Decoding Design

W Hotels nurtures talent with its 'Designers of the Future' program

Posting in Design

Hip hospitality chain W Hotels builds its brand and that of three young designers with its award program--and gains some unique lighting pieces for its properties.

Philippe Malouin, one of the three 2012 "Designers of the Future" winners

Through June 17 in Basel, Switzerland, high-profile designers, collectors, and style-savvy corporate executives are congregating at Design Miami/Basel, a popular design fair. On view, as well, are lights, furniture, and other objects by up-and-coming talent. Three of those young designers getting much attention this week are the winners of the 2012 Designers of the Future awards, given by W Hotels.

The awards, now in its third year, is not only a way to showcase promising young designers who are early in their careers, but also a way for W Hotels to find unique furniture for its properties. The awards build the designers' brands, as well as that of W Hotels--known as a hip hospitality chain.

“Together, we are able to create forward-thinking and innovative design solutions for our hotels, while also showcasing their unique works to both W guests and locals around the world,” said Vincent Gillet, Global Brand Leader, W Hotels Worldwide and Le Meridien, in a statement.

The winners, Tom Foulsham (of the United Kingdon), Markus Kayser (of Germany), and Philippe Malouin (of Canada), each elegantly and imaginatively addressed the contest's brief: to create interactive objects that illustrate how "the spark of inspiration evolves into material designs."

Foulsham designed a sculpture called "Go-Round" (shown above), which incorporates everyday objects like hairdryers or fans, all balanced delicately balanced and suspended. W Hotel guests will be able to manipulate the "device," as W Hotels describes it, by breathing onto the sculpture. While not a functional design, the piece is likely to be a conversation starter. In a hotel lobby, it might very well be understood as serving the purpose of bringing guests together to socialize. And serve as an unusual, and memorable decorative element.

Kayser created a series of light tubes, similar to those found in offices and stores, which change in color and intensity in a 24 hour cycle, reflecting different times of day (shown below). There's a switch on the lighting system, which Kayser titled "LIGHTzeit," that resembles a globe in an abstract way. A guest or hotel worker can use the switch to adjust the lights, offering an interactive element.

Malouin constructed "Daylight," a series of lamps that resemble shuttered windows. The slats of the shutters are lined with LEDs that replicate sunlight; the intensity of the light can be adjusted by moving the shutters by hand. The geometric forms of the lamps are inspired by the Chinese puzzle known as the Tangram, so they compliment each other and can easily be grouped in eye-pleasing ways.

Beyond their inventive styles, what makes these three imaginative designs even more compelling is that they were commissioned by, and obviously unique, to W Hotels. But with the visibility Foulsham, Kayser, and Malouin will receive at Design Miami/Basel, as well as the attention their works will receive in W locations soon, they are likely to find other possible corporate collaborations and support, too.

Images: courtesy W Hotels, Camron

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Reena Jana

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Reena Jana has written for the New York Times, Wired, Harvard Business Review online, Fast Company, Architectural Record, Artforum, Time Out New York, Harper's Bazaar, and GQ. Previously, she was the innovation department editor at BusinessWeek. She holds degrees from Columbia University and Barnard College. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure