Designer Adrian Stokes talks about his approach to creating the new ESSE Vector

Products —
adrian stokes product designer black and white

What I hadn’t expected was the close friendship that developed… I bask in its friendly glow all day; I rest my hand on it without thinking; it’s like a loyal pet…

Now and then opportunities happen, that stand out. Before my first meeting with ESSE, I was so keen I’d decided I hadn’t a hope of winning the work and my performance on the day confirmed as much. A call from Martin Ashby, ESSE’s owner, confirmed otherwise!

ESSE are committed to quality and there’s a palpable sense of this on meeting Martin and his team. In the factory, high technology meets handmade to manufacture some beautifully finished products. What also becomes apparent is the sheer inventiveness and attention to detail present under the skin of everything they make.

ESSE range cookers for example, are the most efficient and best value on the market, brimming with smart ideas for the cook to the service engineer. Anyone who loves manufacturing and is bored with the jargon-rich, brandspeak, lavished on products made cheaply overseas and distributed from the soulless warehouses littering both sides of our motorway network, would love ESSE. It’s typical of companies that once provided the foundation of communities up and down the UK but sadly, for many, their demise was swift and brutal. The fact ESSE survives and is building for the future is testament to them.

I was introduced by the Design Council and Vector is our first project together. It was a real privilege to be asked. The company used to make a free-standing electric heater called the Solo and Vector is its contemporary cousin.

The brief we received asked for a true ESSE product, well conceived, detailed and engineered. A high quality, efficient product for life, appealing to anyone who shares these values and requires a primary or secondary heat source in their homes.

The need was for something truly versatile, equally at home as a centre piece in a city apartment, or as a refined and quiet addition to a larger space. From clothes drier, to pet warmer, a hardworking, flexible friend.

Our shared objective when we started work was an exceptional design, that exceeded expectations. We decided, early in the process, that Vector should be a symmetrical object which users could sit in front of or around, rather like an indoor campfire. It should have simple, easily accessible controls, placed centrally on top which anyone could understand and use. The quality of materials and subtle allusion to ESSE’s heritage were other factors we felt were important to include in the mix.

As Vector took shape, the experience working with the ESSE team was one of the most open, enjoyable and instructive collaborations in a long career. What I particularly like about ESSE’s original Solo heater and now Vector, is its use of basic principles to great effect.

Air is drawn in through fins at one end and warmed, before flowing out through fins at the other end. It’s a delightfully simple system that works. The entire body of the unit also warms, radiating heat close-up and the room is kept at an even temperature by old school, bimetallic strips.

There is a lesson here, many products have become so feature ridden, fussy and poorly made that they are effectively programmed to self-destruct. ESSE products are the exact opposite, they do precisely what they’re supposed to and you will grow old together.

Vector continues this tradition, more companion than commodity and like a welcome, addition to the family, which pays its way. When I was given a pre-production unit to evaluate I was a little nervous. In our world, first impressions count and out of the box, I confess to being relieved.

It’s beautifully made, high quality and has a timeless, modern look. It’s also very effective, quickly attaining and then maintaining the temperature in my office. It’s mobile, but stows unobtrusively in the corner. So far, it has spent time with
me, my daughter and my wife as well as the entire family over dinner.

What I hadn’t expected was the close friendship that subsequently developed. I tend to bask in its friendly glow all day, even with the heat off. It’s like a loyal pet. I rest my hand on it without thinking, and it keeps my tea warm too.

In my office, I sit on an Eames Aluminium group chair, at Vitsoe’s 606 system, staring at an Apple computer, lit by a Best and Lloyd desk light. These are all wonderful products and I feel Vector is a worthy addition to the group.

Adrian Stokes 2018

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