Steel, wood, metal, fabrication. They’re not glamorous words. But to Gordon and Susan Tait, the managing director and creative director, respectively, of Australian designer outdoor furniture brand Tait, they’re everything.

Tait has been designing and manufacturing striking outdoor furniture for nearly 25 years, becoming one of the leading names in Australian contemporary, outdoor design. All production is handled in the company’s Thornbury factory in Melbourne, with a showroom in nearby Fitzroy. They also have a showroom in Redfern, Sydney, and are stocked in Adelaide, Perth and Canberra, as well as internationally in Singapore.

It was while working as a sheet-metal apprentice that Gordon first fell in love with the creative possibilities of metal.

“You can manipulate stainless steel in so many ways,” he says. “Pushing, pulling, stretching. I love the challenge of reinventing the wheel and coming up with a one-off design.”

Gordon began Tait alone but says forging partnerships and keeping it local has allowed the business to grow according to his original ethos. Having a local factory also gives designers the invaluable, first-hand experience of seeing how their products are made.

“We’re staying true to our goal, and that’s to manufacture in Australia and support local design,” says Gordon. “With increases in technology there’s generally less focus on craftsmanship. But at Tait we’ve always been very hands-on.”

That approach drives Tait’s participation in this year’s Mercedes-Benz Design Award, presented by Broadsheet. Debuting in 2015 with a call for entries that enhanced the kitchen or indoor-dining experience, the first award was won by Bradley Mitchell. This year the Design Award will be won for an object or item that enhances outdoor dining.

Tait are part of the team that will select a winning design, and entries are open to anyone, country-wide. The winner will have their design produced by Tait as part of the company’s range, and receive mentoring from the team.

“We’re incredibly honoured to be asked to support this year’s awards," says Gordon. "Mercedes-Benz is such an iconic, global brand and design leader within its industry, while Broadsheet always has its finger on the pulse. The pairing is really exciting and we can’t wait to be a part of it.”

As veterans of the trade, Gordon and Susan know the challenges of creating a design that is both practical and innovative. Because this year’s award calls for a design destined for the outdoors, Susan says responding to Australia’s climate is something designers will need to consider.

“We’re after clever ideas,” says Susan. “We’re looking to seeing a fantastic, wide range of submissions from Australia’s design future.”

The award encourages designers of any experience. Gordon says newcomers shouldn’t be intimidated: he still cringes when he thinks of the first piece of furniture he designed, a “weird, pyramid, cantilever coffee table”. The key is to be inspired.

“The great thing about this competition is it gives young designers a real opportunity to enter the industry,” he says. “We can’t wait to see what we get.”

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.