Friday, May 21, 2010

Interview - Emma Aiston and Daniel To - aka 'Daniel - Emma'!

Daniel To and Emma Aiston - aka Daniel - Emma at Space Furniture this week in Richmond.

Brand new 'Basics' range by Daniel - Emma.

Emma demonstrates the simple but genius magnet system to cover those unsightly screws in the shelf...

OMG could not be more in love with the lacquered brass paperweights! SO special.

I was very lucky to meet super cute South Australian couple Daniel To and Emma Aiston - aka Daniel - Emma - in Melbourne this week! The young design duo (and married couple!) were in town just briefly, showing their brand new and much-anticipated new 'Basics' product range at Space Furniture in Richmond. I heard about this little launch only the night before - but couldn't pass up the opportunity to meet Daniel and Emma in person! The pieces are not for sale just yet... (hopefully by September!), but if you're in Melbourne you can pop down to Space Furniture in Richmond this weekend and see the products in a special preview showing until Tuesday! They are truly just so perfectly lovely - it is really worth checking the range out in person before the whole world catches on (only a matter of time!).

In typical Daniel - Emma style, Basics is a simple, understated and perfectly succinct little collection
of slightly kooky homewares / desk accessories - designed especially with local manufacture mind. After a steep learning curve getting their hugely popular 'Solids' range into production in China, the pair were compelled this time to design something easily produced here at home. When it hits the retail market, the range will still be surprisingly affordable - those stunning lacquered brass paperweights in chunky extruded shapes start at around $100.00 RRP. I am so in love with the genius simplicity of Daniel and Emma's work - the pair design with a surprising restraint which belies their young age - Emma is 25 and Daniel turns 26 today! (Happy Birthday Daniel!!!)

After graduating from Industrial Design at the University of South Australia in 2007, Daniel and Emma spent 2 years gaining invaluable work experience with some super high-profile design studios in London including Thorsten van Elten and Marc Newson! They exhibited their first range, 'Shapes', in 2008 in both London and Tokyo, and were included in the *Wallpaper magazine graduate directory the following year - picking up countless other accolades and awards on the way. But aside from being one of the most promising young design studios in Australia right now, Daniel and Emma are just so genuinely nice, super modest and entertaining too! They are also a very well dressed couple (important), and I am not sure I have ever seen a cuter sweeping-side-fringe / chunky spectacle combo than Emma's current look. Aggh. Girl-crush alert! (Sorry Dan - you are cute too).

Do pop down to Space Furniture in Richmond this weekend and see the 'Basics' range in a special preview showing until Tuesday! You will die of the cuteness. Promise.

Huge thanks to Daniel and Emma for the super speedy interview turnaround-time! ...And to John at Space for keeping the products on display all weekend just for US (true!)

Tell us a little about your backgrounds – what path led you to what you are doing now?

We both studied Industrial Design at the University of South Australia and graduated in 2007. We met at uni……….. during which time we only worked on one project together, this was so disastrous that we vowed never to work together again….my how that’s changed! A number of unrelated events have led us to where we are now. Moving to London was a big one, coming back home to Adelaide was another and also just a general desire to design together and hopefully make a living from doing what we love!

'Solids' collection by Emma Aiston and Daniel To

After graduating in 2007, you each spent time working with high profile design studios overseas to gain invaluable experience… how did you end up working with Thorsten van Elten and Marc Newson, and what were the highlights of your time in London?

At uni we had always admired Thorsten’s brand and ethos, so when we arrived in London I (Emma) decided this is who I wanted to work for, so I did. The Marc Newson gig came about after winning
SOYA Qantas Spirit of Youth Competition in 2007, part of the prize being an intern with Marc Newson. We has the time of our lives in London, we met amazing people many of whom will be friends for life. Most importantly for us professionally we realised what we wanted to do as designers and learnt skills to put this into motion.

Emma and Daniel sample London grub at Ed's Diner in Covent Garden, and their favourite - Canteen, Baker st London.

Last year you were catapulted into the international spotlight after being included in *Wallpaper’s graduate directory… how did this come about, and what has come from such high profile coverage?

Wallpaper came about from us exhibiting at 100% Design London in 2008, its hard to say what the benefits have been exactly, we’re sure it has helped us in a number of ways both directly and indirectly, we think for the most part, people are impressed to see that we have made it into such a well known magazine.

Recent Daniel - Emma stand at 100% Design London (2009)

Daniel - Emma stand at 100% Design London (2009) and Tokyo (2008)

How would you describe your design aesthetic?

Simple, clean, just nice.

How is it working together as a creative couple? How do you begin a new design together – ie what roles do you each take on, is it a very balanced creative process…? Who wears the pants!?

Emma wears the pants, but Daniel wears the shorts (not a skirt!) We design apart and often come together to discuss an idea, then we might talk about it, draw it, make it and either love it or hate it.

Daniel and Emma's home in Rosewater, Adelaide

Where do you turn for creative inspiration – books, international magazines, the internet, your environment, travel, nature, family or friends… etc?

Media: Monocle Magazine,,,
Places: living in Port Adelaide, bike rides to the beach
Travel: Brussels, Tokyo, London, Paris Family: our sausage dog Frankie, grandparents (and their houses), our eclectic array of friends, and our very, very multi-cultural families!!!!!

Frankie the Sausage dog :)

Which other designers, artists or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?

Vampire Weekend, Chuck Bass (from Gossip Girl), Mr Fox (from Fantastic Mr Fox), Porco Rosso (from Porco Rosso)

What are you most proud of professionally?

The fact we still haven’t given up or killed one another!

What would be your dream project?

Designing a nice accessory for Louis Vuitton, or doing an interior for a quaint restaurant.

Dinnerset from Daniel Emma's 'Shapes' collection, 2008.

What are you looking forward to?

London in September, quitting our day jobs and concentrating completely on design, launching the production versions of ‘SOLIDS’ and ‘BASICS’, also teaching Frankie some tricks, with all of our spare time!

The view from Daniel and Emma's window in their tiny London apartment!

Adelaide Questions –

Your favourite shop/s in Adelaide for unique designed homewares/lighting?

Scammells Auction House, Port Dock Markets, RHD (mainly clothing but has nice things as well).

You fave bookshop in Adelaide for reference and design books?

Matilda Bookshop in Stirling.

Where /what was the last great meal you ate in Adelaide?

Korean bbq on Pitt Street, you can smell the smoky meat from at least 50m away!

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

This varies greatly from week to week, a perfect Saturday would be breakfast and shopping at the Central Market, followed by a leisurely stroll around the port.

Adelaide’s best kept secret?

Sugar Cane Minced Prawn Balls from Vietnam Restaurant OMG DELICIOUS!


  1. Thank you for another great interview Lucy. And what a lovely, lovely, lovely creative couple Daniel & Emma are. So inspiring!

    Stick with your design guys - you are going places.

    x dana

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  3. Thanks for sharing. It's great to hear about fellow creative Adelaidians ♥

  4. So clever, so talented. LOVED everything. Great work guys.

  5. My a wonderful article! I love their products and they are such a talented couple.

  6. Yay, go Adelaide :)