It always seems impossible, until it’s done. This phrase is on David Knight’s website, exposed in his studio and would clearly be his slogan if he were running for President.
At the heart of Shoreditch on a February afternoon a man with an adolescent style – wearing jeans, black sneakers and a kaki coat – smokes a cigarette in front of the Blues Kitchen. His studio is just above, he points.
David Knight is a London-based 36 year-old designer. He meets Dom at university in 2001, who is now his business partner. They decide to team up to fund an interior design company they would name ‘DTWO’, after the D2 licence giving the permission to operate a club.
18 years and hundreds of projects later, David and Dom are still a solid team. Together they designed restaurants, bars, hotels and street food concessions. Mac & Wild, Barrio East, Rola Wala and Matsuri were among their clientele.
Having grown up in Leicestershire, his parents take him out of the state education system at the age of eight, and put him in private education so that he can explore his art potential from an early stage.
Extremely precocious, he started documenting all his drawings at 11, and for him his sketchbooks were all that mattered. It hasn’t changed: “If my house was on fire, that would be the one thing that I would be going to save.”
David rarely has time to draw anymore, and feels like his drawing skills have fallen by the wayside: “That worries me a bit and I would actually like to get that back now,” he says with rare nostalgia.
But it doesn’t mean he’s giving up on his childhood dream of having his own painting in the BP at the National Portrait Gallery.
His posh accent and background are in complete contrast with his character. He is the definition of the cool guy: nice, funny, with an infectious laugh.
He is the brilliant student, and the dunce at the same time. At the age of 16 he is tagging trains in Germany, the next year he receives three unconditional offers for the best art universities in the country.
Out of the blue, his father passed away from a heart attack right in the middle of universities’ application. He had just finished a portrait of his parents for his final portfolio. A few months after, he entered the prestigious school of Central St Martins to study Product and Industrial Design.
David particularly remembers one project that he considers being one of the best things he has ever done. The instruction was: do a technical drawing free hand of a domestic household object. He chose a Dyson vacuum cleaner, a £200 hoover, considered to be the best. He just wanted to understand why it was so good. “I got a top banana mark,” he says proudly – an A star in simple language. Sadly, the drawing got stolen at St Martins.
Naturally curious, David speaks about objects as if they were humans. “You feel like you have a connection, you get some sort of emotional contact with the product,” he says avidly when speaking about Jonathan Ive’s computers’ design, the Apple designer.
It was a dream coming true when David and Dom funded and designed Callooh Callay in the early 2000s, one of those bars that were pivotal in Shoreditch night-time economy: “We took that bar from nothing to the 8th best bar in the world,” he explained.
When you look at him and his permanent excitement, it is as if being a designer is like belonging to a cult. Fervent admirer of Ive, Ron Arad and Jasper Morrison, Knight is insanely passionate and can have this connection with a chair.
His face glows up as he explains the new direction DTWO is taking: virtual reality in designing. “This is well class: that’s a real work of art. We are doing design justice there,” he says.
DTWO is starting a new design concept where you put virtual goggles on to look around in an empty space. What you see is what has been designed on computers. The computer drawings look shockingly like photographs. It’s so disturbing that when seeing a picture of the final result next to the computer drawing, even playing the seven mistakes game is a waste of time.
He has to leave for dinner now, and will design some wedding rings afterwards as he is getting married in May. Yes, Knight is a person of great integrity.