Tom Dixon OBE is an award-winning, self-taught British designer and a visionary innovator. After dropping out of Chelsea Art School, he played bass guitar for the funk-disco band Funkapolitan. He went on tour as a supporting act for Simple Minds, and The Clash as well as performed at the Top of the Pops.
Following a series of accidents, he started experimenting with scrap materials, making things and selling things at the same time. Learning how to weld, he made furniture from found objects like scaffolding and hubcaps. Soon after, with a DIY approach to design, he rose to prominence with a line of salvage furniture.
Moreover, Dixon received international recognition with the “S chair” designed for Italian furniture manufacturer Capellini, which was acquired for the permanent collections of Victoria & Albert Museum followed by the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Following his success, Dixon was recruited by Habitat, the retail legend for household furnishings-where he was a creative director. Then, he established the Tom Dixon brand during this time.
Today, he runs an eponymous company, specializing in lighting, furniture, and home accessories. He runs his operations from COAL Office located in Kings Cross London, which is a multidisciplinary platform for innovation for the design, with a shop, office, workshop, and a restaurant all under one roof.
Although Dixon lacks formal design education, he views it as a major advantage as it allowed him to experiment without constraints. He believes that doing design instead of art or sculpture gives him a framework of functionality, which he feels more comfortable with.
Below, we are sharing five of his most iconic designs as described by Dixon himself.
“My slightly more successful designs seem to be ones that can be read in different ways, often quite opposite to their original intent. If the original departure point says, for the S-Chair for me was a chicken, it has often been described by others as a female form, by some as a flame or frequently as a 1960s-influenced Pop object. This is definitely a quality to which I now aspire – an expressive neutrality, on to which you can project many meanings, most completely unintended, allowing them to have a life of their own, beyond their original conception.”
Born in Tom’s 80’s London workshop, the S Chair is now molded in an industrial hard/soft form with a pure wool cover. The instantly recognizable serpentine curves are now more comfortable and ergonomically active than ever. It sits proudly on its steering-wheel inspired cast iron base.
Jack is the original ‘sitting, lighting, stacking thing’, an award-winning multifunctional object that was one of Tom’s first experiments with plastic.
“I’m sure that most designers can see the magic in mathematics and geometry. There is a satisfying completeness and logic to polyhedra, and the more you learn about them the more universal and complex they become. There is a purity about shapes known as platonic solids, and when you learn to recognize them they start to appear in everything – nature, crystals, seed pods, black magic, Islamic architecture, you name it.”
“Fascinated by hi-tech processes and desperate to obtain a perfect reflective surface on my lamps in a bid to make an over-scaled, basic yet extravagant spotlight that could use convenient bulbs and concentrate their output into a soft but narrow beam, I read up on a process called thin-film vapor deposition, more commonly described as a vacuum metallization, which is commonly used in sunglasses. In this process, our polycarbonate ball is placed in a vacuum chamber, the air is sucked out and BANG – an immense electrical charge vaporizes a small strip of copper foil into a mist of particles that settle on the lamp in a coating between 0.01 and 0.02 micrometers thick. If the object is free of dust, this creates a perfect mirror and a beautiful optical effect.”
“There is a lot of satisfaction in setting a few rules in an object and then letting the customer or space decide how to finish off your design. The idea here is to work with the bare minimum of the sofa module (in this case, a straight, an inside curve, and an outside curve). From that, you can make almost any configuration to suit a variety of needs. Each sofa will then inhabit a room in its own unique way. Toulouse airport has these snaking through the departure hall of Terminal D. Four outside curves make a useful seating space around a column in a fashion shop on London’s Bond Street. Arrayed in a U-shape facing inward, Serpentine Sofa makes a useful conversation pit for a futuristic interior.”
“I had spent years of going around factories and craft units asking, pleading and demanding absolute consistency and perfection in objects – all of them consistently well-finished, tastefully colored, intelligently designed and just, well, polite – I yearn again for more aggressive, rougher and unpredictable design. I think that the eye starts to crave and demand imperfection and personality in an object. These Bash Vessels show the marks of their making: a few extra bulges and creases that give each piece an honest attitude all its own.”
Head to our Podcasts page to listen to the first episode of the new ‘74PODCAST series Out of Focus featuring Tom Dixon, hosted by Merve Çağlar.