Retail Design Student Awards past entrants: Milly Wood

“I’ve never had a real job”, says Milly Wood. She prefers a project-based approach to life, “though sometimes it gets a bit precarious”.

This strategy is perhaps why she found herself co-ordinating a student team in her third year at Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication (now Ravensbourne University), working on a Ted Baker brief for the inaugural Retail Design World Student Awards in 2014. “I was interested in speaking to people outside,” she says. Her head of school Layton Reid encouraged that, she says.

Milly Wood
Milly Wood

So Wood corralled a handful of second years to work on the brief. She didn’t contribute directly to the design, but really enjoyed “contact with an external event, being part of a bigger whole and seeing other briefs and what other students were doing”.

“I gained direct insight from seeing people working on projects that were delivered in the real world,” she says. “It was exciting to visit somewhere like Ted Baker and see what happens behind the scenes.”

The project also fuelled her love of collaboration. Fellow student Harriet Collins worked on the Ted Baker design, and the two have worked together on projects since. “University is the best place to test relationships,” says Wood.

Wyliewood installation for Issey Miyake
Wyliewood installation for Issey Miyake

Since graduating from Ravensbourne in 2015 with a BA in architecture, Wood has worked in theatre, architecture, retail design and in education. She even won a British Council scholarship to report on the prestigious Venice Architecture Biennale. Her career is a mesh of connections, each leading into another. If there is a thread it is set-building, she says, which shows in her theatre, retail and exhibition projects.

A two-year stint with set-builder Wyliewood, for example, has involved projects with immersive theatre group You Me Bum Bum Train, as well as retail installations for the likes of Issey Miyake, Levi’s and Lululemon. Meanwhile, work with architect Dallas Pierce Quintero included the exhibition design and build for the Sorrell Foundation’s National Art & Design Summer Show. Wood is now is an educator for the Sorrell Foundation Trust. The work she does with secondary schools there is echoed in other education work with the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Ravensbourne was a natural choice for Wood. “I knew I wanted to study in London after completing my foundation course at Plymouth,” she says. “Ravensbourne’s interview process was extremely personable, with a tutor and a student involved, it had an amazing new building (designed by Farshid Moussavi of Foreign Office Architects] and it was a design college.”

She talks of ‘creative abrasion’ where design disciplines rub together naturally. Now studying towards her part two in architecture at Central St Martins, she finds CSM ‘insular’ by comparison. 

As for the future? “I don’t feel a burning desire to be a designer, but to work on the construction side,” says Wood. “Now is an exciting time. The way we work is changing. It is exciting to be in spatial design with so many opportunities to cross boundaries.”