Category Archives: Design Education

Student Exhibition 2017

The Inchbald Exhibition, featuring the Students’ work of the 2016/17 Courses, was held as usual at the Cadogan Hall and was considered by visitors to be an excellent example of good tuition allied to talent and extremely hard work.

Distinguished judges included Tim Gosling, David Harber, Annie Stevens and Anthony Paul. In addition, one of our own ex students, Michelle Holland, now working for Goddard Littlefair, joined the panel, bringing knowledge of the School and new experience to the verdicts.

Interior Design Judge Tim Gosling and Principal Alan Hughes

Among the prizewinners, Julia Zeen (Garden) and Alex Joergensen (Interiors) are both now working for the distinguished Phillipa Thorpe organisation. Rob Sutcliffe and Leigh Glover (both Garden) have started their own companies and we look forward to hearing of their success. Jack McCoy, with several others, is proceeding to taking his Masters at Inchbald.

A number of students are currently working as interns, some have returned to their own countries as interns or working designers.

Casper Mackenzie spent his gap year at Inchbald (I think that was a first) and returns to Leeds University to complete his degree there. Perhaps we will welcome him back for his Masters!

One or two, of course, have gone on holiday, and very well deserved!

Meanwhile, the School stays open in preparation for the intake of 17/18 and we look forward to welcoming all our new students, as well as those continuing with their studies here in 2018.

Jacqueline Duncan, Dean

Colourblind Designers – A Hidden Blessing

Jacqueline Duncan, OBE

I recall an interesting conversation which took place long ago between an ex RAF officer and a designer, both of them colour blind.   The officer, Peter Dudgeon, had recently founded an upholstery business, and in doing so had extended his knowledge of colour, its versatility and the surprising effects that could be achieved by its manipulation.

The RAF roundel for example, he assured designer Michael Inchbald, looks as if the colours are all exactly similar in proportion to each other but they are not – the white, which to the normal eye spreads and thus looks larger by comparison, is slightly reduced to give conformity to the whole.   Peter claimed that it had been devised by a colour blind artist (and yes, they do exist!).

The conversation led on to the fascination of camouflage, used so extensively in nature and adapted by man, sometimes for protection and at other times extended to decoration in the form of trompe l’oeil, a painting skill devised to ‘deceive the eye’.   Where camouflage  is concerned, the “handicap” of colour blindness becomes a desirable skill.   Colourblind personnel were recruited in war to design the patterns, and indeed to detect those of the enemy, since the fact of colourblindness indicates a totally different perception of what appears to be the fact observed by normal vision.

Until the end of the 19th century the English army wore scarlet, and were known as redcoats for that reason – it is said that the colour choice did not show the blood!    Red, an aggressive colour in itself, is a subliminal alert to danger, and several hundred scarlet clad soldiers bearing down on their opponents would in itself be a daunting sight.   Interestingly, the gunners wore blue, a colour similar to their weapons and one that would draw less attention to their position.   The guns were not only vital but very expensive.   To a colourblind observer, however, both men and guns would be individually visible.

Scarlet morphed to green and finally around 1902, to the familiar khaki of modern warfare.  This in turn led to the development of military camouflage as we know it, widely used throughout the first and second world wars to obscure and confuse, unless of course, the opposing officer was colour blind himself!

In decoration, the skills of trompe l’oeil artists have been extensively deployed to confuse and deceive the observer, using both painterly and architectural talents.   Wallpaper manufacturers such as Zuber, have taken advantage of this style to produce paper panels that can transform a small room into a garden, or offer an amazing vista on a featureless wall.   And the violin, hung rather nonchalantly with its bow on a paneled door in Chatsworth, is in fact painted on to the door, over the paneling.   The first time I saw this I was astonished to discover that the violin and its shadow were no more than flat paint.

The Chatsworth House violin, which ‘hangs’ from the back of the door to the State Music Room. The trompe l’oeil was painted by Jan van der Vaardt (c.1650-1727).  Photo Diane Naylor © Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth.  Reproduced by permission of Chatsworth Settlement Trustees.

