Having once been a part of renowned design trios Y.S. Collective and later Think & Shift, Daniel Kamp is no stranger to the ins-and-outs of the commercial design world. Now, he’s taken another step by setting up his own brand and focusing on experimental design with KAMP.studio. A self-identified futurist, Kamp discusses his hopes for change in the industrial design world, the rise of efficiency with 3D printing, as well as some of his recent designs in the form of bespoke cutlery.
How did you first get into design and when did you know this was the career for you?
I wasn’t particularly studious at high school so I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do afterwards. My older brother went through industrial design a couple years before and I eventually decided to follow in his footsteps. I studied industrial design at Victoria University, not really knowing if it was something I was going to be passionate about. At first, it didn’t really excite me and I didn’t really excel. But something clicked at some point and I realised that it was something that I really loved. Once I started applying myself, I also realised I was quite good at it and the love for it grew from there.
After that, I went into my first job straight away which was at Design Mobel, a bedroom furniture producer. Not long after that, I got started in YS Collective with Sam Griffin and James McNab. We all went through university together and we were good friends. We realised we had similar aesthetics that aligned in terms of design.
Afterwards came Think & Shift which evolved out of YS Collective, but you left T&S late last year to start up your own studio. What have you been up to since then?
When I left, T&S was officially alive for around a year or a two and the studio was flourishing. We had landed ourselves a couple of really good awards and started getting some nice clients and projects. In retrospect, it was always going to be at that point that I left. Once the studio became a successful, self-sustaining thing, it started to lose its appeal for me a bit. I didn’t exactly know why, but I left T&S just on a feeling that it wasn’t quite aligned with exactly where I wanted to be headed, and a feeling that I could actually offer more to the world by going out on my own and focusing on my own passions. I hadn’t defined exactly what that meant yet, so I went through a bit of a quarter life crisis. I jumped on a plane and travelled around Northern Europe and did a design and arts tour. I also spent a bit of time in Singapore and also went to India for a month with some friends.
When I got back, everything accumulated into a clearer picture of what I wanted to do. In particular, when I was in Stockholm for the Swedish Design Fair, I understood at that point what my frustrations were with the commercial design world. I expected to see good design for the world there. But instead, I felt like the whole industry was a bit confused about its place in the modern world. Hundreds of young and even established designers were struggling because it felt like they were doing things that weren’t that different from what was happening 50 years ago, and this is in an age when we can 3D print organs and make reusable rockets.
I came away from that feeling like there was a real opportunity to bring some life back into our products, and that some of the new technologies available to us can actually undo some of the monotony that’s been created in product design through this mass production era that we’ve been in. As much as this might sound like a contradiction, I felt like there was an opportunity for me to bring design a bit closer to nature using new technologies.
Thus, KAMP.studio was born, an experimental design practice focusing on identifying poetic potential of new technologies. It’s not so much about solving practical problems or about pragmatic solutions afforded to us by new technologies, but rather, what things like 3D printing offer us from an artistic perspective. How can we use these technologies to tell new stories and create beauty that perhaps wasn’t so easy or even possible to do without these technologies? That’s something I’m absolutely passionately about. I’m very much a futurist and I think I’ve finally found the thing I believe will be my vehicle for achieving my ambitions in the design industry.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Ultimately, the thing that inspires me the most is evolution, and that’s in its widest of definition. Whether that means evolution of natural organisms through natural selection, evolution of technologies, or even the evolution of the design industry. I’m really interested in the way things change over time,
This might sound crazy but a lot of my ideas have recently been coming to me in my dreams. Since I left T&S and allowed myself more freedom creatively, I’ve had this insanely productive period of inspiration. I’m running to keep up and refine those ideas into pieces that I can make available to people.
As you’ve already mentioned, a lot of your recent work has employed 3D printing which is something that is really on the rise at the moment. Can you tell us about how that’s factored into your work?
When I studied design innovation at Victoria University, we did a lot of work with 3D printing. I kind of feel like just in the last year or so, a lot of that has really come of age. It’s not absolutely ridiculous in terms of cost and we’re able to use high quality, long-lasting materials. To me, it was obvious 3D printing was going to be my main focus and its totally changed the way that I design. I’m exploring not only new forms, but also the ways we think about additive manufacturing. I’ve recently been exploring how we can integrate 3D printing with more natural objects or processes of decay so we can get away from this perception of 3D printing as plastic, shiny, and breakable.
It’s also totally liberated my design process. In comparison to when we were having things crafted as YS Collective, the prototyping and production model is so much more simple and fast that I can spend a great deal more time actually creating and refining ideas, rather than managing prototypes, production, and manufacturing. It’s simplified my business model in a way that allows me more artistic freedom.
As someone who’s designed a variety of things, how do you balance between function and aesthetics?
That’s a very interesting question because it’s something that’s kind of changing for me. The pieces I’m working on now are less functionally driven than they have been in the past. They’re more concept-driven, so form follows concept rather than form follows function. That could come down to a variety of things, such as my first reaction to the functionalist approach, which perhaps has stripped our objects of a bit of their soul and the things that really allow us to connect to them emotionally. My focus is more on story now.
So I guess in setting up KAMP.studios, it’s allowed you to be a bit more experimental by looking at things beyond functionality?
Absolutely, even to the point where I spent a long time questioning whether this was even design or whether it was art. Was it neither, or was it both? I’m not so worried about that question anymore, but it’s quite a different approach than the way I’ve approached designing things in the past. It’s just naturally less commercial.
Looking back, what would you say has been your favourite project so far?
It’s a tough question because the one I want to choose is not actually finished yet. Poise is a set of 3D printed titanium cutlery and it was the first project I started working on after I left T&S. Cutlery is something I’ve wanted to design for as long I’ve been designing things, but the opportunity never really presented itself. It’s quite a beautiful thing that that was the first thing I started working on with my own brand and it kind of speaks to the freedom that I’m allowing myself.
Also, I just really fucking love cutlery.
Are you hoping to maybe roll it out to a wider market once it’s finished?
Yes. Pretty much all of the projects that I’m doing will result in saleable objects, and those will sell through Kamp gallery which is another arm of the business. Poise is probably one round of prototypes off being at that stage. It’s quite an expensive thing to prototype and cutlery is an incredibly complex thing to design. But once that’s refined to a point where I’m happy with it, I’ll make that available to purchase.
Since you’re a futurist, any predictions on what you think will be the next up-and-coming design trends?
What I’ve identified particularly with these 3D printing technologies is that there’s just this huge amount of efficiency in the design process. I’m using that efficiency to give myself more artistic freedom, but I suspect that we’ll start to see a lot of small design studios use that efficiency to build lightweight, agile business models that will allow them to make money without having to go through the big manufacturers.
Long term, and it’s a huge one, I’d really us to rethink the whole beast that is the industrial production system. We live in a post-industrial society, but a lot of the things we do are still based on principles that were defined in the Industrial Revolution. They’re ideas that were relevant in the last century, but not so relevant now. I’d really like to think we can move away from mass production of these homogenous, lifeless objects and get to a place where things are more bespoke, more loveable, and cherished for a longer period of time.