I set up studio|salon in London – explicitly in addition to my work as a practicing designer – to research the 'future position of furniture' and the 'future role of the designer'. It came about since realizing for a while that things had changed, were changing and needed a change in the furniture world. Below some thoughts on that.In 2015/2016 my London design studio will sometimes function as a salon where discussion will take place with key dutch, uk and international thinkers, shakers and movers on these issues. Salon will also manifest itself in London with a bigger event.
The future position of furniture design...
Where contract furniture used to be the world of desks, swivel chairs and filing cabinets, the cabinet contents have disappeared in our computers and domestic furniture has moved into offices where we lounge, have tête á tête conversations and meetings in cozy relax chairs. In return most of our domestic environments have home office corners.
This means there is less space and less financial means for furniture.Renting offices is often completely skipped and people work with there laptops from home, cafe's, hotel lobbies or shared flexible workspaces. Less space made that furniture items have become more hybrid; where we used to have a work desk and a dining table, we surround ourselves now with tables that we work, have dinner and throw a birthday parties at.
Annually millions of new products and furniture are launched on international fairs. Behind this is a complicated wide interlocking whole of economic interests of furniture labels, production companies, fairs and city branders, a growing pool of designers and design press that is always looking for 'the new', and all of them are looking for a form of profit. 'New' seems a more valid motive than 'necesary'. Designing just more and more furniture 'for catalogues' might need a thorough thought.
We blamed the crisis for less sales of furniture. But... a lot of furniture and products are produced without being related with what we really need: if you ask yourself 'how many tables you buy in your lifetime?' this doesn't match with the amount of tables that are annually launched at fairs, the amount of secondhand items we have that still work perfectly well and the amount of 'design' tables that we still produce since 'Bauhaus' and 'Modernism'.
Cars, houses or other traditional 'status' items are no longer seen as must haves. Cars are regarded as inert expensive and inefficient street- and city-lockup, while you can do something and work online when you travel by public transport. An upcoming generation is no longer interested in buying more, but in sharing what is around. A generation that is also more interested in a small apartment or room in London, Amsterdam and Singapore than to own a house (that they can't afford). The house gets less important compared to public space; outdoor, cafe's, lobbies and other shared spaces. These issues have an effect on how we live and the products we surround ourselves with.
Open Source Technology & Production and direct ways of sales and communication enables more direct contact with clients (domestic and contract). Customers are more empowered than ever, often know well what they are looking for and are able to browse and compare online instead of visiting showrooms.
The future role of designers...
As mentioned: an upcoming generation is no longer interested in buying more. Being involved in design education every now and than I noticed that among this generation there is also an upcoming amount of designers that is less interested in designing products.Qualities as to rethink and to solve complicated problems makes designers not only excellent partners in product innovation processes and making sense with new technologies, but also as consultants on strategic levels and making sense with social issues. I worked myself on projects on Fogo Island, Canada with the island Community which felt in many ways more rewarding than designing another chair.Can our capacity to rethink and to solve things help to make changes in the above scenarios?
INEKE HANS, November 2015