Bench Gang – play furniture by Christian Cowper

Why do you design furniture for children?

I wouldn’t say I design specifically for children. When designing, it is important to try and take a step back and see things from a less serious perspective. Think, “what do you actually really like?” Trying to be mindful, considerate to others, your design, and yourself, are important. Thinking about someone that might end up with your design as an ‘end user’, is a way to remove any personality from design.

What was your inspiration for your play furniture Bench Gang?

I have always been fascinated by the personality and character that you can see in things, whether; a piece of furniture looking grumpy, a collection of lamps looking like they’re chatting, or simply the way branches could look like a figure in the trees. I wanted to infuse a sense of imagination into the Bench Gang, not prescribe a need to see them playfully, but gesture towards a sense of life, letting the viewer create their own story.

Why is the Bench Gang especially suited for children as a piece of furniture?

The Bench Gang aren’t mimicking an existing animal, which is what really sparks the imagination. Simply gesturing towards movement and life lets you create all sorts of stories – not being limited by the piece already being characterised as a crocodile, hippo, or giraffe etc. What is nice, and refreshing about the Bench Gang is that they are as playful to adults, as to kids. They aren’t designed in a childish way, just simply hinting towards something with a little more life than a standard bench… A lot of ‘playful’ design treats the viewer as a child, but play is just as important to adults as children. I think the Bench Gang blur this boundary in a lighthearted and playful way.

Meaningful design for kids – what does that mean for you?

Kids are intelligent. I think when we are younger we find it easier to see things from different perspectives. Our minds aren’t constrained by a conscience of right or wrong. Our minds are a lot more free to wonder. Accepting that just as much thought should go into designing for a child as for an adult is important. Nobody is second to anyone else, so everybody should have access to meaningful and well-considered design.

A few personal questions at the end: What toys did you play with as a child? Did you have a favourite toy?

I used to do all sorts of things when I was young. Dressing up was one of my favourite things. Me, my older brother, and younger sister would root through old dresses, pieces of fabric, shoes, jewellery, swords etc. And we’d come out looking like a crew of brightly-coloured pirates, in high heels. Action-man, Meccano, K’nex,  Bionicle were a big thing for me too. I remember my parents bought me a big pink barbie car so Action-man could have some friends to drive round with – pink was my favourite colour growing up, so I absolutely loved it!

And subsequently: What toy do you think is a completely superfluous?

Giving kids Smart phones, iPads, tablets etc. I don’t think they are a toy. Kids might not be as inclined to play with other, but rather play on their game – this might damage the development of social skills. Maybe they teach kids bad habits at a young age? Adults seem to have a hard enough time being away from their phone as it is.

Get in touch with Christian Cowper via: