Creating classic style

Simon Smith

Isokon Long Chair

Keyframe Films, pound;32 (VHS) pound;39 (DVD)

Loop Coffee Table and T46 Coffee Table

Keyframe Films , pound;42 (VHS) pound;49 (DVD)

Tel: 020 8994 0636


These videos give an excellent insight into the design and manufacture of laminated plywood furniture. However, they also provide a link with the designers of products in the modern style who were experimenting with the uncluttered shapes and graceful curves that characterised the 1930s.

The first part of each video shows the selection of veneers and all the procedures for gluing the layers, pressing them around formers and then trimming and finishing the resulting shape. The second part of the story is told by designers reflecting on the inspiration behind the pieces and the technical challenges that had to be overcome. This is where ASA2 groups and others who need to analyse their work in the context of earlier designs are going to get most out of the videos. They will be able to make connections with design movements of the 20th century, especially with the work of Marcel Breuer, and others who used laminated veneers such as Alvar Aalto and Charles Eames.

There is a welcome emphasis on the importance of accurate models and there is good reference to the discipline of design as a wide range of activities. In contrast to many videos that deal with products, these focus on pieces of furniture that were designed to be made in small batches. It will be an education for many students to see how much hand work is involved in this kind of manufacture.

To get the most out of the videos, teachers will need to preview the programmes and be prepared to explain aspects of what is shown. This might be with a running commentary, or by explaining processes and then asking students to look out for them as they appear on the screen.

The teacher's notes supplied give an excellent introduction to the videos and there are discussion questions that could be used to stimulate further thinking.

While they are comparatively short, these videos waste no time on elaborate titles and wordy introductions. Many design departments will find that they fulfil a vital service in taking an intelligent look at the way in which a style can develop and influence new generations.

Simon Smith is head of design technology at Colfe's School, London

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