Q & A with Barry Jenkins from BroomeJenkins

We are very excited to be launching our brand new product, Hotbox 4, at this year’s Clerkenwell Design week (24-26th May) Hotbox 4 is the product of a fruitful relationship with BroomeJenkins that began in 2019 with the design of our backpack Shuttle.

We asked Barry some questions to get his opinion on the workplace, design process and what makes them tick as designers. Over to you Barry,

 

Who are BroomeJenkins?

 

We are product designers with a range of experience and interests, although today we specialise in design for the workplace.

Started in 2003 the main team is Barry Jenkins, Julian Evans, and Alys Bryan. Julian has worked with Barry since 2004 and is a highly capable and experienced product designer, and Alys provides both design and marketing expertise.

We see our role as a mix of advisor, enabler, and collaborator. With the ever-present issues of climate change, today we are committed to a greater need to design products that are made to last, are genuinely useful and valued by the user.

 

Tell us about your design process and what you are passionate about?

 

We always respond to each project and client differently depending on the scope, aims of the project and the available client resources. Depending on whether the client has an in house design team or not, we will provide the appropriate level of input necessary. That said, we enjoy working with internal teams for their insight and perspective.

In many cases we have worked with clients to identify development opportunities and to write the design brief. Then working through each stage of development we often provide production data and liaise with suppliers. Over the years we have worked with most industrial materials and processes.

A project will typically start with a research phase. This could be competitor information or running surveys with end users to inform the brief. We will then undertake a broad concept exploration stage to allow the client plenty of initial scope, considering different design directions. All projects are about application and execution. Or in other words, how the product will be used and how it could or should be made. Generally, with client input we then rein in the ideas, reducing the options to focus on the most appropriate direction. As design is an experimental process, we always make physical trials to help the creative process and validate the idea. Physical models and prototypes are especially useful at prompting essential feedback. Recognising that some ideas may not work, models create a degree of chance central to a genuinely exploratory approach.

With each project we draw on experience gained for working in a range of B2B and B2C sectors and when necessary, we will bring in specialist expertise as we did with Shuttle. This is because we like to be thorough and value collaborating with others.

 

The pandemic has changed the way we work. What are your thoughts? 

 

The pandemic showed that for many people work was not location specific, and that organisations could function effectively with a dispersed workforce. However, working from home benefitted some people more than others and left many work districts devoid of activity. So, beyond the work that we do with Hotbox and other clients as product designers, there are broader issues to consider that involve those who design our built environment and manage city centres.

Remote and nomadic working has been around for a while and has been further strengthened through lock-down. However, throughout the world, business districts have been at the centre of urban regeneration schemes, creating vibrancy, purpose, and a sense of place. Although we develop products that understand the needs of the nomadic worker to fit the changing workplace, such as Hotbox Shuttle and Hotbox 4, we are not sure that those who build our new homes or develop commercial real estate have either understood the shift or are able to respond quickly enough to future proof our built environment.

At the start of lock-down there was a rush to predict the end of the office. That is because people like certainty and it was easy to draw that conclusion in the context of a global pandemic. More recently attention has swung towards hybrid working as another attempt to define a certain future. Hybrid working is closer to the truth as we can and will continue to work remotely when we want to. However, some jobs remain time and place specific, and some people may continue to work the more conventional 9-5 in the same place. The point of this is that workers expect a choice as office work culture has become more flexible and adaptive.

 

What’s the future of the workplace?

 

People thrive on social interaction. That said, the traditional nine to five is unlikely to return as the only way, although there are benefits for both employee and employer to share the same physical workspace.

The pandemic provided a good opportunity to reflect on how to improve wasteful habits in all aspects of our lives including how and where we work, how we commute and whether there are more efficient ways to hold meetings. Whilst we know remote or home working is possible and will continue, the future workplace should not be developed purely because of operational or financial expediency and needs to create gains for sustainability, wellbeing, and productivity.

The development of the office in the early 1900’s created spaces distinct from the home to house a workforce and the resources to do their job. The design and structure of those early offices were also a means of control and supervision. Today, having proved that with a higher degree of trust and autonomy many office workers can work remotely, the physical workspace needs to provide a space distinct once again from the home. The office will increasingly become a cultural space, expressing the values of the company. This trend has been evident for a while and through the pandemic the reticence held by some organisations to embrace it has reduced.

 

What do you enjoy about working with Hotbox?

 

Having now done two projects with Hotbox in close succession, the one thing that stands out is their commitment to the project to ensure a successful outcome. Hotbox are determined and insightful and value the time and thought that goes into each stage of work.

Design projects can lose impetus due to protracted decision making or indecision. In our experience working with Jamie and Rachel is very efficient and decisive. This has led to a trusting and valued partnership which above all is what anyone in business aims for.

It was very interesting having completed one project and started another during one or other lock-down, that unlike other manufacturers, Hotbox had the courage and foresight to continue with R&D and commitment to work with us.

 

What’s next for Broome Jenkins?

 

We value long-term relationships and so plan to continue to support Hotbox and other clients in their development plans as we have from the beginning.

However, in addition to our usual work with clients, we have developed our own product range that we will be launching at Clerkenwell Design Week (24 May 2022). Venue Tables is a project that has allowed us to distil more than 40 years of industry experience into a simple product from the physical product through all stages including the branding and communications.

A simple, adaptable design, efficiency and longevity are central to the whole project. We have developed it to provide different opportunities beyond our design consultancy role, and so it potentially opens a new chapter for us that may involve a partner, or it may see part of our business diversify into manufacturing. So far, we know that this exercise has made us think differently about design, cost, logistics, supply chain and sales. It has been a useful exercise that we hope will also benefit our other clients including Hotbox.

Thanks Barry, for sharing your thoughts on a subject we’re passionate about. We’re looking forwards to the launch of Hotbox 4 and Venue at Clerkenwell Design Week and continuing to work together.

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