Designers at Nest: Barber Osgerby
British designers Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby first met whilst studying for their master’s degrees in Architecture at the Royal College of Art. But as it turned out, neither was really interested in designing large-scale buildings...
With a growing interest in small-scale design, it wasn’t long before the duo founded their own East London design studio named Barber Osgerby in 1996.
From their first studio in Trellick Tower, London, the Loop Table was born – the first piece to be designed and put into production by Isokon (a furniture company previously run by names such as Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer). This table soon captured the attention of the design world and proved to be the beginning of a collaboration that has lasted for nearly 30 years.
Today Barber Osgerby are one of the UK’s leading industrial design studio’s, with an extensive back-catalogue of product designs that includes the 2012 Olympic torch, the Flos Tab Table Lamp, the Vitra Mariposa Sofa, and a £2 coin commemorating the 150th anniversary of the London Underground.
Design that serves a purpose
Bringing together industrial design, furniture design and architecture, Barber Osgerby’s work resists being put into a box. The pair love a challenge and are known for their ingenious design solutions.
They believe in creating products that solve a problem, that adds value to peoples lives and that will have a long-lasting legacy. Collaborators by nature – working closely with manufacturers, engineers and factories is a crucial part of the duo’s design approach. This sharing of knowledge has allowed them to push the boundaries of what many thought possible and has led to collaborations with some of the world’s best brands such as Vitra, Flos, Knoll and Magis.
Take the Flos Bellhop table lamp for example. This beautifully simple design looks like it could have been designed at any point over the past century. However, the latest LED technology is what sets this lamp apart, allowing it to be cordless, rechargeable, and providing complete flexibility to the user. The inbuilt LED and battery provide up to 24 hours of cord-free light, something that just wouldn’t have been possible 10 years ago.
Design that solves a problem
One of the design duos most significant moments came in 2008 after they were approached to develop a concept for furnishing the new Royal Society of Arts Academy in Tipton, UK. It wasn’t long before they realised there was a lack of contemporary school chairs available, with current options being cheap, low-quality, and based on outdated concepts.
Thus began the challenge of developing a light, indestructible school chair that was easy to produce, stackable, colourful, and fully recyclable. What’s more, the initial concept called for a design that encourages a variety of sitting positions, adding an extra layer of complexity to an already complex project.
Two years, 30 prototypes and a flurry of rigorous tests later, the revolutionary Tip Ton chair was born. Crafted from injection moulded polypropylene, each Tip Ton Chair weighs only 4.5 kilogrammes and features a tilt function, allowing the chair to tip forward in a controlled fashion and provide a second ergonomic seating position for the user. In the forward-tilted position, the user’s pelvis and spine are straightened, promoting circulation and in turn, concentration.
Design that is constantly being developed
In the same spirit of innovation and longevity with which the original Tip Ton was developed, Vitra have recently worked with Barber Osgerby to develop a more sustainable version of this revolutionary chair. The 2020 Tip Ton RE design is crafted from recycled polypropylene, generating 54% less climate-damaging emissions than petroleum-based primary plastics.
The Tip Ton RE uses 3.6kg of recycled polypropylene, sourced from Germany’s ‘Yellow Bag’ household recycling scheme. Just weeks before, this plastic could have been a shampoo bottle, yoghurt pot or milk carton. With no dyes added to the plastics, the Tip Ton RE has a slightly speckled, grey finish that is unique to each chair.
Discover more designs by Barber Osgerby on our designer page or shop from the selection below.
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Image credits: Pablo di Prima