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In Conversation: The rise of materiality with Darren Clanford

Posted on the 18/04/2021 by Karndean Designflooring

This month we are delighted to welcome Darren Clanford, creative director and co-founder of Material Source, an online magazine which explores the world of product design. He discusses how materiality has come to the fore over recent years and how the A&D (architect and interior design) industry is using innovative materials to enhance customer experience and ensure a sustainable future.

With a career in the design industry spanning over 30 years, Darren has worked with a wide range of materials from woven carpets and carpet tiles to vinyl flooring and ceramics. After eight years as creative director of a materials studio, it was a natural step to the launch of Material Source.

Karndean: Your passion for high quality and innovative materials shines through. What started your interest in design and do you think the A&D community has changed during your career?

Darren: I have always been slightly obsessed with how things are made. My love of materials and product design started very early with the Lego and chemistry sets I played with as a child. I am passionate about telling the entire story of the material and really believe that when you explain your material choices and design process, customers will truly buy into a product and the ethos behind it.

The main change I’ve seen over the years is technology, for example the use of smart technology now being used for contactless transactions. To quote Mark Simpson, principal, chair of design and head of workplace at BDP: “Technology has undoubtedly had the most significant and notable effect on the way we work and continues to do so.”

Karndean: Where did the idea for Material Source come from and what role does the online resource play in the A&D community?

Darren: Talking to designers, we pinpointed a growing appetite for discovering how things are made and so we investigated how architects, designers and makers choose their tools, the challenges they face and the thought processes behind specifying for commercial or individual design projects.

The aim of Material Source is to be both inspirational and practical, beautiful and useful; to inform the design process, celebrate the importance of materials and products and champion the people that bring them to life. We genuinely listened to designers and the creative community and as a result of that our approach is very different to others.


Karndean: Hospitality, like many sectors, has suffered greatly as a result of the current pandemic. With outdoor service reopening from April, what do you think is next for hospitality design once they can bring customers inside from the cold?

Darren: If nothing else, the pandemic has highlighted the sheer strength, tenacity and agility of the hospitality and architect and interior design communities. We’re starting to see projects being realised and the continuation of investment that was in the pipeline pre-pandemic. Opportunities are opening up for smaller businesses that weren’t necessarily there before.

Materiality has also been brought to the fore with designers paying particular attention to surfaces and client experience. This was outlined beautifully by Hasan Roomi of H2R Design in a recent interview: “Materiality is everything. What we try to do is be conscious of the consumer experience so whatever the consumer touches, make it nice to touch. And with everything else, make sure it’s as environmentally conscious as it can be.”

Karndean: We are seeing sustainability become more and more of a dominant factor for specifiers when selecting material. What trends have you noticed in terms of material selection?

Darren: Natural materials are not infinite and it’s our responsibility to respect that and work to the three sustainability principles of reduce, reuse and recycle. We’re increasingly seeing bio-based design in hospitality environments and it’s so exciting to see these unique materials being used. For example, Cardiff-based experiential design studio Tŷ Syml has created a lampshade from Mycelium, while the world’s first zero-waste restaurant, Silo, operates with a true closed loop business model, from recycled construction materials to composting food waste.

Karndean: Material Source has become the go-to digital hub for design inspiration. What materials are trending or inspiring you right now?

Darren: Biomaterials are certainly becoming much more prevalent. When the concept of ‘bio-based’ first emerged it had novelty connotations but now these natural and sustainable alternatives are real contenders for specification.

Technology is having a huge impact on what is achievable aesthetically across fabric, tile and luxury vinyl tile while another area that’s come on leaps and bounds is the acoustic panel sector which is a perfect example of form and function combined. The common thread that runs throughout is the combination of being beautiful, useful and sustainable. I believe if a material covers all three, it can’t go far wrong.

Our thanks to Darren for taking the time to talk to us this month. We look forward to discovering more new and innovative materials and to be inspired by the projects the team showcases. To find out more and keep up with industry news, visit the website or follow on Instagram @materialsource.