Industrial designer Tom Fereday is an Australian designer to watch, creating thoughtful and enduring designs for some of the country's most interesting design brands. Here he shares what it was that drew him to design the MW1 watch for Mister Wolf.
Tom Fereday is part of the new wave of hugely-talented Australian industrial designers. Over the last three years, his name has been tied to some of the most thoughtful and interesting design projects by local designers and brands including of course, the design of the MW1 watch for Mister Wolf.
A designer of a broad range of products, from furniture to accessories and microphones, Tom pursues intelligent and thoughtful design outcomes and is interested in connecting people with objects through the use of natural materials and tactile finishes.
In this interview, Tom reveals his thinking behind the design of the MW1 and his approach to design.
What was your initial response when Mister Wolf founder Leighton Clarke approached you to design for him?
When I first got the brief, I was very interested in the project immediately. A watch is just one of those products – there is so much intricacy to it. I just thought the opportunity to design a watch was really cool.
My next reaction was a bit of concern! Because it is quite a challenging, defining kind of product that a lot of work goes into. But when I realised that Leighton used to be a watchmaker and it would be a collaboration between me as an industrial designer and Leighton and his expertise, I thought there was real potential for the project.
I knew it wasn’t just a styling exercise and that Leighton wanted to make a quality timepiece.
So you think your backgrounds were particularly complimentary for this project?
Yes. One of the reasons Leighton said that he got in touch with me is that I used to design microphones so I have strong experience in casting of metal. From a technical level it clicked to work as a product because I don’t just do furniture design.
Can you talk about this recurring idea around the MW1 watch that it is utilitarian but with personality?
There is definitely a minimal aesthetic that I aspire to but I feel there are so many products on the market that potentially lack personality. With Mister Wolf, thinking about designing something you wear everyday, the intentional direction was not to just be completely cold and stark but something with a bit of warmth to it.
For me they way that was interpreted was in the level of intricacy in the product. A lot of thought went into some the detailing that you see in the product, and that intricacy sometimes gets forgotten about in watches.
The objective was to make a quite minimal watch that was quite intricately thought out.
Can you tell me about some of the key details of the MW1?
The first thing was the casing design. The concept of the casing was to integrate the frame to the lug – the lug being the pieces that hold the strap – the idea was to make it as completely seamless as possible. With that champfer detail on the lug, which is softened off, it integrates entirely.
If you look at a normal lug they are typically quite separate to the form. We wanted to make a form that was considered from all angles. That was a key detail in the product and something that we wanted to keep quite sharp and minimal about it, but a certain level of intricacy that would demonstrate the consideration.
We then applied that to every detail of the product – detailing that was subtle and not in your face.
For example, you go to the crown and there’s a subtle champfer on the edge with a debossed logo. That level of detail was what we wanted on every element of the product, that you can sort of read, it makes it not only easy to use and feel but it is an integrated design so the language carries over.
Can you talk about the strap and what is the tool that comes with the watch?
We developed a custom tool so each product you can remove the strap. Normally it is quite difficult to take the strap off. This tool allows you to take the strap and replace it over the life of the product. So again that consideration for longevity and also just a nice maintenance thing that people can as well as customise the initial order, they can customise the product over its lifetime.
Again working someone like a watchmaker like Leighton is a reason that concepts like this arose, something that I might not have thought about on my own.
What about the watch face? What was the thinking behind that?
On the dial, instead of going for off-the-shelf parts, we custom-tooled every element of it. So we stamped our second hands with the Mister Wolf logo, again not to put in your face branding but a subtle bit of personality to the product, rather then just regular second hand.
The hour markers, instead of being printed are raised and adhered to the face, which just adds a bit of depth to the product.
Then again we custom made the hour and minute, as standard to have glow in the dark elements on it.
That’s a bit retro!
Yeah, everything kind of leads back towards a more classic military style watch. It is quite a minimal product but with quite a lot of intricacies to it. That was another one that as standard it comes glow in the dark, as standard it has a calendar movement, so it is trying to have quite a lot of detail without being too much.
Really it was that watchmaker knowledge with industrial designer combination that kind of added some depth to the product.
When you are working on a new design do you picture what kind of person might wear it in your head?
Not really. I was designing something that was very strongly unisex. We didn’t want it to be a masculine or a feminine product. It had to definitely be something that anyone could see on them.
The market, for me, how you present a product to market is one thing, but when you design a product I design for any one of any age. Leighton and I even talked about the fact that it could look great to shoot the watches on someone older. MW1 is not geared only to young people.
What did you think of the customisable concept of Mister Wolf when Leighton told you about it?
That it was a lot of work! [laughing] The customisation is something that was really important to Leighton about the project and is a real point of difference to the product.
That concept of mass-customisation is really interesting. I think it is a non-buckling trend that people really want. If you look at what Apple has done with their latest watch, they are doing the same thing because nobody wants to have the same watch as anyone else.
People want to have their own product and their own identity and this product with its 100 variations allows you to do that.
The undertaking on this project is unique in a few ways. I don’t know any watch that has been designed and assembled in Sydney currently.
It’s a huge point of difference and a huge undertaking for Leighton as a watchmaker to have gone down that process.
What was the biggest challenge of the project?
I think settling on the design of the frame. This frame looks simple but it is the key to the product and what gives it a point of difference.
The rest fell around that, once the frame was locked in we had the size of the dial, the crown to work on, the strap. It is the base starting point.
Tom’s Insider’s Guide to Sydney’s Inner-West
Eat at… Steki’s Greek Restaurant
I recommend people check out Steki’s Greek Restaurant. It has live music, is open very late and full of normal people!
Steki Taverna, 2 O’Connell St, Newtown NSW 2042;
Visit.. The Commune
If you haven’t checked out the new Commune space in Waterloo/Surry Hills you gotta do it if only to check out the beautiful space. It started as a co-working space for Sydney creatives in Newtown and they have now expanded.
You can go there to hot desk but also for exhibitions, workshops and other events and even yoga by donation.
COMMUNE, 901 Bourke Street, Waterloo NSW 2017;
Fans of contemporary art you need to know about.. artist Kate Banazi
Kate Banazi makes some of the most beautiful work in her workshop. She was one of the artists involved in Local Design, an exhibition of Australian artists and designers I co-curated and took to Milan in April 2016.