Radical Thinking: Marc Wood Studio

Marc Wood, founder of Marc Wood Studio, on what has inspired his thoughts and ideas

Answers from Marc Wood

Can you pinpoint the thought, whether yours or someone else’s that led you to a career in design?

As I was finishing school I was struggling with the question of what career to choose. I loved design but didn’t see how I would be able to turn it into a stable profession. I ended up enrolling on a civil engineering degree which I immediately regretted and dropped out of after just one term. While doing some soul searching, my mother wisely asked me the question, ‘What would I do with my time if I already had all the money I needed?’ I told her I would spend my time designing and making stuff. The next year I enrolled on a product and furniture design degree and instantly found my path.

In terms of the design and architecture industry, what do you consider the most radical era or pivotal moment?

Great Britain in the 1960s was a decade of rapid change. Shops like Topshop and Habitat gave birth to the modern high street, where consumers began embracing modernity and breaking free of post-war austerity.

Which radical thinkers have been inspirations to you in your career?

One of my all-time heroes is designer and entrepreneur Sir Terence Conran. Conran played a pivotal role in the modernisation of British commerce and set in motion an interior design movement that made ‘the good life’ available to the masses. His empire, which included Habitat, The Conran Shop, and a portfolio of thriving restaurants helped to pave the way for how we shop today. Conran ultimately redirected nearly all of his profits back into our industry by setting up the Design Museum and other not-for-profit ventures. While at university, I was extremely fortunate to do an internship with Conran. His vision, design philosophy and mindset are truly inspirational to me, and his achievements are often in the back of my mind, quietly encouraging me to think on a larger scale.

Who are the radical thinkers who inspire you now? (Not necessarily forever or for a lifetime – just right now)

This is slightly cliché but I’m in awe of the classic, big industrial leaders of our time such as Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Elon Musk. Much like Conran, these people are using entrepreneurship to drive positive change and enhance people’s lives. Now more than ever, our society needs innovation. As transient governments continue to waste time, I believe much of this innovation needed in our lifetime will be met by private enterprise.

Who outside the industry can architects and designers learn from?

I currently listen to a lot of podcasts, and one of my go-to’s is The Tim Ferriss Show. Ferriss is a highly-skilled interviewer and exceptional at asking the right questions. His podcast has taught me the importance of asking great questions, and that doing so can directly affect the quality of our lives – a skill that people in any industry can learn from.

Wood’s main inspiration, Terence Conran, revolutionised UK high streetsWood’s main inspiration, Terence Conran, revolutionised UK high streets. Image Credit: Ray Williams

What will lead the way for more radical thinking in your/our field?

I believe that it’s going to become increasingly important for commercial enterprise in all sectors to begin contributing towards the vast social and environmental issues that we are going to face in the next 100 years. Many companies have extra capacity that could be redirected into not-for-profits or social enterprises. The United Nations’s global goals for a sustainable development programme offers a great framework on how businesses can begin to give back.

Could you recommend a book/article/blog that inspired your thinking?

Entrepreneur Revolution by Daniel Priestley. This book highlights the fact that we have recently moved from an industrial age to an information and technology age. The notion of ‘job for life’ is dead as previously stable corporations are being overtaken by small, elite teams. As always, those who move with the times will prosper but many will be left behind.

Could you name two buildings/pieces of furniture that you consider radical designs of their time, or perhaps still to this day?

I was born in Germany and as a child spent a lot of time in Munich. The Olympic Stadium, designed by architect Günter Behnisch for the 1972 Olympics, is one of my all-time favourite buildings. The stadium has a lightweight tent-like construction that was considered revolutionary for its time. It’s beautiful and still looks modern to this day. I also love the work by Hopkins Architects. Hopkins designs lots of large public buildings, often with engineered timber skeletons clad in glass. Their light and airy constructions knit old and new technologies to create spaces of beauty and timelessness.

I think best with… (my hands/a pencil/with a computer)

I think best with a computer. My design process involves a lot of digital collaging and very fast virtual imaging. No other tool comes close.

I think best… (first thing in the morning/last thing at night)

First thing in the morning. My day is won or lost by what I do between 6.30am and midday.

I think best when… (in a gallery/at home/ outside/over drinks/with friends/on the bus)

While doing excessive exercise, usually bike rides or jogging. There is something special about an elevated heart rate and lightly focused attention.

The Conran Shop floor in MaryleboneThe Conran Shop floor in Marylebone. 

The thought that keeps me up at night is…

I’m lucky, I tend to sleep very well.

The thought that gets me out of bed each day is…

Today will be a progression from yesterday.

Do you like to think with, or think against?

Think against. Life becomes more interesting when you run your own race.

If you weren’t a designer/architect, where do you think your way of thinking would have led you?

Roaming the world taking photos of stuff.

Could you describe radical thinking in three words?

Not accepting convention.

What’s the most radical thing you’ve come across today or this week?

Vipassana meditation and spirituality without religion (somewhat deep but I’ve just finished a book on it).


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