behind Robyn Hoodridge design
It’s difficult being a design house. If you don’t put out truly game-changing products, your name can slide by un-noticed. If you're influenced by another’s  process or products, you’re unoriginal. If you use natural products you’re a pillager, and if you use synthetics you’re a polluter. If you are environmentally  conscious you’re a hippy, and if you’re not you’re evil. Everywhere, a voice saying not, not, not. Even if it’s your own voice. It can seem impossible to create  anything which will have a place in this world. Like an emotional teenager feeling that the world is against them, and that they don’t fit in anywhere.       But with a bit of maturity one realizes that all these “nots” aren’t each a limitation. And they don’t cumulatively squeeze away all possibility of producing  designs that will have a place. Rather, it’s that “fame”, “innovation”, and “sustainability, themselves are not the epitome of meaning. That design is no one (or  more) of these things. And from a place of core introspection these complicated convolutions to what a designer does all fall away. Design always has been  about matching the best possible solution to the circumstance / challenge / mandate / commission presented. And facilitating that solution's birth and even  growth. That’s the end of it. The rest are just concepts applied exogenously, extraneously, and after the fact.        So that’s what we do. We research, find, invent, build, formulate, and produce, to come to the best possible solution for the situation. We are not themed. Or our theme is to create  designs that fulfil requirements. Where quality is the ability to fulfil the specific requirements, whatever they might be. And purpose is all important to us. We  might find something that that needs our attention (a design that comes to us or cries out to exist), leading to a product we can then offer. Or we might have a  requirement (a purpose) brought to us by a client, where our task is then to design a solution.      We use resources and materials frugally wherever possible and where the impact of the design is important; we innovate where there is an       obvious need for change; and we design according to style where a product’s success is strongly determined by the mode. And we do      everything we can to include all of these elements. But at the root, all of this is possible through being interested in the process of design.      That which creates to meet the purpose.     We like to think that this is what Louis Sullivan had at the heart of his famous statement that ‘form follows function’. Perhaps, for us, form follows purpose.  Creating to meet the purpose naturally and simultaneously results in all desirable characteristics - such as beauty, functionality, and competitive advantage or  economic success - by the very nature of the piece. A purposeful (or designed) piece is simply ‘better’. And this is why truly great design can be instantly  recognised, but not easily described, since it is everything simultaneously. The most telling difference between this philosophy and that which appears to be the default of designers racing for jobs as a cog in the machine is probably in  the difference between industrial design, and what we call industrious design. Where industrial design is a means of creating for the very mechanised, very  demanding, very rushed global society; and industrious design is more of a means for creating considered products and outcomes. More integrated, more  simple, more clever, and more responsible designs. And in this way, that very optimistic ideal of creating the best possible products and solutions for a given  situation becomes something that can actually be reached for. Resulting naturally in more timeless, honest, and truer quality items or solutions than if we were  to choose to pin ourselves to achieving one of the faux religions of design, like innovation, sustainability, or the mode.   If you’re interested in this philosophy of Industrious Design, you can read more thoughts on it via the link.  When one’s aim is not the egocentric attainance of fame; or selfish escalated financial reward; or to meet societal pressures, only then can it be about the  product. Only then can the best possible design [and product] be realized. That is the goal.   And achieving the goal is the reward. So to us, the reward for designing one product is that it supports us in moving on to the next. And the honour of getting to  do it all over again. Being able to stretch ourselves to create the best possible solution to the specific situation. Applying ourselves to new fields. Testing  ourselves, and also learning along the way. If the quality of a design is in how it meets its purpose, then the reward to the designer is in experiencing the  process of creating this quality. We’re also proud of our purposeful approach. And we like to share and explain the intent of a design. We can’t understand why all design is not ‘sold’ this way.  By highlighting the inherent purpose-fulfilling nature of the product. Perhaps it’s because designers don’t think their audience can appreciate this approach. Or  perhaps it’s because openly stating the intent opens the design to judgement, whereas simply offering a product (and using marketing to convince people to  buy into it) is the safer, risk averse alternative. So our own designs are open for discussion. And indeed we consider this approach of showing, sharing, and  teaching (by example) a principle of industrious design, an integral component of the role of design in the world.  We work with anybody who appreciates our philosophies, and on any project where the desire for the design stems from these points. We prefer the  'mediterranean' approach to partnerships. Instead of designers [us] creating cut and dried contracts or blueprints that define very impersonal, precise (and  strained) business ties with clients, producers, sales agents, etc., we prefer a constantly fluid relationship. Being willing to adapt in ones role to help ones  partner naturally makes the system more pleasant for everyone involved.  We develop solutions, and since this is a physical world most solutions are materialized as products. However any process can be designed. Meaning that  behaviour, perceptions, interaction, social change, transport systems, time-keeping, and more are all arenas in which a designer’s perspective can yield quality  solutions. So that we welcome commissions for physical, as well as non-physical designs. To design exactly to an individual, to a specific situation or surrounding, or to meet a precise purpose, some of our designs are once-off. So we entertain  commissions. Though, like an art work which is ‘designed’ to be what it is, this is an exorbitantly expensive means of creating a once-off item. We recommend  rather, that anybody interested in having a design developed then entertain further use of the design, and fashion an agreement with us to turn the design into  a product that we can offer others. This approach makes possible the creation of things that might otherwise not have been able to exist in the world, as well  as giving us the opportunity to do what we do, as well as creating business opportunities.        In this way we also essentially create the machinery for those with simply an idea to have that idea realised. Indeed this comes close to the idea of  licensing designs, which is too little adopted in South Africa. We promote the system by offering this ‘freelance’ service to companies that require a design (or  design collaboration) without permanently employing a designer.