Tom Dixon is an internationally renowned British designer. He was born in Sfax, the second largest city in Tunisia. His work is held in the permanent collections of the world’s most prestigious museums, including the V&A Museum in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Tom Dixon has built his world through a wide variety of experiences, from music, contemporary lighting, furniture and accessories to high-profile projects, including restaurants at the Royal Academy in London, Jamie Oliver’s restaurant, Barbecoa and Shoreditch House.

Tom Dixon: Ideology and Philosophy - Sheet1
Tom Dixon, courtesy of Design Research Studio_ ©Smith, C. (2016) Tom Dixon, Interior Design

Ceramics exposed him for the first time to the transformative nature of design without even realizing it. In the few years he has been messing with clay, he had come up with the idea that he could transform the material into something more precious. 

Unplanned Man

He has been making and selling things since the beginning. Therefore, the commercial aspect was never separated from the design aspect. If he can’t get rid of something, it’s sitting in his studio, and he can’t make anything else: He doesn’t have the money or space to store materials. The transactional aspect of it made him believe it was worth it and let him do the next thing. He has never separated business and work.

Processing the Process

Tom Dixon: Ideology and Philosophy - Sheet2
Where I Work: Tom Dixon_©Williamson, C. (2021) Where I work: Tom Dixon, Design Milk.

“The furnishings industry isn’t like having a hit record. There’s no moment when you know you’re number one” – Tom Dixon. He defines his style, and it’s getting harder and harder for other people. Everything is so public now. It is much easier to go abroad, but it is difficult to develop a very different set of works.

Tom Dixon has ideas, and he wants to see if he can put them into practice and then people will buy them. The ideas may be exciting, but a lot of the process is about getting something at the right price, finishing the invisible details, getting the finish right, or making it fit in the right box and then shipping it all over the world.

More Instinctive than Intellectual

Doing design – not art or sculpture – gives the person a formal framework. A certain level of functionality is expected, and he feels more comfortable with certain limitations. It must hold, it must pour, it must illuminate.

Even in the beginning, the people who were interested in his stuff were Japanese or German, they were hardly British. So when he started his brand, it has always been a little bit international. Often one is more exotic abroad than in your own country. Like Jimi Hendrix, an American guitarist, one has to go somewhere else to catch on at home. Tom Dixon’s inspiration from Asia is manufacturing.

South Korea is amazing – it’s a big country now and has made a huge shift from copying things to creating your intellectual property. 

Underwater Furniture Farming

Tom Dixon: Ideology and Philosophy - Sheet3
Accretion Chairs Are Grown Underwater_ ©(Unknown).(2022). Accretion Chairs Are Grown Underwater. [Photograph]
Tom had a project with IKEA; they are the only company that has changed the furniture industry. He has another project in the Bahamas where he grows underwater furniture. This is a semi-concept, semi-sustainable project. Tom found a scientist in the 1970s who was trying to grow artificial coral to build cities that float underwater. It never worked, but he moved the idea to an underwater furniture farm.

Easily Bored and never Satisfied- Tom’s Secret

Where I Work: Tom Dixon_©Williamson, C. (2021) Where I work: Tom Dixon, Design Milk.

His secret is that he gets bored easily, which always pushes him to try again or try new things. He wants to see the next and the next, that dissatisfaction with the present, always thinking about what he can do next, that’s his real secret. Impatience is his secret. 

Tom Dixon is someone who loves to make things, and he loves to transform ordinary materials into precious things or environments that people can appreciate, use or comfort. The idea of ​​being involved in making things is what motivates him, hands-on in the process, and he is still interested and has had it from the start.

It all starts with Factory Visits

When Tom Dixon collaborates, it usually starts with a factory tour. As he got older and more experienced, he realized that it’s not the money or principles that make a good project; it’s the people. So, he always goes as far upstream as possible in the project. In the case of Ege Carpets, he met in London, but the factory tour was important to him, and the factory tour convinced him that this was a company he would love to work with because of its very specific expertise and highly skilled, dedicated staff people.

Design philosophy of Tom Dixon

The design philosophy of Tom Dixon is not to copy the product already existing. We work in an industry where it’s getting easier and easier to copy things. So we’re always on the lookout for more difficult and individual textures, finishes, techniques, and glaze recipes where we can’t control the process. We’re giving up that absolute consistency that many manufacturers and many designers are after.

The Route of Design Taking in the Future

For a long time, Tom felt like he wasn’t born in the 40s, so he could have been one in the 60s. New technologies, new plastics and new ways of living could be amazing. According to him, we’re on the verge of a new and amazing era for designers where these very high-tech tools are at your disposal. This means technology becomes personal, something that has never happened before. Designers no longer need industrialists around. Now everything is up to the designer; we can make the final product ourselves. One can use this power to create a lot of garbage or can use it to save the world. So, it’s an exciting time, and it can be scary too, but at least we’re not bored.

References:

  1. Tom Dixon on Becoming a designer by accident (no date) Tomdixon.net. 
  2. Jacobsen, M. F. (no date) Tom Dixon: The idea of being involved is my motive, Egecarpets.com.
  3. Inspiration and dominant influenced tom Dixon cultural studies essay (no date) Uniassignment.com. 

Image Citation: 

  1. Smith, C. (2016) Tom Dixon, Interior Design.
  2. Williamson, C. (2021) Where I work: Tom DixonDesign Milk.
  3. (Unknown).(2022). Accretion Chairs Are Grown Underwater. [Photograph]
  4. Williamson, C. (2021) Where I work: Tom Dixon, Design Milk.
Author

Akshita Gahlaut is an architect based in Delhi who strongly believes in the ability of the architecture and research combined with design thinking. She is an avid learner who has a penchant for understanding different fields within the architecture and aspires to promote sustainable development.

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