How a New Design is Born

The inspiration for design can come from anywhere. Recognizable by its intensity and the connections it draws along with it, the sequence of events is much the same every time an entirely new design style is born. It happened recently and the details are fresh, so I thought I’d share the process. It began when a client asked for my help in selecting new dinnerware. The search led me to discover the gorgeous Haviland & Parlon porcelain and two styles suddenly triggered the familiar thrilling chain reaction.

Haviland & Parlon plates at The Pink Daisy
Haviland & Parlon ‘Syracuse’ plates courtesy

Popular writers are relating this research process to Alice following the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole. When the rare and treasured inspiration happens along, you follow the trail with enthusiasm. First the ‘Syracuse’ design caught my attention because it brought high fashion designer Emilio Pucci’s signature prints to mind. The lead was true – I searched online and found a number of vintage Pucci prints that shared the mood suggested by the china pattern.

vintage Pucci prints on Pintrest, Syracuse plate courtesy
vintage Pucci prints on Pintrest, Syracuse plate courtesy

A day later the animation for Yellow Submarine, the 1968 Beatles film, came to mind. The search brought up a cheerful collection of images that blended well with the visual theme. A little too wild to adapt directly, they were potent just the same. It’s a good time to mention you don’t copy anything, you build a source pool of ideas.

Yellow Submarine see article at

Just when I feel like I’m off in blue space and doubt the reality of the impulse, I notice that the new theme is developing organically out of the last design theme. There is always a link backwards and forwards with true trend alerts. This one continues the blob shapes, clear bright colours, new maximalism and 60’s inspirations covered in previous blogs. That’s one validation signal. My other reassurance used to be Karl Lagerfeld. He was directly wired to the Zeitgeist (spirit of the times). I could recognize my new lead in his fashions and shows. Designer Christian Liaigre is gone too. Ideas I was struggling to give form to would appear beautifully realized in his new furniture.

SkLo Bowls
Hand blown glass bowls courtesy SkLo

Soon the idea expands to include its relevance to the world situation, in this case the link between two volatile pivotal times, 1968 and 2020. The parallels are remarkable; the conditions in the earlier recapitulate in the later. The notable design influence is the music culture of the late sixties. Disco music begat disco clubs that sprang up worldwide, uniting generations and cultures in music-and-dance fun and kicky youthful stylings. Psychedelic music brought a vibrant casual style that years of minimalism have equipped us to tame to perfection for our new functional stay-at-home areas. Design improvements for a brighter setting, while we grow clever with the internet of things.

Plate from The Pink Daisy, Scarf from Amarcord Vintage

Photo, Pucci scarf

On with our case study. After floating out images on Instagram I scoured the designer showrooms but the look had not yet arrived. Fabric designers in Italy and France are doubtless ‘hearing’ the same inspiration, each in their personal version. Diane Schryvers at Theo Décor found a textile collection that begins to show this sensibility. She directed me to printed velvets from Casal of France that Jimi Hendrix would have loved.

Hendrix courtesy, Pop Art velvet courtesy Casal France

His 1967 song Burning of the Midnight Lamp that came to me in a dream a few years back sprang again to mind. Hendrix said it was the beginning of his future sound. Sadly, he would never develop it.

See Also

Sacramento velvet, Casals
Casal France velvets at Theo Décor

Handled carefully this concept offers good colours and soft shapes for cosmopolitan chic. But these inspirations have a long way to go to become room designs. The most wonderful opportunity just arrived for putting together the room shapes, window shapes, colours, patterns, textures, furniture shapes and placements. I’ve been asked to design a concept suite for a builder from pure inspiration all the way! Reminds me of Jimi’s title “AXIS BOLD AS LOVE”.

After all the musings a comic idea entered my mind: The leagues of giga-rich people planning their escapes to bunkers would be well advised to take their designers along to imbue cheerful Emilio Pucci glamour and Yellow Submarine joy into their bleak subterra residences. The look would translate well to Mars too!! ?

Daphne plate, Calder mobile

Daphne setting courtesy, Alexander Calder mobile sold through Phillips Auctioneers

The next post will show how the other porcelain pattern called ‘Daphne’ develops into fabric, wallpaper and furniture selections. As crazy as the trail can be, I’m concerned that if I don’t listen, my Muse (or White Rabbit) will stop giving leads. Besides, where phantasy is alive depression can’t survive. I suspect that any topic developed this way would prove to be heading in the right direction. Try it?

View Comments (4)
  • Fantastique blog! A mindful trip with inspiring vocabulary! Love how you ended with my favourite Calder! Thoughtful and inspiratonal!

  • What an interesting and thought provoking piece. I love vintage Pucci and the new psychedelic velvet fabric is far out! Your extraordinary eye for color and pattern co-ordinatining is unparalleled and it is clear that you are a seasoned fashion designer as well! Thank you for this dynamic and cutting edge design information.

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