Colour, space, light can all be manipulated to provoke the imagination, or even provide a gentle joke!

Michelle Holland: Summer Exhibition 2017 Judge

At Inchbald we are privileged to have distinguished judges to review the work of our graduates but it was a particular delight to invite former student Michelle Holland back to the School for the 2017 presentation of awards.

Michelle was a memorable student from the class of 2007 coming to the School with a degree in languages and several years experience working as a Hotel Consultant for PKF Hotel Experts then running Market Research for Swiss International Air Lines. She brought creative flair, and a serious sense of business like efficiency to her course work as she tenaciously acquired the skills to make her dream of being an interior designer a reality.

Her final project was an ambitious reworking the Hilton Hotel in Manchester, through a connection made when the then Head of Design for Hilton International came to talk to Inchbald students.  Michelle presented her final work at Cadogan Hall, which was also the venue for her debut as an Inchbald judge this year.

Michelle went to work for Mary Fox Linton, straight after her graduation and after several years moved to Desalles Flint. She is currently an Associate at Goddard Littlefair where she works principally on designing both small and large scale luxury hotels.

The work at this year’s exhibition was in Michelle’s words, “impressive” and she was struck by the variety and finesse of the projects on show.  In her awards speech, she congratulated all those exhibiting, recognising their hard work and the determination it takes to produce work of such a high calibre.  This was an especially significant remark made by a very successful graduate who embarked on an Inchbald course with no experience of design and has subsequently proved herself an asset to the profession.  Her current success comes as no surprise to the staff at Inchbald.

Printing Press Bar & Kitchen, Goddard Littlefair (c)

Alan Hughes. Principal

Can I be a Designer?

Alan Hughes, Principal of Interior Design School discusses how Inchbald can equip you to become a designer and answers the most common question he is asked at interview; can I be a designer?

Every year, in the course of my work, I interview a lot of students; young people starting out on their career and older ones who wish to change the pathway of their work, who would like to concentrate their energies on “something I have always wanted to do”.   And all my interviewees have the same concern – do you think I am good enough to earn my living as a designer – am I creative enough to justify aspiring to success in this profession.

There is much uncertainty around the issue of creativity, and the methodology of communicating and implementing creative ideas.   One of the problems is that artistic skills of any kind have too often been subject to elitism.   This has a great deal to do with early education, when artistic children must demonstrate a high level of talent in order to be taken seriously as contenders for any artistic profession.   This is a selective process which in itself downgrades the natural talents and possibilities of those who could so easily excel with more informed encouragement.

Put more simply, if you have a flair for maths then you are perceived as having the potential to be a successful accountant and encouraged accordingly, but creativity is a more elusive talent and the artistic professions are seen to be more rarefied.

The fact is that we all have an inbuilt reaction to our surroundings in terms of our personal choices of dress, food, comfort and more specifically environment; Thus the average person in the course of their life makes thousands of selective decisions which are dominated by knowledge or education – or the lack of it.   Those reactions are halfway to the point when we actually wish to improve, and begin to design.

However, students aware of the challenges need to know if they can be sure their natural talents will be sufficient in a professional situation; and this includes those who may have had considerable success with their own houses/gardens or those of their friends.   Without benefit of disciplined study such minor success does not necessarily convert into professional achievement.

Often the next uncertainty may be voiced as “I can’t really draw”.   This is a skill which is much easier to learn than my students anticipate.  We teach students to draw far quicker than they anticipate, and of course we teach them the magic complexities of computer aided design.   Once mastered, CAD is almost too easy; equipped with these two systems of communication everyone will find it simple and rewarding to translate their ideas smoothly onto drawing board or screen.    Drawing, like CAD, is a tool, not an end in itself, and in realising this the worry about the skill involved will evaporate.

With those initial fears conquered comes the freedom and exhilaration of design reality together with the pure pleasure of expressing ideas and implementing them.   Students who doubt their ability can take heart from the fact that good and concerned education supporting their own talent and discipline will take them into a successful and very rewarding career.

Any career is a challenge but good education equips us all to face those challenges and overcome them.

