Front Design is a design group composed of four women based in Stockholm, Sweden: Sofia Lagerkvist, Charlotte von der Lancken, Anna Lindren, and Katja S'vstr'm. They give credit for their products to animals, physics, surroundings, and materials. Some are captures of a moment in time, like the the Designed by Animals series where markings and trails of animals have been integrated into the design. Some others are reactive and changing, like the lamp that stands up straight and lights up when you enter the room. They also reinterpret and give new life to classics like an answering machine, the Panton chair, and various traditional functional objects. The following interview, conducted by Beverly Tang, reveals their process and motives.
When was Front Design established?
Front was established in 2003
What are your backgrounds?
We all have a masters degree in industrial design. But before that we worked or studied in different areas. Katja is also educated as a textile designer, and have worked in that field. Sofia has worked with stage design.
How did you all meet?
We all met during our industrial design education. We went in the same class, and became friends. But we also fancied eachothers works, and were interested in the same kind of things. We did our first common work 2003,"Design by animals" and "Technology in new form" where we examined the roll of the designers the design process. These things were first shown at the Stockholm Furniture Fair. Since then we have been doing different projects and exhibitions together.
Since there are four of you, do you all do the same things or do you each have specialties?
Our projects doesn't look like that. There are always different tasks to do from day to day, and we all need to adapt to the situations. That is the good thing about being an industrial designer, we work with all kinds of different materials, techniques, people, circumstances etc. that means that each day is different from another, so there's no need to do the same things. We all need to become specialists of new areas each new project. With the animal project for example, we needed to collect all information we cold get about animals to find out what it is they really do. None of us really had any experience, so we had to ask people and read books to learn. And that is also what inspires us. We often discuss and a lot before we do anything. Cause we are interested in products and people's relationship to products. All of us have different opinions or angles in the discussions, therefore we can reach further, our products mostly comes from these discussions. We can also run bigger and more complicated projects when there's four of us. Plus we have more fun.
Who are your inspirations? (besides animals :-)
A lot of things could inspire us to do a new product, it could be a tv-show, some scientific discovery or something someone said. But we are specially interested in art, fashion and movies.
Could you talk a little about your process for the designs by animals? For example, what do you usually start with? The animal, the shape/look, or something else? Were animals actually used in the prototyping phase of any of the pieces?
We always start with the idea. What happens if we don't control the shape, but let something else do it? Can we still be called designers then? So we made a series of furniture, where the final shape was determined by an animal. We knew that rats like to gnaw, so we took it from there. In sweden people have these rats as pets, so we manage to get some. Finally, we put a roll of wallpaper in the rat cage and let them gnaw as much as they wanted. The result became a wallpaper with repetitive holes. We also met a real snake, some dogs, and a rabbit. We didn't really see the bugs that made the pattern on the table, but we manage to come over a sample of wood where they had eaten. The pattern was the transferred by a 3D-scanner into the table.
I'm very impressed by the ingenuity and unconventionality of your technology pieces, particularly the hanging answering machine, glazed leads lamp, wallpaper clock, and speakers. How did you come up with those ideas?
We were amazed by the stiffness within the home electronic field. Why is it so difficult to distinguish between an vcr an a stereo? And why don't they fit at all in the home environment? We wanted to see the home electronics as pieces of furniture. We experimented with materials and techniques that's not common in that field, an answering machine in silicon, hanging from the ceiling, and a pair of loud speakers in glass like large vases, maybe enables you to place it somewhere else in your home. The lamp with gold glacure, is an experiment with materials, the gold is full y used as a beautiful decoration and as a leader of electricity to the lamp.
In your "Design by..." pieces, you utilize technology in ways to allow for chance to play a part in the design, and each piece seems to use a different technology/process. For those pieces, did you start with wanting to use/experiment with a certain technology or did you have an idea first and then figure out which technology to use?
We spoke about how production and design techniques control the final shape. Today a lot of designers work with 3D-programs as their only tool. This, of course, develops the design in a certain way. We also spoke about how we rely on computers even though they are very limited in their way of working. So our basic idea was to use the limitations of a computer to make new shapes. Then it is always a lot of work to find the right techniques and the right methods. We experimented and asked a lot of questions before, finally a morph program made the morph chair, and a 3D-scanner made an almost unreconisible copy of a chandelier.
Are all of your projects in production? If not, which ones are?
Most of our products are still prototypes. But we want to produce them if we find the right producer. We are working on that right now, and we hope to be able to produce and sell our products in the nearest future.
How was your experience at the Salone Satellite in Milan?
We had a great time, we met a lot of interesting people, including our favourite designers. We will go there again, for sure.
What are you currently working on now?
At the moment we work on the entrance and the cafe to one of the best art showrooms in Stockholm. We are also preparing a design seminar in Norway, two different exhibitions in London (the Beauty and the Beast at Crafts Council and Designed in Sweden at Museum of London), and one in Lille, curated by Droog (Open borders).
Paul Petrunia is the founder/publisher of Archinect.com (1997) & Bustler.net (2006); the president/creative director at Extra Medium, Inc., an LA-based web design/development studio; and also acts as a consultant for the design and production of web sites, specializing in those related to ...