come down to Tait’s quality of craftsmanship. They know how to make stuff that lasts outdoors. That was a consideration.

The LazyG can be attached to an umbrella stand, so at the beach you can pop that around an umbrella and sit your drinks on it, or use it as an outdoor table next to the barbeque. Those things are all easy things to conceptualise but it needs quality manufacturing.

BS: What would it mean to you to win the award?

MP: It would mean a hell of a lot. To be a part of that stable of designers would be an honour, and to work with Gordon and Susan on the development of the LazyG, to take it from a concept to something that really works, would be a fantastic experience.

Meet our other finalists Nancy Ji, Joshua Flowers and Adele Winteridge. The winner of the Mercedes-Benz Design Award presented by Broadsheet will be announced at a ceremony in Melbourne on Thursday December 1.

Update: The Lily Tray Table is now available to purchase from Tait showrooms and online

This article presented in partnership with the Mercedes-Benz Design Award by Broadsheet.