Alan Hughes, Principal

The Wonder Of Trees

Jacqueline Duncan OBE, Dean reflects on the use of large trees in garden design on her visit to Audley End, Essex.

Last weekend I took the opportunity  to re-visit the tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) at Audley End and found it, handsome as ever and still in flower.

Audley End, Saffron Walden, Essex

Audley End is one of the most extraordinary of the great English mansions.   Once a monastic foundation more than twice its present size, it has served as a royal palace and latterly as a private home.   There is much to admire in the house, but surely the pride of the estate must be the magical parkland setting with a rich variety of specimen trees; and included in this collection is a magnificent tulip tree.   Find it to the left of the restaurant area as you look at the front elevation;  not yet at its peak it is the perfect size and spread, the curious rather fat leaves giving the plant a particularly attractive texture.   It is presently in the midst of flowering, the pretty bell shaped blooms with golden petals and orange stamens, the tree still covered in buds.

Liriodendron tulipifera

Through this exceptional parkland flows the Cam, with a small tributary running alongside the Walled gardens  featuring a fine double herbaceous border and some interesting orchard planting which will look magnificent in maturity.

Last year I planted a handkerchief tree (Davidia) purchased from Landford Trees and must wait some years for it to flourish the remarkable white sepals that appear in the late spring – here in Eccleston Square is a well established specimen that emphasizes the drama and the joy of trees.   This autumn I shall order a tulip tree from the same nursery and hope that some future guardian will benefit from its mature beauty.

If you find the notion of such a major tree in your garden overwhelming, then look at Cornus Eddie’s White Wonder, a beautiful plant of more modest size but offering a spectacular and long lasting flowering in the late Spring.

And go to Audley End – it is so worth a visit.

Garden Water Features

How To… Use Water Features In Your Garden

Andrew Duff

Water features of any size are a great asset to the garden.  Not only do they provide a focal point but they also give a sense of well-being. Whether still or moving the tranquil effects of water can calm or uplift any space.

For the small garden think about scale.  We assume that a small garden requires small features and that everything needs to be in proportion.  This makes the space seem even smaller, a sort of miniature garden.  So, have fun and take a risk!  Large sculptures or pots add a sense of drama.  Large leaved plants backed with smaller leaved plants help accentuate the depth, making the garden seem larger.  Do not limit yourself to a very small water feature; for water to work well you need at least half a metre square of surface area.  And remember the rule about using an existing measurement – try the door or window width or even a path dimension; coordinating measurements will anchor any feature you choose to introduce.

So, have fun and take a risk!  Large sculptures or pots add a sense of drama.

Materials are important. Do you want the feature to stand out or blend in?  Link back to a material that is already in the garden in order to harmonise. If the house is brick introduce brick again.  For a cottage garden galvanised metal or rusty steel can be both contemporary and traditional.  Is your water feature flush with the ground or is it raised?  In a small space a raised pool often works better.  A 1 m2 pool raised 450mm high provides an exciting focal point, is large enough for dramatic reflection and, the rim is the right height to sit on and enjoy.

Fountains can make or break.  Think subtle and sophisticated.

A large fountain in a small pool is totally out of scale.  Try a small bubble fountain fixed just under the water’s surface; the jet will gently babble away creating a calming movement and sound, or use a very fine jet and keep it simple.  One arching spray of water on the centre is more than adequate. For a Mediterranean feel locate a jet in each corner of a square or rectangular pool and aim them to cross each other. The Alhambra Garden in Spain is a great resource for inspiration.

Still water requires a little more maintenance to keep it clean and it will also evaporate quicker.  A little black dye will help heighten the reflective qualities and stop algae growing.

The Alhambra Gardens in Spain

Do not overcrowd a pool with lots of plants; remember the design mantra that less is more.  Again think scale. You don’t want a miniature water garden, but you do need to choose plants that are appropriate to the pond size.  Miniature water lilies can work well if planted alone. For contrast plant large oval-leaved Hosta around the edge and sword-shaped Iris directly into the water.  If you are looking for inspiration I would suggest visiting the flower shows or have a look at their websites – RHS Hampton Court Flower Show is generally the best one for water-plants.  (Try not to look at the larger water gardens; this is not the look you are trying to achieve.)

