Tom Dixon

Galvanized by industrial design

Rebecca Lambert
18 November 2014

2 min read

From bass player in the British band Funkapolitan to internationally acclaimed furniture designer, Tom Dixon’s path to success has been unconventional – in fact, he says he fell into design by accident when he taught himself to weld. Compass talked with Dixon to discover what inspires the man that international home decor tradeshow MAISON&OBJET named Designer of the Year 2014.

Compass: When did you start to pursue a career in design?

TOM DIXON: I was a late developer. I have no training in design. I started making objects when I was a musician – I had many hours free during the day, as my work was mainly at night.

Early on in your career, what was your source of inspiration?

TD: Bridges, planes, museums, travel, sculpture, space exploration, music and metalwork.

That’s a wide-ranging list. As you’ve diversified and developed as a designer, how has that source of inspiration changed? 

TD: I find inspiration everywhere; I see things out of the corner of my eye when I’m driving – buildings and structures. Contemporary sculpture by artists such as Anish Kapoor also inspires me. And I’m fascinated by manufacturing processes, the factory floor and raw materials, including scraps.

Who has had the biggest impact on your career, and why? 

TD: My collaborations with Giulio Cappellini (the owner of Italian furniture design firm Cappellini) were extremely interesting. Working with him, I learned how important design is to industry and how Italian craftsmen and industrialists really respect design as an intrinsic component of life and work. Going on to become creative director at Habitat, a British contemporary furniture distributor, opened up a whole world of new opportunities and exposed me to areas I hadn’t encountered before, from international manufacturing and craft to retail and shop environments, branding and logistics.

What do you think is your biggest design accomplishment to date?

TD: I am still waiting for it.

Can you outline a recent challenge and the solution you decided upon?

TD: I don’t know really, but challenge is what I like about being a designer. I encounter different challenges every day and see them as a new palette of possibilities. I work on a very broad range of products from luxury to ‘high street’ goods, involving textiles, electrical and domestic furniture. For me it’s like having access to a massive toy box!

How does it feel to be named MAISON&OBJET’s Designer of the Year 2014?

TD: It is a great honor, of course. Strangely, it feels like I am at the beginning of my career, and so I haven’t yet done a great deal to deserve it! 

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