The Scottish design director Ruth Wassermann runs one of the most intriguing platforms for budding designers in the moment. She is the head of design of MADE’s new crowdsourcing and crowdfunding platform TalentLab, where young designers can submit projects that they would like to see realized. We had the chance to sit down with Ruth and talk with her about the idea behind TalentLab, the first collection and her vision for the future of living.


Ruth Wassermann


What’s the first thing you designed?


When I was 5, I drew a design for a jumper which my mother knitted for me. I still have a photograph of me wearing it somewhere.


I designed a triangular table with a perspex centre, plastered in a collage of magazines from the time. It was whilst I was at school – not really creative genius.


Tell us a little bit about your personal creative process. How would you describe it?


I am a very conceptual person and have adapted well to digital life. I really make use of platforms like Pinterest and Instagram! I do still like sketching, but often will do this digitally too. I like process, order and hierarchy in my thinking and so approach creativity in quite a measured way.


Leonie Compact Desk Oak


When and where do you have bright ideas?


I find going for a walk the best way to order my thoughts. It’s a cliche but also studies have shown that thought patterns whilst walking and also when your eyes relax and look at the horizon actually change your neuro-patterns and help to be more creative and unblock thought process.


Tell us something about your favorite MADE TalentLAB piece of furniture?


First I have to correct and say TalentLab is about all design, home accessories, textiles and lighting as well as furniture! My favourite is the medal mirror – it really embodies the spirit that we are trying to engage with – a great product that makes you smile and is original in it’s thought and execution. I can’t wait to pledge on it.


Medal Mirror by Juan Soriano


Who are your favorite designers?


I love Paola Navone and Patricia Urquiola. I have a long dream wish list of their products. I particularly think that Patricia’s partnership with Moroso, the design brand, is very creatively fruitful and ends in amazing products.


MADE TalentLab’s first collection


A currently hot topic is the future of living. What can we expect in the next five years? Which trends are approaching us?


I believe that products will reflect the small spaces that we are living in, and the fact that home ownership is going down and renting will become the lifetime norm for most people. This means that products have to be movable, easy to assemble and disassemble, and can fit in to many environments.


Co-living is a hot topic but early experiments in London are reported to be less inspiring that the promise. I do think though that communal spaces mixed with private spaces will be the way that our physical encounters manifest in living spaces in the future. This will counteract the fact of inevitably in large sprawling cities where people live far from friends. Our relationships will live out online, in Whatsapp and WeChat etc.


What advice do you give budding designers?


I find that emerging designers who haven’t yet found their niche and established their personal style and values are the group that find it hardest to know where to compromise and therefore can become defensive or stubborn when collaborating. I think it’s important to know what the key principles are in a design, and what things you can let go to make that process easier. It’s also important to understand the commercial drivers of your client, and their capabilities in making and selling, to help know what the compromises can be.


Ruth with 3 MADE TalentLab designers


What are the most challenging tasks you face at your work? And what you like most?


One of the greatest things about working at MADE are the people. The team is amazing and we have a broad multi-national and diverse team of people who make it a buzzy and inspiring place to work. Our main challenge comes from massive business growth, which means that we are always expanding and never quite have enough of those great people as we would like to have!


By what criteria do you put together the MADE TalentLAB collections?


We hope to change this each time, so our first collection was curated in-house by selecting our very favorite designs. In the future, we will shape the collections around different themes, rooms or products, and we will also invite guests to help us curate, to lend experience and industry expertise, and their own point of view and guidance to the collection.


How did you come up with the idea to launch the TalentLab?

We had run our emerging talent award for several years, and had in latter years built a platform for anyone to upload to so we could be inclusive across all of our international markets. We saw a massive amount of very inspiring work but only had one winner. So we wanted to totally change the scale of what we were doing with all of these amazing designs and TalentLab was born.


We have just launched the first collection for pledging and we have seen lots of people pledging already! We hope that TalentLab will become the best route to market for new design, which will mean that for our customers it will be their go-to place to find new and exciting design that doesn’t exist anywhere else. And they can get it first and for a great price.


What is the business model for the designers? How much money do they get for every sold item?


Designers on TalentLab get exactly the same deal as all of our designers on the main site – the same royalty, so the more they sell, the more they make!




MADE has a good price point for new designs. Where produces MADE its furniture?


We have an amazing network of 100s of suppliers across Europe and Asia. We work with suppliers who are expert at what they do, so we go to Portugal and Thailand for hand crafted ceramics, and India for woven textiles and metalwork. It means that we are agile, and can respond well to lots of different design demands.


Do you want your design to be featured in a future TalentLAB collection? Head over to the TalentLAB website and upload your proposal.