An interview with Simon Britner, product designer at Jonathan Fawcett

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Jonathan Fawcett has for more than 30 years supplied the finest bed linen, towels, table linen and accessories to superyachts, residences and private aircraft.

With our sister company Kevin Glancy, which supplies the most exquisite porcelain, crystal and silver, we aim to present the definition of luxury to our clients. That means making sure that we work with the world’s best experts at each stage of the design and manufacturing process.

One of those experts is Simon Britner, product designer here at Jonathan Fawcett. We recently conducted an interview with Simon to share with you some insight into his work and the philosophies that guide it.


Tell us a bit about your career background

I studied 3D design and production many years ago, at Brighton University, which was very hands-on and taught me all about materials and technical processes.

When I finished university I was a freelance product and furniture designer, making bespoke, one-off pieces for a company that specialised in furniture installations.

I then did a Masters in product design, which was really interesting and taught me the links between design and the other things that affect design, like society, politics, culture, economics, technical capabilities, materials and so on. They are all things that people don’t realise affect what works well and what doesn’t in design. Yes, you might be limited to what a sewing machine can do, but you’re also guided by your clients’ cultural, political, economical or social surroundings. There are so many aspects you have to be aware of just to cater for different markets - it’s all about understanding those markets and audiences as much as possible.


Are you influenced by any design philosophies, principles or schools of thought?

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There is a famous German designer called Dieter Rams who was around in the 1960s and eventually became Chief Design Officer at Braun, a position he held for over 30 years. If you were to look at his designs now you would think, “hang on a minute, that’s an iPod” and that’s because modern design has been heavily influenced by the way he worked. He has ten principles of good design - he says you can tell if your design is good if it:

  • Is innovative

  • Makes a product useful

  • Is aesthetic

  • Makes a product understandable

  • Is unobtrusive

  • Is honest

  • Is long-lasting

  • Is thorough down to the last detail

  • Is environmentally friendly

  • Is ‘as little design’ as possible

We try to follow those principles here at Jonathan Fawcett. In particular we try and follow that final principle and keep things simple and elegant from the very start.

That’s more of a philosophy rather than something that directly influences my work on a day-to-day basis; my influences can come from anywhere when I’m working on new products for Jonathan Fawcett.

We also do a lot of work for interior designers who want us to create something bespoke to fit into a specific look for their project. That means I am often heavily influenced by a style or look from another designer when working on a project like that, however we still aim to keep the products as clean and simple as possible.


What does your creative process entail?

I’ll pick a subject and then do a lot of visual research around it, including photographs, drawings, paintings - all different things to help me better get a feel for the subject matter.

From there we might pick out a favourite part of the images, and they may develop into a pattern, or a shape, or a texture. Then we’ll work out the best way to be able to see that on bedding or table linen, whether that’s via print, embroidery or appliqué. So we keep on developing it and experimenting with different parts of the design before seeing what it looks like in situ.

But my inspiration can come from anywhere. Nature is a great source of inspiration. For example, I used to work as a beekeeper and I’ve drawn on that experience to create honeycomb patterns. I’ve also spent, in some cases, time studying and sketching sea creatures to try and find some interesting new patterns.


Tell us more about the JF Collection

At our showroom we have a huge range of samples and our clients can have any shape, size, width and number of the items we have on display.

But knowing you can come and visit us and have anything you want can be a bit overwhelming. So we decided to make use of our 30-plus years of experience and highlight the products and styles that are always popular, year after year, as well as introducing some new concepts that we feel confident answer all our clients’ needs.

So we’ve created a collection that starts with extremely simple designs and goes right the way through to the most extravagant embroidery that no one else does. It encompasses everything from plain designs to one or two lines of embroidery, borders, double borders, and so on. Then there are other embroideries that are slightly different and add real texture to the cabin. We’re really pleased with the collection.


What is your favourite part of your role?

The reason I got into design is to make use of all these different forms of creativity we have at our disposal and turn something into a functional, usable product. Whether it’s using methods like photography or sketching, or tools like the embroidery machine or computer, you are able to create a handmade product that someone is going to enjoy and use for the foreseeable future, and that’s what I love about my job.