Please upgrade your browser

For the best experience, you should upgrade your browser. Visit our accessibility page to view a list of supported browsers along with links to download the latest version.

Information Experience Design Students and Staff Create New Designs at Kensington Palace

New interpretive materials, designed by a team from the Royal College of Art’s Information Experience Design (IED) programme, have been unveiled in the Queen’s State Apartments at Kensington Palace, including bespoke textiles, ceramics and animations.

Within the understated grandeur of these intimate rooms, the team created new designs to help tell the story of the Stuart Kings and Queens that lived at Kensington Palace, beginning with King William III and Queen Mary II in 1689.

The project began in April 2014, when Historic Royal Palaces commissioned a team from the Information Experience Design course to design and install new visual materials in the Queen’s State Apartments at Kensington Palace, a ‘modest house’ purchased by William III and Mary II in 1689 and extended to today’s grand scale by Sir Christopher Wren.

The new designs introduce visitors to the key stories, characters and themes of these historic rooms, which were designed for Mary as intimate, domestic spaces.  From the ascension of William and Mary to the throne to the end of the Stuart line some 20 years later, their story is filled with an ambition and hope that was shared by the nation.

The project was led by IED MA student Caroline Claisse and included fellow student Jae Kyung Kim, as well as Kevin Walker, Head of Information Experience Design. In the team’s designs, historic moments are linked to specific locations, and the rooms become a spatial timeline drawing visitors’ attention to key moments in history. 

The designs take inspiration both from the rooms themselves, and the people who lived in them. For example, the delicate floral motifs that run throughout reference the strong Dutch influence that William III brought to England and its gardens, and also Mary’s love of blue and white porcelain that she filled her rooms with. However they also allude to the fragility of life and monarchy, with the childless William and Mary passing the throne to Queen Anne, who, with no surviving children despite 18 pregnancies, was the last Stuart monarch.

For the students, the project provided an excellent real-world experience of working for a high-profile client to a specific brief. Delivering against the project brief allowed them to test design theories, explore new fabrication methods and work with experts from across the RCA to expand their material knowledge.

Dominique Driver, Historic Royal Palaces, commented: ‘Historic Royal Palaces were looking for a creative design team that could respond to the story of the Stuarts at Kensington Palace in a way that felt in keeping with these intimate, historic interiors. The multi-disciplinary nature of the RCA was helpful in this respect, and their proximity to the palace was a bonus.’  

In the Queen’s State Apartments, the setting is both contained and conserved, and the team deliberately chose materials to suit the spaces -- identifying specific points in the rooms to draw visitors to particular stories. Using printed fabrics, a Jacquard woven family tree specially created in the Netherlands, and printed porcelain enabled them to give contextual information and draw out personal associations with the monarchs that lived there.

Some of the historic rooms were particularly challenging to design for. In the Queen’s Bed Chamber light levels are kept low to protect the very fragile state bed that is displayed there, and the team had to be creative to produce visual material within these conservation parameters. Along with Nelly Michenaud, Kevin Walker produced an animation that hints at new life, helping to tell the story of James Edward Stuart, son of James II, who was reportedly born in the bed.

Kevin Walker, Head of Information Experience Design at the RCA explained: ‘The development of the designed materials was complex, and benefitted from the combined experience of RCA makers, and we benefitted particularly from the guidance of Head of Textiles Clare Johnston and Head of Ceramics & Glass Martin Smith. Once we had decided on a textile- and ceramic-led approach, they lent their expertise to discussions of the most appropriate materials and production methods, and introduced us to suitable suppliers.’

The Queen’s State Apartments are open seven days a week except 2426 December and 2630 January. Opening hours are 10am to 6pm from 1 March to 31 October. Reduced winter opening hours apply; check the Kensington Palace website for more details of opening hours, and for more information.  

Client: Historic Royal Palaces

Design team: Caroline Claisse, Jae Kyung Kim, and Kevin Walker, IED, RCA, with animations drawn by Nelly Michenaud, and wood-work co-designed by Steve Bunn, RCA.

Production: Textile printing by Insley and Nash; Woven family tree produced at TextileLab, Netherlands; Woodwork by Glenn Wooldridge and Jonny Martin, University College London; Ceramic printing by Steve Brown, RCA.

For further information contact: [email protected]