British industrial designer Benjamin Hubert is going to let you in on a little design secret. In the game of free pitching (a game that designers are expected to play, where they give up their time and ideas for free in the hopes of winning a commission) he used approximately 4554 hours of his and his studio’s (which from 2010 to 2015 was called Benjamin Hubert Ltd) time. After a bit of reflection and a deep look into what this time was amounting to, Hubert rebranded his studio Layer – making the focus less about his signature design style and more about how they could create lasting and significant impact.
Here’s a journey through numbers to illustrate Hubert’s path:
In 2006 Hubert graduates as 1 of 150 from Loughborough University. He joins a large design studio as 1 of 120 employees and later moves to London to work at Seymour Powell as 1 of 90. In 2010 he switches to work at design studio Tangerine as 1 of only 15. After an enlightening visit to Milan furniture fair in 2010, Hubert founds his own studio – Benjamin Hubert Ltd – as 1 of 1.
1040 designers applied to work with him, of which he employed 3. Over the 5 years, 3758 interns applied and 30 spent time with the studio. 5 were given permanent positions. Approximately 11385 man-hours of work are put into the studio over 5 years, and a staggering 40 per cent of that was used for “concept pitches”, better known as free pitching.
4554 hours were spent on free pitches over 5 years
128 concepts were created per year
62 were taken to prototype
52 were launched at furniture fairs
48 then made it to being launched on the market
449 hours per year were spent on unsuccessful pitches
In 2015, Hubert began to think seriously about how that time could be spent in a better, more relevant way.
As industrial designs we have responsibility to solve problems. We solved the problem of sitting a long time ago. Why are we trying to solve that problem anymore? It’s not just the question of why another chair? How can we use that time better? – Benjamin Hubert
If those 449 hours per year (approximately 44 days) were used to give back instead of to compete in the free pitching game, then the studio could work on design that was really a powerful tool for change.
Hubert relaunched his studio in September 2015 under the name Layer. A new name, a new direction, and a new model for how to use their time more effectively.
Hubert illustrates the work that Layer is carrying out with a few examples of their most recent socially driven design. A redesign of the vessel for giving change for Maggie’s Cancer Charity, which now bows in show of humility and gratitude; a modular structure that can be used to divide space; and a wearable that measures your impact on the wellbeing of the world.