Strictly speaking this should be titled cube as all the images on this post are based around the cube. Square seems more appropriate as the discussion of a square deal for designers was posed over on Twitter during the Milan festival. #Milanuncut was a discussion kicked off by writers Marcus Fairs and Max Fraser who’d both heard and reported the anonymous grumblings of young designers at the level of work and payment they got for producing the prototypes that were being hyped during the festival. So with this tenuous link; I can post some images of designs around a cube whilst doing the maths to see what a young designer can hope to gain from going into production.
A wonderful tweeted interview by Max Fraser with Guido Cappellini included the percentage range a designer could expect in royalties from a work in production. A royalty payout is roughly between 1.5- 5% on the cost or wholesale price of an item, though I would think the bigger the designer the more flexibility there is in the percentage. So for and item that walks out of the shop at £100 the designer would take 60p – £2 using a mark-up on the cost price of 2.5 times. Its not a lot really is it. An anonymous designer complained that his last royalty cheque was for £600 “it won’t even cover half a months rent” (he obviously lives in London) But if a design takes off you could be gradually raking in the royalties for years and as you establish your name you won’t be relying on 1 or 2 products; some designers must have launched 10-15 products at Milan this year. But to really build up an income will take years of work and products with a long shelf life.
So is the way to go abandon designing for others and set up on your own? Seen here is Dave Keune’s Standard Primatives Lamp. He’s an example of a designer who’s set up their own. And its certainlyworked for Tom Dixon creator of Etch 100 (1st image above) a design inspired by the logic of pure mathmatics; but only after years of designing for others. Starting out on your own can take some serious money; Benjamin Hubert tweeted that he’d spent £30,000 of wages from day jobs into creating prototypes before he started to make any money. And its not quite so simple to set up on your own – with so many jobs to do running a business; it always helps to have interns. Hmmm yes interns; another sensitive subject thrown up by #milanuncut. They can either be seen and used as slave labour (the bigger the company the worse the experience so it would seem) or vital to the growth of a new business that otherwise couldn’t progress. Fresh out of study with so much expectation you can’t help thinking students may expect a little too much out of an internship? But then it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that in working for free they do gain something from the experience; even if it may only be to realise that a lot of work isn’t as intellectually stimulating as college life has been!
Philippe Malouin used interns to create the Yachiyo metal rug; and he even named it after one of them and credited everyone who worked on the piece. This really was a team effort and with over 3000 man hours to create; it would have been impossible without his interns. I couldn’t resist the urge to work out what this would have cost to make had he been forced to pay the minimum wage of £5.93 . It actually works at a staggering £17,790!
Yes ok this doesn’t make this a commercially viable piece to put into production (even if you farmed it out to a $1 a day wage in developing nation!) but I can’t help feeling that they all got a sense of satisfaction in the creative process, even if they don’t feel the need to repeat it. You can see them making it over on Dezeen. And from that idea and process and experimentation that having a group of interns can allow a creative cloud can form and out pops another idea, process etc,etc.
Over at Established & Sons a remarkable similar Cubiod rug appeared in their new collection. They’re not giving away the name of the designers in this range, but I was assured that they did hire some very talented names from the design field. I can’t say for definite that Philippe designed this but…..any way it does offer another way for a young designer to use existing ideas for a nice design fee rather than royalties.I am making an assumption that this is a fee rather than a royalty but it would make commercial sense to do it this way. Say they had an initial production run of 5000 at retailing at £80, that would be a £2400 royalty. I think a one off design fee would be a bit less.
Another direction for the designer can be into that hazy would where art and design collides. Marcus Tremonto produced these Hexalights. Is it art? Is it design? Oh I can’t be bothered to work it out anymore! They are glowingly beautiful either way.
Sadly the final tail of #milanuncut was that too many students don’t even attend the classes that are aimed at giving them the business knowledge to succeed in a very competitive environment.
So for my final cube spot from Milan is Konnex by Florian Gross for Müller Möbelwerkstätten Great for the frustrated designer who has given up on the design career and is left to redesign their home. The pieces can be added to and slot together to form your own unique layout – that way you can still feel like a designer.