Design Matters

A couple of instances yesterday brought home to me why we believe, what we’re doing with Learniture is so important.

Firstly, I read an interview by Emma Dyer with Dutch architect Herman Hertzberger. At 85, he still runs his studio in Amsterdam and in this interview (well worth a read over a coffee) he spoke about the design principles he applied to schools.

Emma referred, in one of her questions to the English architect David Medd who made his name designing schools in the 1960’s for Hertfordshire Council. One of his mantras was that you start with the activity, then you think about the furniture, the interior decoration and arrangements and then you think about the building.

It’s a version of the great architectural principle of ‘form follows function’ coined by Louis Henry Sullivan (although he always said he’d borrowed it from Roman architect, Vitruvius). But David Medd’s use of it in the design of educational buildings mirrored exactly the title of the pamphlet I’d written a number of years ago and which you can download here “Designing schools from the inside out”.

We need furniture that understands and is informed by the activities that are being conducted in today’s classrooms much more than we need flashy glass atria announcing the entrance to the school.

Secondly, I had a meeting with the guys at Toast who are working on our website, branding etc. Like all great designers they wanted to get under our skin … really understand what we were doing, how and why, and most importantly who we wanted to speak to.

We spoke about hydration and turkey twizzlers along the way recognising that in some instances it was necessary to explain to ‘non-believers’ that we aren’t some socks-and-sandals cranks or crazy fashionistas got caught up in the whirlwind of a fad, but people who had a simple mission in life – to enable teachers have much greater opportunities to deliver great lessons by giving them the tools to do the job. “If it’s not easier, then we haven’t done our job right” as Headteacher Di Pumphrey once said to me.

What we’re doing is looking at the evidence behind what makes great learning, and ensuring our furniture portfolio supports that. We look to strip away the falsehoods (like children leaning back on chairs because they’re being naughty or not paying attention) and ensure that the solutions we make available promote good practices and help teachers deliver great learning. It’s going to be an exciting journey!