As if in the perfect opening scene from a film of their lives, designers Jay Osgerby and Edward Barber met at the Royal College of Art (RCA) when they were allocated desks next to each other. “The RCA has such an incredible reputation, and we had both come off different degrees with a huge amount of anticipation for this incredible moment, [believing] somehow the place itself would transform us,” says Osgerby.
The first decade was a mix of joy and absolute terror
While we’ve been ambitious to be incredibly multidisciplinary, when it comes to the fundamentals of business we’ve always brought in great people to help (Jay Osgerby)
The pair are fascinating to watch, conversationally, and it’s not hard to see why their partnership works well. There is mild, good-natured disagreement at every turn, followed by good-natured resolution. The design process is similar, the less talkative Barber concurs: “We mostly don’t agree on design stuff throughout the project,” he says, “but ultimately one person is talking more sense than the other, in each little twist and turn of the project and by the end we have a project we’re both happy with.”
Osgerby does say: “The first decade was a mix of joy and absolute terror, proper not-sleeping-at-night worry, before we could get to the point of even building a team. But when we brought in people who could really help us, it gave us the mental space to think creatively.” Being asked to design the Olympic torch for 2012 was a defining moment, he says. “I watched the 1992 Winter Games, where Philippe Starck designed the torch, and I realised it was the only way you could represent your country in design. And that became an option for us in our professional lifetime.” In design terms, it encapsulated everything the pair stand for.
Award-winning broadcaster and journalist, Aasmah Mir, talks to business leaders and industry innovators about the crucial moments of their lives and careers.