Masters of Surface Design, Inventors of a new vocabulary – An Interview with Giles Miller Studio.
As a designer, viewing the work done by London-based Giles Miller Studio (GMS) is no less than feeling like a child in a candy store. Scrolling through the array of exquisite and innovative surfaces that GMS creates, one is overcome with a feeling of wonder and immense possibility.
GMS's surfaces come forth into the world as sculpture, artwork, branding, and architecture. But before that, it's crucial for you to know, that these surfaces are resultant from the artful composition of thousands of small sculptural components. These small components are designed and fabricated in-house at GMS and can range from glossy or textured tiles in many shapes to 3-dimensioanal flutes created with cardboard, to controlled relief in leather.
It's not surprising then that sculptural artworks from GMS have shaped the visual identity for prestigious brands the world over. Using a vast palette of materials, the surface vocabulary developed at Giles Miller is always growing and evolving. Most recently GMS created 'Billboards' for Clerkenwell Design Week 2016, in London. A series of abstract signage sculptures for 'Wayfinding' at Design week, 'Billboards' was made with iridescent ceramic tile, in collaboration with British Ceramic Tile and redefined what 'Signage' can mean.
Shortly after Clerkenwell Design Week, we spoke with the team from GMS and learned more about their fascinating work. Here is that Interview.
MD: Your work so far has played many roles– sculptural, interactive, emblematic (of brands, places, and events) and now, most recently–wayfinding. Tell us how 'Billboards,' at Clerkenwell Design Week, was conceived.
GMS: Clerkenwell Design Week has been a patron of our work at GMS for a few years now, and the wonderful thing about the collaboration is the freedom that they allow us as a creative studio. 'Billboards' was a self-directed project from the start, but the seed of the concept was a conversation with the organizers about directing people around the show. To turn such a functional problem into an evocative series of sculptural work was a wonderful process and a testament to the faith the organizers had in our studio's approach.
MD: Using ceramics, glass, wood, metals and even leather you have created a vast palette of tiles, and with them, an array of surfaces. When did the defined goal of setting up a bank of such surfaces, or a new surface vocabulary altogether for your clients to engage in, emerge?
GMS: The decision to specialize in the development of surfaces came as a result of our work with the fashion designer Stella McCartney. Her forward thinking team saw our cardboard furniture pieces which demonstrated a technique for illustrating imagery using the surface manipulation of the cardboard and asked us to produce a wall covering using the same technique.
The decision to work on surfaces specifically was born, and the first show of Giles Miller Surfaces at London Design Week launched in 2010.
MD: Your work seems to show us the power of modularity. Small, reflective, beautifully crafted tiles (as the modules) come together at varying angles to form surfaces, which can then act as sculpture or augment architecture. Is your intent to highlight the power of that small module–The single wellcrafted tile?
GMS: The individual tile is indeed intended to be an object of beauty in itself, but then the composition of those pieces is where the client and our collaborators can really tailor the components to create their own version of our surface concept. The tiles are designed almost as a product whose function is to enable expression from our designers and our clients.
MD: In addition to materials like metal, glass, and wood, we see your work with materials like cardboard (your design for Stella McCartney's stores, or the V&A Museum latenight bar).Cardboard is not a material that designers often exploit well. Is there an intent then, at GMS, to celebrate more temporary, unconventional materials with your work as well?
GMS: Cardboard was the first material that the studio used to illustrate imagery, and the wonderful thing about that line of development was that we were able to beautify a seemingly mundane material to the levels of high-end fashion and retail. This process and the successful value that we added through our creative process lead to the philosophy of material experiment towards (or “intending to”) beautification and celebration of materials, light, and shadow that has become the signature aspect of our work in general.
MD: As Designers, viewing your palette of tiles and surfaces gives us a feeling of being kids in 'Candyland.' How does the process of design begin with a client? Are they exposed to this 'Candyland', so to speak, or is there a more focussed approach to materials depending on the intent of their project?
GMS: Working with our clients is often a very collaborative process, and we are happy to admit that many successful aspects of our projects come through the conversations we have with our clients or the other design studios that we work with. We present our way of thinking, and then we aim to fuse that philosophy with the materials, characteristics or specifications of the projects itself for a tailored outcome that has inherent value to the end users and clients.
MD: Where does the future of surface technology lie and what is next for you, as a firm at Giles Miller Studio?
GMS: We are not especially aware of the technological or trend aspirations of the wider industry, but from GMS you will see the development of our concept into 3-dimensional sculptures, architectural sculpture and further developments of our surface tiles and feature artworks.
New materials, new shapes, new applications and new thinking always.
MD: Thank you so much for speaking with us!