Safety, with water in the garden, is paramount.  A raised feature is safer, especially if you have young children, but I would always insist the client has a metal grid fitted just below the water surface so that if a child falls in, the grid would protect them.

The History and Application of Wallpaper

Jacqueline Duncan: Lecture by Diana Lloyd – The History & Application of Wallpaper

Jacqueline Duncan, OBE, Dean of Inchbald visited the Mendip NADFAS (National Association of Decorative and Fine Art Societies) Branch recently to listen to a lecture on the History and Application of Wallpaper given by Diana Lloyd.

Long ago Diana was a particularly successful student at Inchbald; shortly after completing her course she started lecturing at the Victoria and Albert Museum on glass. She became a regular lecturer on decoration at Inchbald and soon took over the Directorship of the History of Design Faculty. With the advent of children she pursued an independent career as a lecturer on the Decorative Arts and her range is very broad, as NADFAS members across the UK will know to their benefit.

Diana is renowned for forensic research into her subjects and a sparkling delivery which captivates her audiences’ attention. I was particularly interested in the manner in which she handled her subject, bringing a fresh perspective to the fascinating story of wallpaper’s origins and subsequent decorative history.

The NADFAS organisation, founded some years after the 1960 foundation of the Inchbald School of Design, has made available a wondrous programme of lectures dedicated to the Arts, and promulgated both education and enjoyment in this wide subject, making it available across the UK to so many people of all ages and interests.

Jacqueline Duncan

How important is CAD in the creative process?

“But surely CAD is critical for our portfolios ” say my students.   Certainly it’s important: once mastered it is an easy and professional option but there are other considerations in the creation of good design.  As a tutor I have heard this comment many times and I am certainly not alone; design tutors everywhere will be familiar with the resistance to drawing skills, the reliance on digital technology.

So before the Digital Crusader derides my point of view let me explain.  I am not against technology and the advent of the digital age.  In fact I encourage and welcome it, but in the student’s evolution into professional designers there are other important lessons to be learnt.

It is a tutor’s responsibility to encourage students’ investment in vital core skills and these include conceptual thinking, supported by drawing and sketching.  These are attributes which will lead to a proper understanding of their profession, including their role as a designer and their responsibilities to their client.

I was encouraged recently by an article in the RIBA Journal (April 2017) by Pamela Buxton reviewing the work of Deanna Petherbridge.  A passionate advocate of drawing throughout her working life, Petherbridge describes the importance and relevance of drawing when discussing her work, expressing concerns about the ‘loss of value placed on drawing as designers increasingly rely on computer-aided design – particularly the loss of the immediacy and sense of scale that drawing on paper encourages’.  Pertinent for me however was Petherbridge’s observation that, whilst using CAD, designers are ‘always at second or third hand – the (computer drawing) system has been set up by someone else. You think you’re controlling it, but it’s controlling you’.

Increasingly within the teaching environment I find myself straining to express the relevance of investment in fundamental core skills before the countenance of digital software.

The design profession must take some responsibility for the determination of students to be more ‘Tech-Savvy’.  Studios automatically assume CAD skills when interviewing prospective employees..  Whilst this in itself is a necessary and valuable skill, it should never be at the expense of the development of young designers.

Too often the disappointing result of students’ work is the consequence of a rush towards ‘an impressive digital presentation’, with students seemingly convinced that it will sway opinion in their favour when pitching for their first position of employment.  It certainly helps but there is much more in the training of a designer.

Cultural awareness supported by reading, personal experiences gained by travel, and the capacity to make mistakes and recognise them as such are key development factors.  These are all discussion points capable of further elaboration within the learning environment and they provide a framework to build upon.

Thus I would urge more time spent on research and drawing skills, both important and primary functions for any student.  Swanky digital presentations can easily obscure the true substance in the work.  Experienced potential employers will see through the superficial success and make decisions about how they perceive employment capability.

Consider the further impact from the new ever-emerging technologies such as virtual reality presentations, currently a big buzz in the profession.

