Interview with John G Williams

Winner of Furniture Design Awards

Award Winning Designer John G Williams shares insights


Interview with John G Williams at Thursday 3rd of May 2018:

DL: Could you please tell us a bit about your design background and education?
JW : I have no formal education in design per se. I studied mechanical engineering at the University of Cambridge in the UK. My father is a retired craft department master and I often browsed through the various reference books that he had at home.

DL: What motivates you to design in general, why did you become a designer?
JW : I think design is a very creative, and yet also a very practical expression. I think this combination makes it irresistible for me.

DL: Did you choose to become a designer, or you were forced to become one?
JW : I chose to spend a lot of time on design, and to learn by observation and by doing.

DL: What do you design, what type of designs do you wish to design more of?
JW : I love designing furniture because it is beautiful; highly visibly; and appreciated on a daily basis

DL: What should young designers do to become a design legend like you?
JW : Where does one begin ?

DL: What distinguishes between a good designer and a great designer?
JW : Good design tries hard; great design is immediately 'right'. A great designer realizes the latter.

DL: What makes a good design a really good design, how do you evaluate good design?
JW : Good design immediately hits all the buttons: does it look great? does it work flawlessly? is it new and exciting? overall, do I love it?

DL: What is the value of good design? Why should everyone invest in good design?
JW : Good design lifts the environment for everyone that touches it or that it touches

DL: What would you design and who would you design for if you had the time?
JW : A special cart for my daughter to carry her drum kit around in.

DL: What is the dream project you haven’t yet had time to realize?
JW : I am working up to a range of furniture that is all glued together by some common ideas. That remains some way off

DL: What is your secret recipe of success in design, what is your secret ingredient?
JW : To try and distil what it is that is distinctive about the particular work that makes it engaging.

DL: Who are some other design masters and legends you get inspired from?
JW : Hans Wegner. Poul Henningsen. Louise Campbell

DL: What are your favorite designs by other designers, why do you like them?
JW : CH33. Simplicity, beauty, comfort. Wishbone chair. Ergonomic insight. PH5 pendant light. Beauty and originality

DL: What is your greatest design, which aspects of that design makes you think it is great?
JW : ZENE. Super comfortable to sit on. Seat and backrest appear to float on the frame, giving a sense of lightness to a structure that is actually super substantive and strong

DL: How could people improve themselves to be better designers, what did you do?
JW : Read more and look at more work of other designers

DL: If you hadn’t become a designer, what would you have done?
JW : I am only a recent designer. In my 50s

DL: How do you define design, what is design for you?
JW : Design is about meeting a need. Normally a functional need at least in some measure. In the most aesthetic and engaging manner.

DL: Who helped you to reach these heights, who was your biggest supporter?
JW : My father

DL: What helped you to become a great designer?
JW : Self-criticism and re-working good to become great

DL: How do you think designers should present their work?
JW : I think they should be presented in precisely the form they intend to be used. That is the environment in which they will be called to shine after all.

DL: What’s your next design project, what should we expect from you in future?
JW : I think next will be another chair, or possibly the dining table #2. If the chair, then perhaps incorporating leather.

DL: What’s your ultimate goal as a designer?
JW : To enjoy the next piece

DL: What people expect from an esteemed designer such as yourself?
JW : Quality. Attention to detail. Meaning

DL: How does design help create a better society?
JW : By lifting the corporate mood; by improving our function and/or appreciation of the world around us

DL: What are you currently working on that you are especially excited about?
JW : Chair #2. I have never worked in leather before so exploring this entirely new craft is super interesting

DL: Which design projects gave you the most satisfaction, why?
JW : My first ever coffee table. It was the first real furniture I had ever created.

DL: What would you like to see changed in design industry in the coming years?
JW : Not sure

DL: Where do you think the design field is headed next?
JW : More application of tech to realize integrated designs more rapidly

DL: How long does it take you to finalize a design project?
JW : The entire process (with plenty of pauses) probably around a year. But the main design surge probably a week or two.

DL: When you have a new design project, where do you start?
JW : Visualizing the complete piece in my head

DL: What is your life motto as a designer?
JW : Keep it simple, beautiful, functional

DL: Do you think design sets the trends or trends set the designs?
JW : Both. They swirl around together

DL: What is the role of technology when you design?
JW : I have a deep background in tech and, possibly for that reason, I barely use it at all when designing! I prefer to engage my hands and build real scale prototypes in my craft shop.

DL: What kind of design software and equipment do you use in your work?
JW : A rather blunt 2B pencil

DL: What is the role of the color, materials and ambient in design?
JW : Enormously important. White and black provide great context. But then colour, grain, depth are all very important to me as a wood craftsman.

DL: What do you wish people to ask about your design?
JW : How much can I pay you for one?

DL: When you see a new great design or product what comes into your mind?
JW : I just enjoy looking at it and truly 'seeing' the core components

DL: Who is your ideal design partner? Do you believe in co-design?
JW : Yes I think co-design can be very powerful. The ideal partner has similar depth of skill but ideally in adjacent areas

DL: Which people you interacted had the most influence on your design?
JW : Probably my family have given the most immediate and honest feedback on my work

DL: Which books you read had the most effect on your design?
JW : I like Wallpaper; Fine Woodworking, and Blueprint magazines. And the Dylan Lewis in Stellenbosch guidebook moves me.

DL: How did you develop your skills as a master designer?
JW : By trial and error in my craft shop

DL: Irrelative of time and space, who you would want to meet, talk and discuss with?
JW : Family

DL: How do you feel about all the awards and recognition you had, is it hard to be famous?
JW : It is hugely exciting to be an award winner in this my first ever design competition

DL: What is your favorite color, place, food, season, thing and brand?
JW : Grey; Capetown; Thai; Autumn; Land Rover Discovery; Mont Blanc

DL: Please tell us a little memoir, a funny thing you had experienced as a designer?
JW : I remember my young children coming and joining me in the workshop. And gluing together various scraps of wood to create interesting little sculptures. I still have some of them.

DL: What makes your day great as a designer, how do you motivate yourself?
JW : It all starts with coffee.

DL: When you were a little child, was it obvious that you would become a great designer?
JW : No

DL: What do you think about future; what do you see will happen in thousand years from now?
JW : I think things will be totally different to what we expect; and surprisingly similar in other ways

DL: Please tell us anything you wish your fans to know about you, your design and anything else?
JW : They can contact me on