1652338859297 Antfarm

Encouraging Self-Expression through Design

July 17, 2018

The completion of Brintons Americas’ year-long Self Expression project comes to its end, revealing what happens when designers take the reins and remove traditional constraints.

In any industry with any job—even when doing something you love—work days can sometimes get redundant and monotonous. With interior design, pre-determined color palettes, design briefs, and other specifications often drive or guide creative output rather than self-expression. That is why one year ago in August, the Brintons Americas marketing team embarked on a journey that removed traditional constraints and handed over the reins to the designers themselves.

Named the Self-Expression Project, the year-long experiment aimed to reveal that self-expression is not lost in the commercial flooring world.

“It started out as just a small experiment with a few designers from the Atlanta studio,” said Lydia Day, marketing executive for Brintons Americas who helped initiate the Self-Expression project. “We wanted to see how they would respond without a brief. So, I found a photo online that was nicely composed—good color and clever texture—and asked them if they were interested in participating in the experiment.”

The experiment quickly grew from one to five focus groups, each with three to five designers. Since the Brintons Americas designers are spread across the country working in multiple time zones, the marketing team split them up by their respective zones. “Time became this glaring theme directing our process,” said Day. “That’s how we chose the last four pieces.”

Team members were given various pieces of inspiration—a photograph, playlist, video, ant farm, and sundial—with the task to simply respond to it with their own self-expression. Each piece is an instrument in telling time, just in different ways.

“We wanted the inspirations to be obscure enough to where the designers could objectively respond to them, not respond how we or the industry thinks they should,” said Day of their selections. “Really concentrating on self-expression in the commercial flooring world.”

Self-Expression Timeline

Once members reviewed the individual item given to their team, they then worked independently for two weeks on their designs to allow for self-expression to develop. Afterwards, the designers would convene for university-styled critiques, and then fine-tune their work through the lens of studio culture and peer review.

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Collection Release Date: March - Photograph

Three Brinton’s Americas designers were given a Gordon Williams photograph that featured a multi-canvas covered brick wall behind a city street.

“It is interesting to see how differently everyone digests the same piece of inspiration,” said Amy LaGuire, a designer in the group one. “Paul [Andino] completely reduces it [the Gordon Williams image] to simple shapes focusing on the small details of layered textures while Nona [Thorton] is drawn to how the fabric shapes come together, whereas my process is extremely literal. Because of my background in interior design, I tend to look at the inspiration and work backwards with the understanding of what the end manufactured product will be.”

Collection Release Date: April - Playlist

Realizing that there is more to inspiration than just pulling content from visual mood boards, group two received a 32-song Spotify playlist as their inspiring object. “Often as axminster designers, we are presented with a visual to work from,” said Elaine Traynor, senior design consultant and member of group two. “Being challenged with a playlist, as opposed to an image and a pre-determined color palette, allowed us to work in a very abstract way using our emotional response to the sound to guide us.” Songs like “Time” by Pink Floyd and “Waves of Mutilation” by the Pixies tied in with the project’s overall theme.

Collection Release Date: June - Video

In continuing the experiment, the third group of designers responds to an obscure 62-second video with fleeting clips of running water, burning paper, ants crawling, and more. Five designers pulled inspiration from the disconnected but fluid nature of the film’s cadence while expressing themselves without any parameters to follow. As design consultant Sara Di Carlo put it, everything changes constantly, and the passage of time implies this change. “I started the design process with an image of a worn out piece of cloth—something that had already existed as different things during its life—and played with movement, color, and depth to achieve my final design,” she stated. Each designer seemed to be drawn to a different aspect of the video; material contrasts, audible texture, or the overarching theme of time and change.

Collection Release Date: July - Ant Farm

In group four, three designers were asked to respond to an ant farm. In relation to the project’s overall theme, the ant farm shows how landscapes and structures can change with movement over time. “I was mesmerized by the maze of tunnels the ants painstakingly worked on day and night,” said Leah Jack, Brintons Americas’ vice president of design. “Creating, changing, destroying, and repairing. Therefore, I was quite literal with my design direction and interpretation. Layers of tunnels and tracks, constantly worn away by the movement of the sand under the march of the busy workers.”

Collection Release Date: August - Sundial

Last but not least, group five was given a sundial to respond to—a more obvious relation to time. The result, to be released in August, includes a handful of authentic and artful designs, born directly from the designers and highlighting skillful self-expression.

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About the Author

Adrian Schley | Associate Editor

Adrian Schley is an Associate Editor for i+s, where she has been covering the commercial interior design industry since 2018. Her work can also be found in BUILDINGS and Meetings Today. 

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