The ability to immerse clients directly into the spaces that they will inhabit, walking from room to room, able to make first hand decisions about what they are likely to receive from the designer can only further engage the dialogue between the two parties.  However it remains the case that without core skill developmental capabilities, it may also highlight the lack of substance.  The challenges we face in in our personal development are really about continuing to challenge ourselves.  Debates about what software to master, whether it is AutoCad or Vectorworks, are not really the debates that we should be having.

We must never lose sight of the ability of these digital programmes to enhance, but only enhance, the viability and visibility of our own, cultivated, potential creativity.

Computers are the brilliant products of a brilliant mind.

Computers do not design.

Tony Taliadoros
Senior Lecturer
Inchbald School of Design

Inchbald Seoul

Inchbald launches a new garden design school in Korea – Inchbald Seoul

Inchbald was founded to provide professional education for aspiring interior designers. With a great personal interest in gardens and landscaping, founder Jacqueline Duncan extended the programmes to include the study of Garden Design and our graduates have gone on to spectacular careers.

Inchbald has always attracted an international student body, which in itself offers greater diversity to those studying here, and in 1992 Inchbald was approached with a view to establishing a link with a school in Jeddah in order to start an Interior Design department. The Future Centre (Jeddah) is now a well established success.

Inchbald is now collaborating with Master of Arts in Garden Design graduate Young Ok Kim to start a Garden Design School in Seoul, a challenge which is most exciting and which we are sure will prove to be just as popular and successful as the Jeddah establishment.

Inchbald Seoul is launching its first course, a six month Diploma, on 12th May 2017.

For further information please see below:-

Tel:  + 82-2-722-1121

The Manipulation Of Space With Colour

Alan Hughes discusses Tinie Tempah, colour psychology and how an interior designer can manipulate space with colour.

The concept that music can stimulate certain areas of the brain has prompted research by a team at Reading University to explore this theory.   English rapper and songwriter Tinie Tempah volunteered to undergo brain scans whilst listening to music and conclusions indicate that we are all fired by the impact of sound.  Certain areas of the brain ‘light up’, as we listen and the investigation is set to determine why these specific areas respond. This could be a clue as to which areas house our emotional responses and may begin to explain if particular areas of the brain are tuned to specific reactions?

The study attempts to quantify and measure personal reaction in a scientific manner, even though the effect may be no more dramatic than a ‘goose bump’.  

Tempah himself relates the analysis to his own compositions more immediately, stating that he needs the music to capture a feeling.   The scientists at Reading University however, aim to identify the level of activity in stem, cortex and cerebellum and the results of this exercise will impact on our perceptions across a wider field.

It comes as no surprise to the designer that sensory stimulus has an emotional consequence.   In spatial design a similar reaction can be provoked by colour and as the composition of the musician can be further inspired by music, so the Interior designer reacts to the stimulus of colour and can learn to manipulate space with visual impact.   The designer’s ability to assign colour for a purpose beyond cosmetic should be a major element in his or her perceived style and skill.

The educational centre in El Chaparral designed by Spanish architect Alejandro Munoz Miranda uses coloured glass in the communal corridors to elevate the students’ mood between classes

We are bombarded by stimuli on a number of levels and on a constant basis.   Initial impact is strong but this is reduced by repetition and, if you wish, familiarity.   Thus we experience a difference in brain activity between first impact and subsequent experience.  Nevertheless the impression penetrates more deeply into the brain than mere pleasurable response may suggest.

This information is not really new.   Many studies have shown that colour affects the heart rate, the recovery rate of patients, the behaviour of prison inmates and indeed the overall mood of the viewer.   Given this subjective reaction, the possibilities are interesting.   Once the student grasps the principles of colour and the differentials between aspects of warm and cold, advancing and recessive shades, so It becomes possible to change perceptions of form and scale with informed colour disposition.   Could anything be more empowering?

Fashions will come and go but the study of colour and its relationship to light, is one of the most important subjects in the lexicon of design education.

Read more about Tine Tempah: Mind-Blowing Music here.