Designers Create New Meanings For Classic Tools [NY Design Week 2012]

Designers Create New Meanings For Classic Tools [NY Design Week 2012]
Arts & Culture

'Tools For Everyday Life' pays homage to the simple design language of utilitarian products, but with a modern twist.

Timothy Ryan, PSFK Labs
  • 26 may 2012

As part of PSFK’s ongoing coverage of NY Design Week, we attended the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in New York City this past weekend. As a premier showcase for contemporary design, the ICFF annually lures in the top designers from all over the world, this year hosting over 500 exhibitions from 34 countries.

Designers in Residence, a post-graduate initiative designed to support Northumbria alumnae wishing to develop their own professional design practice, exhibited their latest show, ‘Tools For Everyday Life’ at ICFF. For this year’s show, the designers were challenged to build prototypes of tools that simultaneously offered utilitarian value while celebrating the straightforward nature of functional tools as a form of art in itself. Designers created new variations of classic tools, paying homage to the concise design language communicated by the traditional, everyday, functional products while being careful not to stray from the tools’ original purposes. The result was a modern collection of hand tools, modified pencils, and a lightbulb harking back to Edison encased in a glass display.

‘Tools In Residence’ as described on the Designers in Residence site:

Recognising an increasing desire for us to reconnect with the physical world and the objects within in it, this project explores both the design language of utilitarian products and the value of making skills. The premise here is that knowing how to make something leads to a clearer understanding of an object’s logic, beauty and meaning. Craft revivals sparked by austerity measures, nostalgia and/or stylistic concerns may come and go and new technologies might democratize production but the makers knowledge of materials and processes bound up in useful products reminds us there is nothing wrong with liking ‘stuff’.

See some of the works featured in the exhibit below.


Above: CC041Jugs 1 and 2, by Trevor Duncan


Above: Industrial Blocks – Desktop Empires, by Colin Wilson


Above: Pencil works, by Trevor Duncan


Above: Magnifying Glass Task Lamp, by Danny Duquemin-Sheil


Above: Rivet Lights, by David Irwin


Neil Conley

The footnote from the poster is below:

Produced as a promotional poster for the ‘Tools for Everyday Life’ Project, this print was designed and illustrated by Neil Conley circa 2012. A reference to the tool gilding of old, this print is a celebration of the ornamentation of manual objects. A Journey made by makers to tout their wares on foreign soil. Artefacts forged where the land meets the sea, in the shadow of the rising tides and the jetstream. A love of all things executed and considered. Attention to detail. Either use or ornament. For more information about the aforementioned wares, and the work of Neil Conley, please visit and respectively.


The Fossil, Neil Conley

In the designer’s words:

Intended as living museum piece, the lamp is a preservation of Thomas Edison’s first truly reliable filament bulb, invented circa 1880. Resembling a fossil preserved in amber, the lamp demonstrates the transition of the filament from an object of fundamental functionality, to its place today as an icon of design heritage. A representation of the beauty of innovation, the bulb is now retired to a life behind glass, as a true industrial fossil.

See images below:

Designers In Residence

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