Designer Talks: Dik Delaney
The ceramic bug bit Dik Delaney, Global Design Director for Fiskars English and Crystal Living, early on and his passion later evolved into an explosive career in product design. Premium and luxury brands such as Wedgwood, Waterford, Royal Doulton and Royal Albert all fall under the Fiskars umbrella, offering consumers a wide range of beautiful products for the tabletop and interior décor categories. Delaney provides insight on business practices and where he draws inspiration in a one-on-one interview.
Do you have a greatest career moment? If so, what was it?
For me a big highlight was visiting Australia as part of the celebrations of Royal Doulton's 200th anniversary. I was joined at the event by designers who had created limited edition pieces to mark the milestone such as Tilly and Wayne Hemingway, Barber and Osgerby and the street artists Nick Walker and Pure Evil. Royal Doulton is a brand that's very close to my heart, so to get the chance to celebrate such a momentous brand achievement with so many talented people was a real high.
What is the basis of your design strategy?
Each brand within the Fiskars English and Crystal Living portfolio has an enviable heritage, and the key strategy for each brand is to design products that bring those heritage brands to life for contemporary consumers. We have to stay true to Josiah Wedgwood's commitment to innovation, quality and craftsmanship. It's an essential part of our strategy to ensure we don't lose sight of those values.
Where do you seek inspiration to kick-start your creative process?
I love to travel, and of course I'm very lucky to be able to do that through work, but I also enjoy travelling with my family. Recent destinations include Rome, Barcelona, Thailand and America - seeing the different ways people cook and serve food and architecture are a constant inspiration.
How do you overcome creative blocks?
I think that working in such a creative team means that creative blocks don't really happen. I get to work with an amazingly talented team of designers so we can always talk through ideas, challenges and solutions to keep projects moving forward.
As a designer ... it's not always easy to strike the balance between commercial realities and creativity - but that's the challenge of the role.
Is it difficult to strike a balance between your creativity and the objective for commercial success?
As a designer for industry, my training is all about taking a brief and making that a reality through design. That brief is almost certainly to create a product that is commercially successful and that develops the brand in a positive way. As a designer, though, it's not always easy to strike the balance between commercial realities and creativity - but that's the challenge of the role.
How would you define your personal design aesthetic?
My style is very simple, really. My home is all about clean lines, neutral colours and functional designs that have a point of difference.
Is there one design or collection that changed everything for you? What was it? And what do you think of it today?
It has to be designing the 1815 collection for Royal Doulton. The range came about at a time when the Royal Doulton brand was being repositioned, and to be able to go back to the archive and take elements from the brand of 200 years ago - dipped glazes, functional shapes and the hand-applied brand stamp - to create a range that was perfectly suited to the trend for casual dining and entertaining was a great achievement. The fact that we were able to create a completely relevant, modern collection whilst still paying tribute to the heritage of the brand makes me very proud. Today, I still love the collection and the fact that it encourages people to cook and share food at home, which is one of my favorite ways to entertain.
How many Forty One Madison Tabletop and Gift shows have you attended?
I think it must be about 10 by now. I love New York and it's always so inspiring to be able to visit the Forty One Madison showrooms, not only to meet our customers, but also to see what the other brands are up to.
Is there one person who you admire or consider to be your greatest mentor or design inspiration?
Sir Terence Conran is a design icon. He completely revolutionized people's lives through design when he launched Habitat and he was massively influential to me as a young designer. I was lucky enough to work with Sir Terence on his Royal Doulton collection in 2006 and he taught me a lot about designing great products.
What advice would you give to young designers who are just starting out in a commercial marketplace?
My advice would be to get as much real-life experience as possible. We regularly host students on design placements and it's a really great way to see how we take a commercial brief and make it a reality. We might have to adjust designs to make them easier to manufacture or use different techniques to cost-engineer a project.
What do you use on your table?
Working in the ceramic industry for such a long time means I have a very eclectic mix of products at home. I've currently got 1815 for casual every day dinners and tapas with friends and I have Pure Gold, a Wedgwood Prestige pattern for very special occasions. I also recently bought some Barber & Osgerby cutlery from their new collection that I love. It's been so beautifully engineered that the shape, size and weight are just perfect.