Design-driven Swiss watchmaker Rado served as the Official partner of NYCxDESIGN and WantedDesign. In 2017, Rado launched their second U.S. edition of the Rado Star Prize, which is held internationally to promote the work of young designers. With the Rado Star Prize U.S. 2017, Rado looked for innovative ideas on exploring the concept of “DESIGN IS OUR DNA: ITEMS FOR EVERYDAY LIFE” – a theme for the imaginative to create a product that shows a passion for the use of materials and design philosophy.
On May 19, at the opening of WantedDesign Manhattan, it was announced that Elisia Langdon, a recent graduate of the Industrial Design and Sustainability program at Pratt Institute, was the winner of the 2017 US Rado Star Prize for Kera, her modular storage system. Kera brings together the benefits of a sound-absorbing wall to improve working and domestic environments with the practicality of a storage system that can be adapted to grow within a variety of spaces. Learn more about Elisia and the Kera system.
WD. What is your education background?
EL. I grew up in the Bronx while attending a Waldorf school in Rockland County from kindergarten until grade twelve where I learned many crafts such as woodworking, knitting, and gardening from a young age. The hands on approach to learning that I was exposed to there was ultimately what led me to apply to Pratt for Industrial Design. At Pratt I minored in Sustainability, learning about the ways in which current modes of production and consumption are affecting people and the planet and how designers can play a key role in changing this pattern at the beginning of the life of a product.
WD. What is the story behind the prototype you presented for the Rado Star Prize?
EL. The Kera project really began a couple years ago when I was a research intern at the Center for Sustainable Design Strategies at Pratt. We were researching alternative materials for students to use that would have less of an impact on the environment and I was reading about wool and got a little obsessed with it. Not only does it have a lower negative impact on the environment, it can actually improve environments that it is in, removing toxins from the air, absorbing sound, and regulating temperature. I furthered this research during a semester abroad in Sweden during my junior year when I visited a sheep farm on Öland, an island off the coast of Sweden. I got to talk with one of the farmers there about how the wool from their sheep had become a waste product, used mainly to fertilize their fields due to lack of demand.
Naturally, when I enrolled in Karol Murlak’s modular storage class at Pratt last fall I was pretty dead set on working with wool. Karol was a great professor for this project, encouraging us to get hands-on from day one to experiment with material and structure. The bulk of the project’s development was about finding a way to turn the sheet material of wool felt into a three dimensional object that could support itself and items stored in it. I spent a lot of time playing around with wool in the studio, ironing, steam forming, scoring, and sewing. The form that I ultimately arrived at was just another one of my experiments but when it came together suddenly it worked perfectly for what I was trying to achieve, providing rigidity and also allowing the modules to collapse for transport.
WD. Do you plan to develop the project and do you have any manufacturer in mind that could be interested by this product?
EL. Yes, I’m working to develop it further this summer and hopefully put it into production soon. I’ve received a few small orders already so I’m working now on locating a facility that would be the best fit where I could produce the modules in small batches.
I’ve had such a huge amount of support for this project from friends, professors and of course Rado giving me such a generous amount of prize money, this is something I never expected to be able to even consider straight out of school.
WD. What is your dream career?
EL. Starting my own studio has pretty much always been the goal for me. I’m most inspired by hands-on experimentation so I’d love to have a space where I could explore new ideas and test out my crazy ideas. I’ve kind of joked around with some of my friends from Pratt about one day starting a ‘Design Farm’ where we would develop ways to grow our own materials and have a sort of laboratory/studio combo where we could experiment and work on projects. It might sound a bit crazy but I’m generally drawn to things that are a bit messy and I think I would enjoy the challenge.
WD. Who are the designers and companies that inspire you?
EL. The designer that inspires me most is probably Victor Papanek. I’ve read a few of his books and really admire his approach to design as problem solving for human needs that doesn’t shy away from issues that are sometimes difficult to address.
In terms of designers working today that I draw inspiration from, Form Us With Love from Stockholm and Layer from London definitely make the top of my list. I think these studios are working to address complex issues in a really elegant and sophisticated way and that encourages me about the future of design.
We wish Elisia all the best of luck as her career unfolds and are enthusiastic and proud to partner for the second year with Rado for presenting the finalists of the US Rado Star Prize at WantedDesign Manhattan during NYCxDESIGN, the city’s global celebration of design.