Alfred Johnson entered the world of interior design when he graduated from Edexcel International and was recruited by Christian Mintowt-Czyz, the co-founder of London Design in Dubai as a 20-year-old apprentice in 2000.
He remembers he ‘paid his dues’ by working on mundane detailing for the first six months of the job before he was invited to work on a concept for Grand Stores with Justin Smith, Christian’s partner and creative head and co-founder.
This gradually led to bigger clients and Johnson went on to spend five plus years with the company working with regional giants such as Emaar, Nakheel and Thuraya.
Aged 26, he quit the firm and spent time as a freelancer before he founded Imagination Design with his business partner Amir Zaidi, which was the holding company that led to the inception of Alfred Johnson as a bespoke design brand.
Having accumulated a wealth of experience working with his old firm, Johnson saw a gap in the market that identified a niche clientele’s desire for a new, bold and unadulterated approach to design and reckoned that perhaps his design language could fill the void.
He is passionate about what he does and setting up the firm enabled him to artistically explore a particular dialect of design language whilst contributing to the fabric of a growing city.
Alfred Johnson, the design brand specialises in all aspects of boutique luxury design and biomorphic interior architecture. The head office is based in Al Quoz, Dubai.
As principal of the brand, Johnson’s responsibilities range from meeting new and existing clientele, creating initial dialogue, comprehending the details of the clients brief and being responsible for the creation of conceptual designs for all his clients. He said the role demands a lot of dedication ensuring clients receive original design concepts that translate their requirements, be it commercial or residential.
What are you working on at present and why?
We are currently working on Alfred Johnson retail’s luxury furniture line that explores our biomorphic design language focusing on being practical as well as artistically striking. We have been exploring ways to enhance the luxury living/work experience and this led to us to morphing our design language into various aspects of the furniture industry. We’re currently exploring four new models in addition to our most significant pieces.
Our current product line includes:
Medusa, our conference/dining table that seats 10 plus and can be customised to seat up to 18 people. The concept behind Medusa was a hunger deep within me to create and share my perspective on art with the world and the first of many originals.
Hand cast created with mild steel sub-sections, hand moulded fibreglass clad exterior, Medusa draws her inspirational shape from the core values of biomorphic design language. The pure shapes of each perspective that morph into one-another draws people into the depths of the product.
The consumer has a variety of customisation options in leather, real wood veneer, polyurethane super gloss paint, corian, veneer, chrome, aluminum and crystal encrusted, hence allowing its use to range from commercial, residential and hospitality.
Morphing the lines between form, function and the perception of art, we hope to inspire the space that it is used in and aim at giving consumers a new perspective into contemporary luxury.
Carmine – a biomorphic statement that re-visits luxury CEO/executive management workstations and its applications. It is cantilevered on a base section of 250mm with supporting MS base plates and concealed wall units. Handmade in cast created GRC – glass reinforced concrete, its base is brought alive with customisation options in leather, veneer, polyurethane super gloss paint, corian, veneer, chrome, aluminum and crystal encrusted panels with a fusion glass top.
Karoline – A complimenting blend between the functionality of a coffee table and the need for a pièce de résistance within any residence or office space, is customised to the clients requirements and available in combinations of leather, real wood veneer, polyurethane super gloss paint, corian, veneer, chrome, aluminum and crystal encrusted panels.
Sophia – A hand moulded end table that brings form and function together in an authentic ensemble creating an assembly of biomorphic design intent in any environment and is available in combinations of leather, real wood veneer, polyurethane super gloss paint, corian, veneer, chrome, aluminum and crystal encrusted panels.
Allegra – Be it hospitality, residential or commercial, created as a tribute to the arts, this table brings pure fascination as a design element to any environment. Its options range from leather, real wood veneer, polyurethane super gloss paint, corian, veneer, chrome, aluminum and crystal encrusted panels with a fusion glass top. The inspiration for Allegra came from the artist within me that simply wanted to create.
You have designed a number of “Floating Retail” shops for HP. Tell me more about this?
Hewlett-Packard wanted to raise its retail awareness for its products and wanted a concept that would resonate the brand and constant evolution in delivering some of the world’s most cutting edge and reliable IT products.
Our approach to this was taking a temporary space and converting it into a high impact branded retail environment that would connect with consumers, deliver a constantly evolving consumer message and be cutting edge branded biomorphic architecture.
