The Conran Shop Designer of the Future Award 2021 winner revealed

Words by
Linus Osborne

12th August 2021

This year, the prestigious prize, given in collaboration with The Marandi Foundation, has been awarded to young South African designer Cameron Rowley

Presented by Linus Osborne

The Conran Shop's Designer of the Future Award 2021 has been presented to Cameron Rowley, a newly-graduated product and furniture designer. His winning design was an innovative one-step ladder. The prestigious award, launched by the leading design store in collaboration with The Marandi Foundation to maintain the legacy of the late Sir Terence Conran, British design icon, is one of the highest valued prizes in its field.

“I feel incredibly honoured and grateful to have won,” said 23-year-old Rowley, who first came to Britain from South Africa four years ago. “I love the ethos and design philosophy of Sir Terence Conran and The Conran Shop, so to have my work recognised in this way is massively gratifying.”

He describes his one-step ladder as being “born out of the observation that when using step stools and ladders around the house - it is usually for a very brief moment and with only one step.

The Conran Shop Designer of the Future Award 2021 winner revealed
Cameron Rowley, 2021 winner

“I wanted to create an object that facilitated this behaviour while maintaining a smaller footprint," he adds. "My ladder is a domestic tool inspired by objects of use. Borrowing features from utilitarian tools and other implements, it is for use around the house, retrieving items from tall kitchen cabinets or dusting cobwebs from the ceiling.”

Rowley's entry was chosen from a list of 97 (including 11 other finalists) by a panel of judges including renowned architect Lord Norman Foster, fashion designer Anya Hindmarch, the investor and British Fashion Council Foundation co-chair Narmina Marandi and four senior executives of The Conran Shop.

The judges said of the one-step ladder, “This is a brilliant solution to a frequent challenge; its purpose is easy to see and understand. Elegantly executed, it also serves as a great-looking product.”

Along with a £3,000 cash prize and paid internship, the Award consists of a £40,000 investment which will be used to develop and market Rowley’s design into an exclusive retail product.

Rowley is a graduate of Kingston University, an institution that was handsomely represented in the Designer of the Future Award's shortlist. Six of the 11 runners-up, all highly commended by the judges, had attended the university, with another three hailing from Nottingham Trent University.

The Conran Shop Designer of the Future Award 2021 winner revealed
The late Sir Terence Conran, British design icon

Other Kingston entries included Aperture Shelving by Cai Smith; Kinship Collection by Diane Sinclair; Cut + Crease Side Table by Elliot Payne; Quercus Collection by Callum Wardle; Wedged Bench by D’arby Mawson and HAT Lampshade, by Hyunsik Yang. Nottingham Trent was represented by Alexandra Record’s Motion Side Table; Habitat Shelving, by Roku Gega, and The Potters Chair by Darcy Eloise Hill.

Elsewhere, the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design contributed Multi Wheel by Aidan Johnstone while Manchester Metropolitan University was represented by Arun Kirwin-Singh’s Life Tools Collection.

When asked his opinion regarding future design trends, Rowley commented: “All my fellow designers have become conscious of our impact on the environment. It's great to see so many designs which use sustainable materials and processes. I believe we have a primitive appreciation for utilitarian objects and beauty. If a design manages both it will inevitably become timeless.”

And as for his own future? “I hope to gain some valuable experience in the next few years and apply that experience in the form of a studio," he replies. "Many of my classmates share similar interests and beliefs surrounding design, and it is my ambition to start a collective focused on sustainability and function.”

The Conran Shop Designer of the Future Award 2021 winner revealed
Fashion designer Anya Hindmarch, one of the Designer of the Future Award's eminent judges

During his lifetime, Sir Terence Conran inspired and developed a vast array of talented young designers. The Designer of the Future Award was founded to ensure the legacy of his commitment lives on. The Marandi Foundation was established in by Javad and Narmina Marandi in 2017. It provides education and training opportunities for young people and disadvantaged British communities. The Marandi family acquired The Conran Shop from Sir Terence Conran in March 2020, with the legendary founder continuing in his role as chairman right up until his death.

As Javad Marandi comments: “Sir Terence was a trailblazer and an innovator. Admired all over the world, he was a great British success story and was responsible for ushering in a bold new era of contemporary design. The Award will help enable future generations of new designers to prosper and uphold the traditions he set.”