Radical Thinking: Nina Bailey of Formica

Nina Bailey, Formica’s European design lead, on her current design inspirations

Answers from Nina Bailey of Formica
Main image from The Ocean Cleanup


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

Growing up, I was close friends with architect John Pardey’s daughter. At a young age I used to feel incredibly excited visiting or seeing images of the buildings he had designed around the world. This gave me a spark to embark on a career where you work towards creating something for the future of design.

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

For me, it is the Bauhaus – always. I studied the work of the Bauhaus artists and designers while at university, and to me the Bauhaus was one of the most important movements in design.

Bauhaus students on one of the Prellerhaus balconies, part of the Bauhaus Dessau complexBauhaus students on one of the Prellerhaus balconies, part of the Bauhaus Dessau complex

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

Anni Albers – she radically modernised weaving. Since my degree, she has been my greatest inspiration for textiles, pattern and design. Albers was well ahead of her time, and she pushed boundaries in the early 20th century male-dominated environment.

I really appreciate the work of Philippe Starck. His design ethos is quite unconventional, placing a greater emphasis on the end product being highly functioning before being beautiful. Despite this focus, Starck’s work is still iconic and beautiful. He has been tackling the need for sustainability seriously for years.

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

At the moment, I am looking more and more into sustainable living and how to reduce my own carbon footprint. The likes of Boyan Slat with his The Ocean Cleanup project, as well as the work of Extinction Rebellion are an inspiration right now.

Image Credit: THE OCEAN CLEANUPThe Ocean Cleanup is run by the 26-year-old Dutch entrepreneur Boyan Slat, pictured here. Image Credit: THE OCEAN CLEANUP 

Who outside the industry can architects and designers learn from?

I would say mindfulness coaches and psychologists. I have recently discovered my own journey to mindfulness, and this has really helped to open my mind to new ideas and approaches. Design in many ways responds to how we live on this earth, and mindfulness is at the heart of that now.

I think the more understanding one has of human psychology, the stronger they can become as a designer. Understanding human needs and mentality can really help curate harmonious design.

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

Sustainability, circular economy and the desire to be different and unique.

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

Bauhaus: Art as Life, and mindfulness books in general.

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

In architecture, Bauhaus Dessau of 1925. The design amazed the world with its steel frame and asymmetrical design. In furniture, the Wassily Chair by Marcel Breuer of 1925. Inspired by a frame of a bicycle, Breuer created the new and simplified version of a classic club chair. Constructed with simple lines and planes, this piece still embeds a modern look and feel, and is iconic and popular to this day.

Image Credit: ERIC CONSEMÜLLER. Designed by founder Walter Gropius, the Prellerhaus was full of studio-dormitories
Designed by founder Walter Gropius, the Prellerhaus was full of studio-dormitories.Image Credit: ERIC CONSEMÜLLER

Image Credit: KLAUS HERTIG. The famous Bauhaus Dessau facade, shortly after completion in 1926
The famous Bauhaus Dessau facade, shortly after completion in 1926. Image Credit: KLAUS HERTIG

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

A cup of tea and my notebook; moving away from technology and finding a quiet space is when the best ideas come.

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

First thing in the morning after a quick walk, yoga or meditation.

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

Either outside while on a long walk in the countryside, or while at home with my tea.

The thought that keeps me up at night is…

I tend to sleep pretty well, but if I do wake up in the night I will either be excited for the day ahead or thinking about the things I need to get done. I always keep a note pad and pen next to the bed, though, to write down the thoughts/worries/to-dos, and then I can go back to sleep.

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

It’s a new day and I have the chance to make it a great one.

Do you like to think with, or think against?

Depends on the topic matter. I follow whichever direction I believe strongly in.

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

Likely into some sort of environmental or sustainability role.

Could you describe radical thinking in three words?

Progressive, out-of-the-box, extreme.

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

That we are embarking on a ‘new world’.

It is run by the 26-year-old Dutch entrepreneur Boyan Slat
Nina Bailey, Formica

Progressive Media International Limited. Registered Office: 40-42 Hatton Garden, London, EC1N 8EB, UK.Copyright 2022, All rights reserved.