Spotlight on …David Tonge

David Tongue picDavid is widely recognised as one of the leading industrial designers of his generation. Quietly successful he has designed a diverse range of award winning products including furniture, luggage, consumer electronics, car interiors, cameras and computer equipment.

He graduated from Northumbria University with class mate and collaborator Jony Ive. After working in London design studios, including Tangerine, he joined IDEO Product Development in San Francisco in the mid-90’s as Industrial Design Director. An exciting period for design in Silicon Valley, IDEO’s innovation process attracted the smartest brands from all over the world and he worked alongside some of the most influential designers of the modern era including Bill Moggridge and Naoto Fukasawa. After a period as Associate Partner to Bob Brunner at Pentagram design he founded The Division with partner Nicole Hodgkinson in 2003 and returned to London.       David has worked extensively in Japan, studying the language and developing an enduring love for the culture. Well over 70 visits later he has a unique knowledge of Japanese companies and frequently lectures, writes and consults about his experiences.

His work has been exhibited at the London Design Museum, has won major design awards in the UK, Germany, Japan and the US and his work and writing have been featured in Axis Magazine,  Business Week, Blueprint, Creative Review, Nikkei BP and The Guardian as well as being interviewed on BBC radio, NHK TV Japan and CBS.

You’re speaking at PD+I 2016, what made you decide to get involved?
I do a lot of speaking overseas particularly in Japan and the US and I thought it was about time people in the UK heard what I have to say.

What are you currently working on?
Our work is split between live projects and on-going advice based consulting with our clients. On the project side of things we are working on kitchen tools, health and beauty products, PC peripherals and the inevitable IOT devices both hardware and UI. Our advice area is expanding and is generally about advising upper management and directing internal teams to do the right thing.

Why did you become a designer?
Encouraged by my parents all I ever did was draw and make things and was correspondingly good at it. At 7 I wanted to be an artist. At 14 I wanted to be a graphic designer and during foundation course I visited Manchester Poly where a guy wearing a pink mohair jumper was designing a train, he looked so cool and it sold me on Industrial design ! But I don’t see any boundaries. I love photography, typography, ceramics, painting, fashion, architecture etc. It’s all story telling.

Is there a designer or company you particularly admire and why?
Given my global design upbringing – in the US it would be the Eames, in Japan Sori Yanagi and his father Soetsu. If we talk about the UK, I would have to say Alexander McQueen.
While all very different all of these were able to balance function and emotion in a way that from the outside felt less about their own style but was just ‘right’ for the time. They all understood that design should be an art form and a communication of the times, not just a weak mouth piece for business. Which is where we design in general seems to be know.

Should you meet your heroes?
I don’t really subscribe to heroes and celebrity but there are a lot of people I respect. I am happy to meet anyone from whatever background and it’s never upsetting, it’s our flaws which are interesting.

What product or design do you wish you’d worked on and why?
There are no dream projects. The one you are doing is always the best one.

What is the greatest challenge you face as a designer?
Not letting the business of design kill my love for doing

Can you describe your company in 10 words or less?
Unbelievably good

David’s presentation titled ‘Nobody needs another designer’ will open the conference on 18th of May 2016.


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