Fereday recently travelled to the Netherlands to undertake his two-month residency at Moooi’s headquarters in Breda. Under the guidance of two of the world’s design industry leaders: Marcel Wanders Moooi Founder and Art Director and Casper Vissers Moooi Founder and CEO, the designer is gaining insights and first hand experience across all aspects of the business.
We spoke to Tom Fereday before he left for Europe about his own practice, why he continues to chase opportunities abroad and to learn how collaborating with manufacturers and understanding technical processes informs his designs.
Q. You studied at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) but before that you had been living in the UK. Why did you decide to study in Sydney?
I was born and raised in Australia and Sydney but I spent part of my childhood in the UK.
By the time I was a uni student I’d come back to Australia already and I wanted to study design. I initially began studying graphic design at an art college but decided it wasn’t for me. I had this feeling that three-dimensional design and product design was really my interest. I had been recommended the Industrial Design course at UTS so I dropped out of graphics and began that.
Q. What made you interested in design? Did you come from a design conscious family?
There are more artists in my family than designers. My interest in product design was something that came about without me realising. When I was a kid I was always taking apart products but mostly destroying them! With a lot of things, I’d exlpore them in a three-dimensional sense. Later in life I realised that that was the beginning of my interest in industrial design.
Q. Do you work on your own projects full-time?
I officially set up Fereday Design in 2010. Prior to that I worked for a range of companies doing industrial design and furniture design. I still freelance developing products and furniture pieces for other brands.
Q. What led you ultimately to set up your own studio?
Early in my career, I discovered a very strong passion for furniture and it never really left me. As a student and early on, I worked as a furniture designer for local design studio Schamburg and Alvisse. I also worked for other consultancies in a product design range.
As I moved into industrial design roles I kept doing bits and pieces on the side and developing my own designs into products and pieces for other companies, and that’s where Fereday Design grew from. I am sort of at a point now where it is able to sustain me.
I have had really varied roles in the industry – my background isn’t purely furniture-based. I have worked within a whole range of industries, designing all sorts of things from truck mirrors to microphones.
But consistently I find my passion lies in developing my own furniture pieces and I guess that is what led me to apply for the Space+Moooi 2014 Design Residency.
Q. What do you think differentiates your approach to design from your peers?
Every piece I develop draws on my technical, industrial background and my experience developing and manufacturing other products. I believe it is really important to draw inspiration from one piece for another, to explore processes and to use them in different ways to create a point of differentiation. For me as well, when developing a product, I don’t believe in just purely applying a design to a process. I like to collaborate with manufacturers and learn from them so their knowledge informs the design. I don’t think design is just a one-way process and I have learnt a lot from taking this approach.
Q. You won the Product Design category of the 2009 Qantas Spirit of Youth Award (SOYA) and were awarded a residency in the studio of designer Marc Newson. Why are overseas residencies something you continue to pursue?
What attracted me most to the Space+Moooi Residency was the opportunity to develop a furniture range with Moooi. Unlike a lot of other competitions that I have been involved in, this is actually an active product development project.
Q. What did you gain from your residency with Marc Newson?
Essentially working there was just seeing how another designer’s practice works and drawing experience from it. It was an opportunity to see behind the scenes of one of the best-known design consultancies in the world. With a company like Marc Newson Ltd, the scale of the projects they work on and their clients is really exciting. It could be anyone from Qantas to Smeg or very large furniture brands. Just seeing how these companies operate was enlightening.
Q. Ultimately do you see yourself staying in Australia?
It is really hard to say. It will really depend on what opportunities come about from the residency. But there is definitely a chance that I could move to Europe. Just with the furniture industry as it is, there are still great opportunities in Europe, it’s a very good opportunity to get a foot in the door of the European design industry.
Q. Last year you released the Su range with the design company Hive by Kenneth Cobonpue, how did that collaboration come about?
Su was a bar, table and chair range, developed from recycled woven plastic fabric tape. It was a design that I had been working on previously and I was looking at how it could be made. During my research, I looked at the work of Kenneth Cobonpue who is renowned for woven furniture and it seemed like Su could be a very good match for his brand. I put together a proposal for the company which led to me being actively engaged to collaborate with Hive to develop the piece into the range that it is.
Q. Hive is based in the Philippines and very much immersed in the Asia-Pacific design market, is it important for you to work with manufacturers within the region?
As a designer of pieces, the Asia-Pacific region is a very exciting area and I think a lot of times a lot of Australian designers don’t look at opportunities for business and product development in the region. It is a massive growing area and I think not to consider that would be stupid. I think it is a really exciting time in Australian design.
Q. How does sustainable thinking apply to your design work?
I think my personal belief is that sustainability of material, process and product are essential design considerations for any project you work on. It should always be a factor just like you would consider the form and the production.
My personal approach to sustainable design is always to consider the product, and the piece from the process of manufacture. I look for the most efficient and elegant way to design and produce a product in terms of minimising waste and being intelligent with the way it is manufactured. I also consider the product and its lifetime, which may be something as simple as developing a stackable design that helps reduce carbon emissions in the process of distribution and delivery.
Q. Could you give me an example of how you considered the environmental and social impact of one of your pieces throughout its lifetime?
A good example would be the timber furniture pieces I developed for CDR furniture, in particular the Herring Chair and the Luca Side Cabinet. The design process was really about understanding the process of timber woodworking and manufacturing. In collaboration with the workshop, we developed the pieces for the most efficient manufacture. We utilised standard timber sizes to reduce timber wastage and sourced sustainable materials. The American Oak is FSG-rated forestry timber and finished using natural Danish oil.
Q. So far in your career, you have been mainly licensing your designs to other manufacturers, do you at any point see yourself as wholesaling your own collections under your own name?
I think that is the next step for me. It is an exciting challenge for a designer to ultimately produce your own pieces. It is something that I could definitely see myself doing in the next two years.
Q. You kind of mentioned licensing your designs but where else would you like your studio to be in five years time?
It’s a tough one! What I would love to be doing in five years time is running a practice that gives me the freedom to continue what I am doing. If I can just keep where I am today I will be happy, but also I want to be producing furniture pieces and working with bigger furniture brands in Europe would also be incredibly exciting.