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Design Products (MA)

Sam Willcox

Sam Willcox is a designer at the Royal College of Art on the programme MA Design Products, 2022-2023.

Previously, he graduated with honours from Northumbria University with a bachelor’s degree in Design for Industry, having been awarded the Design School Prize for Best in Subject 2022.

Based in London with a background in carpentry and fine arts, Sam’s work at the RCA reflects a current obsession with the notion of care asking how it is that design might help to foster care in our thoughts and actions - care being a prerequisite to a future of greater resource understanding and sensibility.


(2023) MA Design Products, Royal College of Art

(2022) BA Hons Design for Industry, Northumbria University


(2022) Northumbria University Design School Prize for Best in Subject


While at the RCA, I've been exploring how design might be used as a medium for subtle education, nudging people toward new understandings, so that they might just care.

This project was set out with the aim of fostering more careful engagements with our resources, enabling the use of our hands, and introducing tools in an attempt to rekindle an excitement for, and begin to attain, a depth of mastery around making and creativity which is no longer required from us in our world of meticulously designed convenience.

The Thonk Stool is the culmination of my research and thinking this past year. It is a playfully stout furniture piece with quite the personality in its monolithic form, its rather large accompanying mallet, and the interaction of thonking its seat to its three legs.

The stool opposes conventional knock-down fittings as used in current consumer furniture - which teaches us as much about construction as a microwave-meal teaches us about cooking. Instead, the stool provides its user with a comically large mallet and says: "Go on, hit stuff, you might even learn something in the process".

Thonk Stool cover
Absolutely thonking
Assembly Mallet
Deconstructed thonk stool, with legs, seat, and malle
The taper fit in action
Card Models of the Thonk Stool
Process pictures from the workshop
The seat getting ready to be sanded
Sam sanding the Thonk Stool
Thonk Stool Hero Shot

Thonk Stool


The culmination of my explorations into how design might foster hands-on learning and cultivate mastery around making, The Thonk Stool responds by inviting users to smack a stool together with a mallet, so that they might learn something new – It’s not every day we get to hit things with a large hammer.

Constructed from Douglas Fir, the Thonk stool stands chunky and stout in celebration of the soft material it is made from.

Using the mechanical principles of taper fits - friction joints seen commonly in the workshop in the tailstock of a lathe or the quick-change heads on a CNC Mill - the Stool’s legs are designed to be knocked into place with a ‘thonk’ and can be dismounted with tap to their side which loosens their grip.

Furniture Kitchen Cover
Furniture Kitchen Page 1
Furniture Kitchen Page 2 3 4
Furniture Kitchen Research Gif
Construction GIF

Furniture Kitchen


This project is an exploration of the parallels between cooking and making: Asking why it is we are so keen to cook for ourselves, but not so keen to make for ourselves?

The project culminated in a cookbook for furniture, titled Furniture Kitchen, in which the first half teaches the reader about ingredients (materials), methods, and tools for making furniture. And the second half puts those learnings into practice on basic pine board furniture which begs for a bit of the readers new found knowledge and intuition.

Within this project I compare knock-down furniture to ready-meals. Neither of them teach us how their outcomes were made; both are products of convenience. Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.

Furniture Test Kitchen Page
FTK Initial Sketches
FTK Kit in use
FTK Invitation
FTK Instruction Cards



An extension of the Furniture Kitchen, the test_kitchen is an invite for people who have scarcely had the chance to design a piece of furniture to give it a shot at 1:10th scale. Its goal is to further explore how design can enable a rich, curiosity fuelled, engagement with making; in the same way that a lot of us harbour a passion and a want to continually improve our cooking.

Completed Test_Kitchen concepts are converted into instruction sheets for full scale construction with pine boards, which makes up the Furniture_Test_Kitchen series. WIP.

Pewter Candle Holder
Casting Pewter on a construction site

Pewter Candle Holder


In an act of rebellion against the construction site 20m from my front door, I tried to find some tranquillity. In a candle holder.

This was a weeklong ‘micro brief’ run alongside some other project work at the RCA. The brief was to ‘create something out of your control’. I used this as an opportunity to urban Max-Lamb-it and poured some very hot pewter into the very annoying construction site to create the physical manifestation of some bloody peace and quiet. An act of rambunctious arts and crafts.