Material Matters 2023 | Interview with co-founder William Knight

William Knight portrait by Gareth Gardner

We sat down with design promoter and co-founder of Material Matters, William Knight, to discuss all things design.

Material Matters is a trade-focussed fair illustrating the importance of material intelligence and application across design, architecture and making.

The fair will feature world-class brands, manufacturers, design and makers alongside an unmissable programme of talks and installations, all focussed on celebrating the importance of material in design and architecture.

As the co-founder of Material Matters (now in its second year at Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf), William Knight tells us more about the inspiration behind the fair and why he believes design is a force for good.

Can you introduce yourself?
I'm William Knight, a London-based design promoter. I started my life in design more than twenty years ago, just over the river from Oxo Tower Wharf at the Design Council in Covent Garden. Since then, I've run the London Design Festival, Clerkenwell Design Week and 100% Design. I was also the Director of Dubai Design Week for some time, but London is where I'm from and want to be.

Can you tell us a bit about how Material Matters came to be?
My friend and co-founder Grant Gibson started Material Matters as a podcast in 2019. The 100th episode is published this month, providing a fantastic foundation and accompaniment to the fair, which we staged for the first time at Bargehouse in September 2022. 

What is the premise of the design projects curated for the fair?
Material Matters is a platform for material intelligence for architecture and design. It's a broad scope, and the fair reflects that: we have a vast range of interests coming together - from research-stage projects straight from laboratories to industrial manufacturing to individual makers who are incredibly specialist in their material practice.

Why did you choose these projects to be exhibited at Material Matters?
The fair is a trade-focussed commercial event, so we rely on organisers to commit to exhibiting. However, the fair is organised so each floor of Bargehouse has a particular focus: the ground floor is a showcase space for a commissioned installation - it’s led by Danish textile designer Tanja Kirst this year. The first floor is about innovation, and features materials such as silk, potato starch and biomaterials.

The second floor provides a deep dive into industrial materials and processes, including aluminium produced by Hydro, a presentation by UK lighting company Bert Frank and a showcase of leading design studio Pearson Lloyd. The third is a stage for market-ready products; it'll be dominated by the Milan-based platform, Isola. The top floor is dedicated to makers and craftspeople and is where our talks programme occurs.

What impact do you hope this showcase will have on visitors, artists, and designers?
Our primary ambition is to help design professional audiences understand the value and potential of the materials we're showcasing at the fair. Shows such as Material Matters are staged to bring people together; connections are made at the fair that create opportunities, business and collaboration; I find that really exciting.

What influence has Bargehouse had on how the show has developed?
This will be the second edition of Material Matters. We learnt a lot about Bargehouse last year and have developed some thinking for this year's event to reflect that. Alongside arranging the content per floor, we've added a café within Room 7, re-orientated the talks space, and developed the entrance area more. We love and work with the building to deliver the best possible visitor experience.

What interested you in a career in design, and what do you enjoy the most about your work?
Design, generally, is a force for good. It influences our thoughts and actions and can profoundly impact how we live and prosper. However, the potential for design to build a better future is still widely undervalued. Therefore, there is lots of opportunity to promote the designers, makers and innovators working to improve the world. Creating a platform such as Material Matters involves working with a diverse range of people, many of whom are pioneers. I love this variety, alongside organising and developing ideas, finding solutions, and enabling collaborations to make great things happen!

Can you describe Materials Matters in 3 words?
Informed, Multi-layered, Crucial


We’d like to thank William Knight for taking the time to chat with us about all things design, craft, and Material Matters!

Find out more about Material Matters 2023 below:

Find out more

Discover all we have to offer at Oxo Tower Wharf during London Design Festival 2023:

London Design Festival at Oxo Tower Wharf