Q&A with Hightide designer: Neil Davidson

Q&A with Hightide designer: Neil Davidson

For the Hightide exhibition we quizzed a range of the designers about their practices. Here we share a few of those behind-the-scenes details. Alternatively, check out the video interview with Neil Davidson which is featured in the exhibition.

Signature series knifeHow did you come to be a designer?

I have always been an artistic and creative person. I grew up on a farm where there was always a need to be innovative and solve the everyday problems that life threw at you. These environmental factors along with a healthy dose of Lego laid down the foundation for my career as an Industrial Designer.

Later in High School my Graphics teacher suggested that I should consider a career in Industrial Design as he was frustrated that I would never simply draft the subject part or reference design, I always wanted to improve it somehow! One holidays he leant me a copy of the educational series, “The Design of Dream Machines” which profiled case study projects from Seymour Powell, one of the world’s greatest Industrial Design consultancies based in England. After watching this series I was sold on this as my career and all efforts from that point on have gone towards practicing Industrial Design.

An early design conceptWhat inspired you to create the Signature Series of cutlery?

Once when I was using a nice set of cutlery, I noticed that although the design of the cutlery was simple and refined, the manufacturing processes used in its creation were energy and labour intensive. It was at this time that I challenged myself to see if I could develop a sophisticated range of stainless steel cutlery knives using the material in its most basic and cost effective format – sheet metal.

An early design conceptWas there a particular design problem you set out to explore/solve with this design?

The main aim in the development of the Signature range was to explore a more sustainable solution for premium cutlery and chef’s-knives. Sheet metal material is efficient to manufacture and its forming process is less energy intensive. I knew that a more suitable product could be achieved by using sheet metal. The challenge was to take sheet metal that is often considered a basic material with low value and develop a premium looking product.

The sheet metal has allowed the cutlery to be full sized, strong and comfortable without being heavy and difficult to hold. The cross-sectional “V” shape of the components allows the entire range to stack on top of each other reducing environmental shipping cost and saving space in the drawer.

An early design conceptWhat manufacturing processes are used in this design?

The Signature Series Cutlery range is produced using light sheet metal materials and processes. The Steak Knife sample presented from the range has been laser cut from stainless steel sheet metal and then press-breaked into basic shape. It has then been ground and brushed. Lastly but not least my signature has been laser etched into handle to finish the piece.

Prototyping and sketchesHow would you describe your design philosophy?

For me design is a thought process or behaviour, a way of thinking and problem solving the purpose of which is to help people, to improve our lives and the world around us. By using design we can humanise technology. A new technology has no value to us unless it has been designed to be useful.

Lastly, where are your favourite places to go in Brisbane?

To relax, I love riding my motorcycle around the mountainous and perri-urban suburbs of Brisbane. I often ride loops out through Kenmore and Brookfield or up over Mt Nebo, Mt Glorious and back through the Samford Valley.

To get inspired by design, I love to lock myself away for a few hours in the Asia Pacific Design Library and catch up with the magazine and periodical design news from around the world.

To eat, my favourite café is probably the Little Larder. It is a charming, warm and friendly place that has always looked after me with great hospitality, food and coffee. My favourite restaurant is the Cross Town Eating House pretty much for the same qualities as the Little Larder.

To drink, I am a beer man and I am loving the new craft brewing movement that is alive and strong in Brisbane. I find myself cycling between Green Beacon, Tipplers Tap, The End and the Newstead Brewery.