Saturday 12 Jul 2014
Day and time to be confirmed BBC TWO
Product design is all around us – from the bed we wake up in and the toothbrush we use, right through to the TV we watch and the car we drive. But many people spend their days completely oblivious to the thousands of ways it affects them. Now the enfant terrible of product design, Philippe Starck, is determined to shake up the world of British design.
Claiming there has not been a design revolution here since Terence Conran burst onto the scene in the Sixties, Starck invited open applications for places on a school of design he is setting up in Paris. Hundreds of British would-be designers applied. Starck then whittled them down to the best 12, based on the quality of the drawings they submitted with their applications, and invited them to join him in the French capital.
Design For Life follows the fortunes of the 12 students – seven men and five women – who must battle it out to impress Starck. Ably assisted by top designer Eugeni and his agency's head of communications, Jasmine, Starck will send the weakest home as and when he feels it necessary. At the end of the series, one lucky British designer will be rewarded with a six-month placement at his design agency.
Here, Programme Information gives the low down on Philippe and all the contestants.
Philippe Starck's early inspiration came from his father, who was an aircraft engineer. The young Philippe spent hours dismantling toys, bikes, motorbikes and any other objects he could lay his hands on, taking apart and reassembling whatever aroused his curiosity. His mother gave him a poetic vision of the world – an approach to life that he calls "panache". It was on his mother's advice that he studied design at Nissim de Camondo in Paris.
Several years and numerous prototypes later, Philippe was commissioned to work for French President François Mitterand. Also at this time, he began creating furniture for leading Italian firms as well as honing his approach to hotels, classic examples of which can be found in New York and Miami. His expressionist architecture even started to spring up in Japan.
Phillippe declared very early on his intention to "give the best to as many people as possible", a lone voice in a world where good design was the exclusive preserve of an elite. There is little that he has not turned his hand to, with design pieces including: furniture, crockery, vases, lighting, spectacles, stationery, wrist watches, sunglasses, children's toys, alarm clocks, boats, hotel rooms, toilet brushes, commercial buildings, houses to be sold by mail order, motorbikes and even the Olympic flame.
Philippe's awards include Designer of the Year, the Grand Prix for Industrial Design, the Design Oscar, Chevalier de l'Ordre National de la Légion d'Honneur and the Compasso d'Oro.
Ana-Maria Stewart Pasescu
From Berkhamstead, Hertfordshire
Ana-Maria's passion for design stems from when she lived in Romania and had to make her own toys to keep herself amused. She moved to England at the age of 10 after her parents were forced to flee the Romanian revolution. Excitable and fanatical, she often draws the thoughts she has in her head straight onto her bedroom wall. She is a free thinker: doors that don't open both ways genuinely frustrate her; she'd love to convert an old phone box into a shower; and she's dreaming up a way to make the shopping trolley a more user-friendly object. Ana-Maria graduated with a degree in Furniture and Product Design from De Montfort University, Leicester, and worked for a brand design company for a year until quitting because she was not getting enough creative freedom. The timing was perfect, however, because shortly after leaving the job she was invited to join Starck's School of Design.
Helen recently graduated with a qualification in Product Design from Lincoln University and describes herself as a fun designer. She loves design brands like Alessi and Ikea as well as quintessentially British design icons, such as the red telephone box. The lack of females in the world of product design spurs her on to make a name for herself in the industry. She believes the experience of working with Starck will help shape the rest of her career and life: "The ideals I'll get from him could inspire me to start my own business, or take those ideals to a new workplace and hopefully change it or make it better – it's just such an amazing opportunity."
Ilsa is feisty and fiercely independent. She left home when she was 18 and has supported herself ever since. Her go-it-alone attitude is her driving force but she's so used to doing everything for herself that working as part of a team doesn't always come easily – she doesn't think before she speaks and that often gets her in trouble. A self-confessed workaholic, Ilsa's never happier than when she's busy – she lectures in 3D design at Liverpool Community College and she's trying to bring a newly developed range of conceptual light products to the market, all while studying for an MA. She loves designs that have a twist of irony and surprise people – like her practical design for a vertical coffin which will save space in already overcrowded cemeteries. It caught Starck's eye – and led him to invite her to Paris.
