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Mu Hau Kao – BA 3D Design graduate and 100% Design award winner

Mu Hau Kao, Plywood Stool, 2015
Mu Hau Kao, Plywood Stool, 2015
Mu Hau Kao, Plywood Stool, 2015
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Published date
14 December 2015

Mu Hau Kao initially studied product design in Taiwan, however after a change of direction he decided to move to London and applied to join Camberwell’s BA 3D Design course. Three years later, Mu has now graduated from Camberwell. He finished his final year on a high after being awarded the 100% Design Award at New Designers this year. We asked Mu to tell us more about his work, experience at the college and his plans for the future.

Mu Hau Kao creating his plywood stools outside the Camberwell workshops

Mu Hau Kao creating his plywood stools outside the Camberwell workshops

Tell us about your practice and design interests

I have always been fascinated in understanding and utilizing material properties. I work using concepts and design simple objects, finding the balance between practical and conceptual.

For my graduation project, I found a direction during my dissertation research of plywood history. There are limitations to the material I chose to work with, those limitations helped me to push the idea further. I used critical thinking and decision making to achieve something that had not been done before.

My idea is to use only one piece of plywood to form a stool, maximize the feature of the plywood to become the strength of the structure and the seating surface. I design simple furniture that creates a comfortable attachment with the user.

What specialist processes do you use to create your work?

There are several making processes that I use, mainly traditional two part mould forming. The material I use is called 3D Veneer, it is a new material specifically designed for 3D curve plywood forming.

Whilst creating my designs, I collaborated with Danzer, the material manufacturer. They were very helpful in providing their data for my work. Danzer also made me realise how difficult my design was and why it hadn’t been done before. There were countless technical problems, and I was working with limited resources and budget. I also needed to use resources outside of the College workshop, the technicians assisted me, sharing my concerns, and brainstorming with me to find the right solution.

Why did you decide to study on the 3D Design course here at Camberwell?

I chose the 3D Design course at Camberwell rather than others because they have experienced tutors who are also practitioners. There are also highly qualified and friendly technicians, and open access workshops. Most importantly the course does not have a specific direction it wants students to follow, they encourage students to be themselves, and explore their own interests.

Please tell us about a few projects you worked on whilst studying at Camberwell

There are some fascinating projects focusing on product, process and object. One example is a tool project to rethink and design a tool, how to improve a particular tool through design thinking. In second year we did a locality project about Camberwell, learning to define the area and explore the definition of locality. We also completed a food project, thinking about the fundamental aspect of the making process, and redesigning this process creatively.

Outside of College, I also worked as an assistant for one of my tutors Roger Arquer in his studio. This helped me to understand the realities of working with clients, manufacturing processes, and design approaches.

Mu Hau Kao, Plywood Stool, 2015

Mu Hau Kao, Plywood Stool, 2015

How did it feel to win the 100% Design Award at New Designers this year?

I am very lucky and happy the judges liked my work and the story behind it. It was an honour to receive this prize. I believe it will help me for my future career path, acting as a recommendation. It is a wonderful thing to see the judges and the audience appreciate the work you have made. It makes you realise the effort you put in is worth it, and reminds you why you want to design in the first place.

What projects are you currently working on?

I am currently working in Taiwan, collaborating with other designers and manufacturers on furniture projects. I am also working on some of my own projects that I have want to do for a long time.

What are your plans for the next few months? Are you planning to carry on working, or continue your studies?

I have lots of projects planned for furniture and products. One project is about using minimal costs to design a wooden texture furniture for production. Another is a shelving system that I have created with other Taiwanese designers.

I am also preparing to apply for an MA degree, to continue pursuing my interests in product and furniture design.

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