We meet with Craig Jones, designer of Bridge, to talk about collaborating with the Bisley in-house design team. Bridge was inspired by the traditional meeting room credenza, but re-imagined for the contemporary office and work styles, connecting flexible spaces together.
Craig, let’s start with your relationship with Bisley. Where did that all begin?
I’ve been a friend of Bisley’s for about 25 years. I know lots of Bisley personnel and have been in contact with them all for donkeys’ years! I’m Welsh myself; so, naturally I think it’s important to support businesses in Wales. I’ve always been impressed with Bisley's status and achievements in the marketplace as a world class company on the global stage.
Our first real engagement – where we worked alongside the Bisley team – was in the last couple of years. Initially we helped with Be, the personal storage range that has recently been reinvented. I don’t see that project as traditional design work though, because Be already existed. It was more observational. We looked at how we could effectively improve and develop the range to suit the evolving and modern office environment.
Since then, we’ve moved onto designing Bridge from scratch with Bisley’s in-house design team. We have also contributed to a few other smaller and more recent projects for Bisley – notably soft storage and tables.
Where did the idea of Bridge stem from? How did that develop?
Bisley asked us to design a credenza product, but when we started our research, we came to the conclusion that credenzas are generally quite outdated looking products. So, we wanted to ensure that Bridge was an update on the traditional credenza, both in terms of aesthetics and functionality.
We also wanted to utilise Bisley’s steel and wood expertise but ensure that the product was easy to specify in comparison to the historical complexities of traditional credenzas. We were given a ‘less is more’ brief, and originally, we aimed to limit Bridge to under 100 components. This was a challenge, but even with the built-in product flexibility, I don’t think we were far off in the end. The whole time we were designing it, I was constantly asking, “What can we do to simplify this?”
Bridge is all about minimal components providing maximum flexibility. Once we established that Bridge didn’t need to look like the usual credenza – as in, a 2.5 metre veneered oak-type-thing – we took to modernising it, while still maintaining the simplicity for which we strived.
The design did change and develop in many ways throughout the process. Originally, Bridge was based on a dice-type configuration, which is where the 360° accessibility aspect arose. We wanted all four sides to play a part in the design, which is why Bridge works so well as a room divider. We also only created a small number of modules – I think 5 or 6 carcasses. When we were playing around with the different module possibilities, I started to think “We can get really have some fun with this”. We started to experiment with different heights and widths, and this is where the skyline setting originated from, because the configuration resembled a cityscape.
How important is collaboration to you?
Extremely. I think it’s so important to build strong relationships in business and extract the best from all parties. At Jones & Partners, we’re all about honesty, being down to earth, being truthful. We’ve worked with some businesses for over 15 years, and that consistency and loyalty is an important element for us. It’s important to hold your hands up when you’re wrong and remember that collaboration has the ability to teach and benefit all parties. This is how long-term relationships are built.
I obviously fly the flag for Jones & Partners, but Bridge was a real collaboration with Bisley’s internal Design team, their factory, and their production staff. We all worked very closely, and I learnt a lot from the Bisley team and, hopefully, vice versa. It was a proper team effort, and this kind of collaboration, I think, is what makes a product like Bridge so special.
Have you always worked in design?
Yes. I graduated in 1993 and I got a job within three weeks for a furniture company in Merthyr Tydfil. I worked there for three years, before I moved to Manchester to work for The Senator Group. After that, I moved to London and then Cambridge for a bit as well.
I then decided I wanted a bit of time off, so I went travelling for a year. When I came home, I borrowed £500 from my brother, bought a laptop, and started to contact all the people that I used to work for. It all took off from there really; I started Jones & Partners, which, back then, was called Craig Jones Design.
We are celebrating our 20th anniversary this year, which is crazy. I suppose time flies when you’re having fun!
What did you want to be when you were younger?
In school, I was really interested in computer/design technology (DT), graphic design and maths.
I knew the DT teacher quite well. He would give us the keys to the workshop, and myself and a few friends would go in and just make things during the school holidays. Even when I was doing my degree, there weren’t sufficient workshop facilities at the university, so I transported all my tools home, and worked in the school workshop during the holidays.
For me, a career in Design has always been set in stone; I don’t know what I would’ve done otherwise... Maybe I would’ve been a chef. I quite like cooking!
What does a normal weekday look like to you?
6am alarm. 7:30 Cycle into work. 5:30 cycle home.
After work, it’s all about family time. I’ve got a 11-year-old son and a 9-year-old daughter. We have a series of animals: a dog, cat, and a hamster. I love spending time with my family, taking them swimming, long walks, cycle rides or to the park for a muck about. We live in the south downs national park and are very lucky to have the countryside on our doorstep.
How do you think the pandemic has changed the way we think about the workplace? What do you think the future holds?
The effects will vary between businesses and the roles those businesses carry out. There is a growing expectation that most people will have ‘weekly slots’ working from home, but my opinion is this will dissipate as businesses get back to full strength. We are social animals and isolation and separation from co-workers is a temporary situation. The casual conversation is a great source of knowledge transfer and this tacit learning is a vital tool within our workplaces. I think the effectiveness of home working will be tested when businesses return to full tilt. What I can see happening is employees requesting more flexible working hours and perhaps Fridays will become a day of less office based productivity and perhaps much more social.
There are a plethora of other problems not yet fully resolved and it could be litigation becomes an increasing problem in our society - as people’s homes are not fully equipped to be fully operational workplaces.
Products in the workplace will evolve and transform with employee safety, wellbeing, flexibility, mobility and technology coupled with hybrid layouts, playing a part in the overall mind map and strategy for new, innovative, friction free, office solutions.