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First professional commission for Northumbria University Interior Design Graduate comes out of course project

November 5, 2012

An installation for Toffee Factory’s reception shelves, which includes sprayed books and objects that reflect the building’s past and present, was installed on Saturday 3 November.

The installation fills the floor-to-ceiling shelves in the reception area of Toffee Factory with found and re-purposed objects sprayed with bright colours reflecting Toffee Factory’s distinctive colourful building. Books sprayed the same colours and labelled with the names of Toffee Factory’s twitter followers also fill the shelves.

The installation by Northumbria University Graduate Nicola Miller, was originally developed as part of a live brief in November last year whilst Nicola was studying the Commercial Interior Design Practice module as part of the BA (Hons) Interior Design Programme at Northumbria University. An aspect of the brief was to add to the design of the reception area creating a sense of anticipation for staff and guests upon arrival at the Toffee Factory.

As one of the short-listed final six to present her project, Nicola‘s presentation impressed Creative Space Management’s Lisa Tolan and Paul Fallon (the operators of Toffee Factory), who chose hers as the winning design and commissioned her to develop her designs for the Toffee Factory reception shelves.

Nicola explained:

“I used the colours from the iconic exterior panels on the building and introduced them into the inside space. Some of the objects were chosen as a reference to the history of the building, the site had previously been a cattle sanatorium, so there are glass bottles and a cow mask and milk churns, little toffee hammers and old fashioned sweet jars and scales. Anything on the bookcase had to be permanent as it was 5m high, so the idea of using books that couldn’t be read was an interesting contradiction to me. The books are in the same three colours with a selection of the Toffee Factory twitter followers on their spines. This ties in with the idea of the building being a hub for both digital and creative businesses.”

Lisa Tolan, Toffee Factory Manager added:

“We thoroughly enjoyed working on this project with Northumbria University – the aim was to give the students real experience of developing and pitching their ideas to commercial clients. We were impressed by Nicola’s approach and when the opportunity arose to develop the prize to include the commission we didn’t hesitate. Nicola’s design has impressed us by referencing both the history of the building and its contemporary present through its colour, design and Twitter references.”

Nicola, originally from Belsay, Northumberland, graduated this year from Northumbria University with a 2:1 BA Honours in Interior Design. This is her first design commission since graduating in July, although she has others in the pipeline and hopes to get a design job within the North East.

“Being shortlisted and fortunate to become the overall winner, with a real commission gave me a lot of confidence. It was reassuring to know that influential people within the industry could see the worth of my ideas. The buzz you get from coming up with new ideas is really exciting and it’s that which drives me as a designer.”

Seton Wakenshaw, Programme Leader BA (Hons) Interior Design, Northumbria University:

“The final year commercial interior design project module is structured to create an opportunity for students to further engage the industries they may work with in the future. As a programme one of our key aims is to integrate design theory with design practice, and the working relationship with Toffee Factory has been a particularly beneficial factor in achieving this aim. This has been a great learning experience for all of the students involved and particularly Nicola, who will take this knowledge on into her professional career. As a programme we look forward to working with Toffee Factory and building our relationship further in the future.”

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