Four Seasons Kitchens • Nov, 2017
2017 has been an exciting year for us here at Four Seasons with new suppliers, exciting projects and our very own Donna Fox graduating from Bucks New University with a distinction!
September 2014 saw the start of the brand-new Kitchen Design degree course at Bucks New University, the first of its kind in our industry. The three-year degree course took 9 professionals of varying backgrounds, knowledge and abilities on a journey into better understanding the designing and manufacturing of the kitchens we enjoy every day. We caught up with Donna to find out more and hear her thoughts on the course.
Why did you do it?
I fell into working in the kitchen industry by chance, as I think most people do. Having come from a furniture design background I found I had transferable skills, but I really had to learn about kitchens from scratch. I’ve been lucky in my career in that every kitchen company I have worked for has been a big believer in promoting training and developing skills. Whilst learning on the job is one of the best ways to learn, it takes considerable time and sometimes costly mistakes to get to a competent level. When Ian asked if I’d like to take part on the degree I jumped at the chance for two reasons – one on a personal level – I really wanted to gain a qualification for my career; as some form of accreditation for the 10 years’ worth of experience and knowledge I had gained. The second reason being that I felt it was fundamental to support such a ground-breaking idea in the kitchen industry. I know that many people in the industry have been battling away behind the scenes for years to try and get formal qualifications put in place so that kitchen designers can be recognised as professional and skilled; to allow clients to easily tell the specialists from the cowboys.
What areas of design did you cover on the course?
We looked at a broad spectrum of design. For example, one of my pieces of work was titled ‘Exploring social, political and economic influences on design within the home throughout nineteenth and twentieth century Britain.’ I also looked at sustainability within design, architectural space planning, marketing, the effects of design on emotion, ergonomics, project management, anthropometrics, proxemics and human behaviour. In my final years, I looked at universal and accessible design, designing for the visually impaired, designing a concept kitchen for a cancer support centre and designing a multi-generational kitchen.
Throughout all our work we were encouraged to look at what excites and interest us, where we think design is moving to and what is in store for the future, as well as considering useful historic references to incorporate into our designs.
Do you think it will become an important part of our industry?
I certainly think it should, and I’m hopeful that it will. It’s not uncommon for the level of knowledge, expertise, design flair, creativity and project management skills of a kitchen designer to be undervalued. I’m hopeful that the more kitchen designers can find a way to be recognised as professional, and for having the specialist skill set that it takes to be a truly successful and creative designer, the more clients will value their time and efforts. In my mind, kitchen designers should be viewed in a similar way to interior designers and architects – as a qualified professional with specialist knowledge. Have you ever wondered why architects and interior designers charge for their design time and yet kitchen designers are very rarely able to justify this to a client?
What advice would you give to people just starting, or thinking about starting the course?
I would say that you need to be serious about wanting to do the course as it is time consuming if you are working full-time. There wasn’t any over lap with the course work and the work I did every day at Four Seasons, so the degree work is purely done in your free-time. I’d say you need to give about 25 hours per week to it, as a minimum. Personally, I think it would also be beneficial if you start the course with some knowledge of being a kitchen designer.
Since completing the course, have your thoughts on/areas of interest within the industry changed?
I’d say that the course has broadened my interest and passion for design. I’ve never been keen on design for design sake anyway, but now I am even more passionate about designing for a purpose. My final year project of designing a kitchen to suit a multi-generational household, highlighted the current lack of products and design solutions that are adaptable to suit different users with different needs. I’ve been working on some product designs for accessible kitchens as I think this is going to become an increasingly important market.
What was your highlight of the degree course?
There are two things that stand out for me – winning the ‘Student Kitchen Concept Designer of the Year’ award in 2015 and graduating with a distinction and special commendation from the university.