These retail environments enable consumers to view Hewlett-Packard’s evolving, cutting edge product line in multiple display areas that range from stand alone units to morphing counters that display specific multiple product ranges.
Whilst creating the interior retail architecture, we wrote and directed a performance that is based on the brand and its products. This aerial performance draws the consumer in whilst promoting HP consumer-lifestyle oriented products.
The three aerial artists perform seven routines during the last seven hours of the business day, every hour. Each song was carefully chosen allowing for appropriate integration of its products and services into the performance, thus psychologically enhancing the product and brand’s appeal to its clientele and enabling a vibrant retail environment to come alive.
The sequel to the Hewlett-Packard Floating Retail has just been completed. HP’s primary retail strategy evolved from stand-alone product display units that we designed last year to a seamless multi-leveled bar that were divided into product zones.
The new zones worked on evolving the product experience from being singular to a more lifestyle all in one concept i.e. selling computers with printers, scanners accessories etc as a unified HP lifestyle for the average consumer.
The client wanted the consumer to seamlessly integrate from one zone into another without divisions whilst in the interior, hence our creation of the two biomorphic multi-level display units on either side. The central experience bar housed its star products, whilst the rear low height wall gave their print accessories a display section within the space.
Its new interior included a suspended biomorphic canopy that housed a backlit HP logo and acts as a integrated part of the interior space allowing consumers to connect with the brand’s biomorphic lines.
I understand you recently completed your first museum in Saudi, tell me about that?
The Musée d’AMA was our first commission within the public space for the arts sector. The AMA group, whose corporate offices were on the top two floors of the building, wanted to showcase its contemporary art collection within its museum to the general public.
Our objective was to create a diverse, yet museum type, environment that would allow visitors to view the client’s diverse global collection of art. Having viewed a portion of their collection, we planned the space to give visitors the freedom to explore, creating a sub-section for the paintings and sculptures.
The ceiling detail was created based on their passion for art that consists of recessed LED illuminated gun-metal steel routed Arabic poetry set against matte white gypsum, allowing visitors to read as they explore the space.
The biggest challenge was to create a museum environment within a limited space that had to house a vast variety of diverse art whilst maintaining original design intent. The region being largely unexplored, we had to ensure the design language was not too cutting edge and had to maintain a subtle yet contemporary interpretation of design.
What, if any, are the major challenges for you working in the UAE?
The UAE provides us with a stellar environment to work and live in. Being a central business hub for the region, we cater to a variety of clientele around the region as well as internationally from our HQ in Dubai.
We are aware of the amount of red tape involved in other major cities within the region and think that Dubai and the UAE provide us with a substantial amount of infrastructure to work within as well as with the increasing amount of clientele wanting world class design concepts.
You won the Silver Award and received an Honorable Mention at the International Design Awards in Los Angeles. Tell me about that, how many awards do you have?
The Alfred Johnson Brand received its first Silver Award in North America and an Honorable Mention as well for our work on Etisalat within the UAE.
Our brand currently has four awards and two honorable mention/finalists. MENA awards include the Young Designer of the Year and Retail Design of the Year twice and the Silver Award for Commercial Space at the International Design Awards in North America.
I hear there is a possible expansion on the cards, where are you moving to?
We are currently exploring options of a new venture in the US where we want to expand Alfred Johnson as a retail experience. Our goal is to take our experience with interior architecture and product development to a high street audience, exploring new avenues of growth for our brand. With our comprehensive approach our high street customers will experience biomorphic design on a boutique level.
Where are you trying to take the business now?
I believe that as a multi-disciplinary design brand, we have much to offer the architectural and interior industry. Our recent commission to renovate a G+3 office building in Riyadh, KSA will be the first for our brand in the conceptual architecture industry. We are looking at collaborating with associates in Qatar, Kuwait and certainly aiming to expand in Saudi Arabia.
We’re currently working on a commission for a retail-office that has to resonate a variety of Italian interior products for its new venture in Dubai.
We’re also due to begin work on a mobile-hospitality concept for a Brazilian Food Conglomerate and last but not least, we’re expanding our brand’s furniture collection and shall be developing new products throughout the year signed personally by myself, thus ensuring that replicas are not made, giving them that exclusivity factor.