Five Rising Stars From London’s Royal College Of Art [Slideshow]

RCA grads come up with innovative ways to package old materials.

The Royal College of Art has a history of churning out some of the best designers in the U.K.: James Dyson, Jonathan Barnbrook, Alan Fletcher (the guy who founded Pentagram), Jasper Morrison, Thomas Heatherwick. The list goes on. An exhibit/ pop-up shop at the Brompton Design District in London recently showcased the next generation of RCA grads, bright young things who, if the work shown here is any indication, could be the Dysons and Morrisons of tomorrow.


RCA Milan Extract 2011 featured objects, many of them for sale, from just under a dozen students late of RCA’s Design Products department. A small sample of goodies originally shown during Milan Design Week, the exhibit included everything from a quirky, clunky contraption that cranks out bike messenger bags to colorful tables and lights made out of papier-mâché. Many of the pieces showcased radical new ways to package old materials. Take Korean-born Seongyong Lee, who constructed stools out of wood veneer sheets, rolling them up as you would a paper tube. The Plytube stool was nominated for this year’s prestigious Brit Insurance Design of the Year award.

Sure, some of this stuff smacks of student work, which is to say that it’s untethered from corporate interests, manufacturing limitations, and, for all intents and purposes, reality. Good luck trying to finding a furniture producer who’ll sink money into papier-mâché anything. Same goes for the messenger bag machine unless you’ve got an in with some bike-fetishizing Internet whiz in SF hot to invest his dough (not that far-fetched, on second thought). But even if the products aren’t terribly pragmatic — and, these being school assignments, they don’t need to be — they’re firmly rooted in innovative concepts, which for designers both young and old is the key starting point. As Dyson himself has said: “After the idea, there is plenty of time to learn the technology.”

[Images courtesy of RCA]

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.