Inside the Design Process: Interview with John Cunningham
At Wildwood, we take pride in being your source for unique, beautiful lighting, and home décor. Our passionate designers travel the world to find inspiration for our latest product designs.
We recently asked our Creative Director, John Cunningham, to share more about the product design process and where he finds inspiration. Get ready for a behind-the-scenes look at how our designer's ideas become a reality.
Since joining the Wildwood team in 2013, John has been responsible for overseeing the development of our products from start to finish. This includes finding inspiration in everyday life, drawing out designs with pen and paper, and traveling to our factories around the world to work with artists who help bring these products to life.
"We have about 35 factories that we work with in countries around the world, including Vietnam, the Philippines, India, Portugal and China," John explained. Additionally, the designers travel to cities all over the globe, like Paris and Frankfurt, for design inspiration and creative catalysts.
When asked about how he finds inspiration, John said confidently, "I truly believe the best way to get inspired is by being out and about in the world." On a recent trip to Lisbon, Portugal, John noticed stunning geometric patterns in the sidewalks. "In my mind, that translates to an idea for a pattern on the side of a lamp or another piece of furniture."
"Walking sticks can create inspiration for table legs and a door knocker can help me envision hardware on a chest," he explained. John takes in all of the details around him no matter where he is, abroad or even in the comfort of his own home. "I've been watching TV before and a news anchor's earrings caught my eye. That can be all it takes to inspire a chandelier design. I take as many photographs as possible to keep track of anything that causes inspiration to strike."
With creative influence everywhere, we asked John where one of his top places for inspiration-spotting might be. He was quick to say, "Paris is one of my favorite cities to look for inspiration for our new products. When our team is there, we take in local architecture and visit antique shops and museums along with showrooms."
It turns out that even though the Paris showrooms are world-renowned, his first choice for creative inspiration is somewhere a little less obvious. "My favorite spot in Paris, however, is the flea market," John added. "It's full of fabulous antiques, art, and sculptures, spanning the length of five city blocks." John mentioned that Paris always seems to be about three years ahead of the United States when it comes to colors, textures, and silhouettes, so a trip there always gets his creative juices flowing.
After these inspirational trips, the development process begins. Depending on the product, this can take anywhere from six to 18 months and two to three trips to the factory that is producing each product.
The designers choose the factory for each product based on the material that will be used to make it. For example, many of the new designs made from natural stone or petrified wood are being created in a factory in the Philippines, where the artists are experienced in working with those specific materials.
John then took us through the typical design and product development steps. "The design process starts the old-fashioned way, on pen and paper. From there, I pass the design off to the factory team, who turns it into a CAD drawing. Our designers work with the factory team to make tweaks, then the product is sculpted out of clay," he explains, going through the process.
At this point, John takes another trip back to the factory to see the model in person and make any additional changes. After that, a casting is done, and a mold is made. The factory team will send photographs when the first piece has been molded so the designers can start thinking about colors and finish.
"Will the lamp be glazed or hand painted? Will it be fired or gold leafed?" John asks himself as he goes through all of the decisions that will need to be made. Afterward, they take a final trip back to the factory to do any final tweaks and approve the finish. Finally, the factory creates a completed sample and ships it to Wildwood.
Although designing and creating beautiful furniture is his passion, John mentioned, “One of the most satisfying aspects of this collaborative design process is the relationships we form with the factory team, which usually consists of the factory owner, local artists and sculptors, and a sales team. As we develop our products, we form partnerships, and friendships, with people all over the world. They have become part of the Wildwood extended family and are instrumental in developing our finished products.”
When people hear that designers are off on a “buying trip”, most would assume that they are picking out pieces from showrooms and vendors to curate a collection to sell. However, Wildwood’s process couldn’t be more different. From an idea in his head, to a sketch on paper, to the final product seen in Wildwood’s catalog, John carries out his ideas from beginning to completion, producing a completely original piece of furniture or décor.
The motto at Wildwood is, “Wherever your projects take you…,” which is an embodiment of John’s daily work life. Here at Wildwood, we are privileged to help develop the products that complete your home.
Thank you to John Cunningham for allowing us to interview him and get the inside scoop on the Wildwood Design Process.