From Fulham, London
James graduated last year from St Martin's College with a BA in Product Design. Since graduating he has been looking for his big break into design. Although James is quietly spoken and quite serious, he is certainly not lacking in confidence – he thinks he has the potential to be one of the best young talents in design. Ideally he wants to go into homeware and furniture design and likes to incorporate fun into his designs. He is worried that his drawing skills will be found wanting by Starck, but is confident with computer-based designing and feels his passion for the work will stand him in good stead.
Jess, a self-confessed introvert, is serious-minded and desperate to make her way in the design world – although so far she has not found it easy. After graduating in Product Design she was unable to secure a job in the industry, but after three years working in retail, she has quit her sales job and thrown herself back into design. Her main drive is to find ways of simplifying complicated products to make them more user-friendly and more suited to a sustainable world. She has a flair for thinking outside the box; she loves loud colours; and dresses in a very distinctive style.
From Inverness, Scotland
Lachlan is the youngest of the 12 students at Starck's school of design. He has just completed the first year of a degree course in Product Design at Dundee University in Scotland – and is prepared to put his second year on hold to seize the opportunity with Starck. Lachlan's father has been the main inspiration for his interest in design – he studied architecture before becoming a surveyor and always fostered his son's interest in building styles and form. He also introduced Lachlan to the work of Scottish designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who remains an influence on the teenager. He loves the way Starck believes that excellent design should be for everyone and not just for the wealthy elite.
From Sevenoaks, Kent
Michael is a quietly confident young man who makes friends easily and will have no trouble bonding with the rest of the group. He graduated in 2008 from the University of Brighton with a degree in 3D Design. As a child, he used to infuriate his parents by dismantling everything from telephones to televisions – but this apparent vandalism betrayed a deep fascination with how things work and how they are put together. He is eager to work with Starck because of the way he has adapted his philosophy of design and now believes in designing less in order to help achieve a sustainable planet.
At the tender age of 22, Nebil's confidence is astounding – he compares the way he works and thinks to Salvador Dalí and Philippe Starck. "Personally, I'd like to think I'm one of the best designers of the future," he says. Of Turkish-Cypriot decent, Nebil didn't enjoy his childhood – as a hyperactive child he hated school, and his father was always on his case. His only salvation was going to Cyprus during the school holidays to help his grandfather in his cobbler's shop. At 15, Nebil saw a book of Starck's work and, from that day, he realised he wanted to be a designer. At school he began to visualise how 3D objects were made and realised this was his true calling in life. Nebil believes it is fate that this opportunity to work with Starck has come along for him.
From Middlewich, Cheshire
Polly received a First in her MA in Product Design from the University of Leeds and believes that she was the best student in her class. She's hugely determined and has set her heart on becoming a renowned international designer by the time she is 40. What infuriates her in the male-dominated design profession is the countless male designers who design products for women. She is confident and believes she could teach Starck a thing or two – she has a watch of his that drives her insane because of how complicated it is to use. Polly is a leader in group situations. She thinks that coming up with the ideas is her best quality in design – and, interestingly, she doesn't see the fact that she can't draw as a problem.
One of the older members of the group, Robert already has a career as a designer – he freelances, designing packaging for food products. Robert is a quiet, focused individual who likes to work on his own and is not a natural team player. He therefore may find it less easy than some to mix socially with a large group of fellow students. His first memory of design is sitting on his father's knee and helping to fill in a big scrapbook. It left him with a strong desire to work creatively. He feels his thirst for a challenge will enable him to do well at the school of design.
The oldest of the 12 students, Robert has taken a real gamble to pursue his dream of being a top designer. He had a secure job as a sign fitter, but gave it up after five years to retrain as a designer, enrolling in a BA in Furniture Design at Sheffield. His passion in design is to create products that are functional and appealing but that also help create a sustainable world – and he's excited to work with Starck, whose interest in sustainability is well known. He has no qualms about being the oldest student at the school of design and is confident he will fit in. The idea of spending a few months in Paris is also appealing – in the past he has gone off for months at a time, travelling to far-flung parts of the world.
Originally from Holland, Trevor is the "big, friendly giant" of the group. But beneath his gentle exterior lies a man with strong opinions, who is prepared to do battle with Starck if he doesn't agree with what the master has to say. Trevor came late to the design game – he has a degree in Marine Biology – but nothing has inspired him quite like it. Now at 27 he has gone back to the drawing board and is studying Product Design at Bournemouth University. He may only have been studying for a year but he knows that the rest of his life is going to be devoted to design in some way or another.