Konstantin Grcic in an Interview The Thinker
Let’s just put it this way: right now Konstantin Grcic is Germany’s most important designer. His unfailingly fresh new takes on existing things also changes our own views of products. Goethe.de met with this very busy Munich resident in his studio. The conversation took an unexpected turn. Instead of talking about his latest projects for Mattiazzi, Flötotto, Nespresso or Vitra, Grcic (an industrial designer, born in 1965) told us about himself. About his approach to design, his responsibility and why he believes that at the moment, style, form and function are not the most urgent issues in design.
Chair_B, Bd Barcelona, 2010, Konstantin Grcic | © Konstantin Grcic
In the 90’s, you were part of a group of young designers who rediscovered reduction to essentials. Today, 20 years later, your designs are more angular, sometimes bulky, as if you were out to polarise …
I do polarise, but not for the sake of provocation. That doesn’t interest me. But I think there’s room for very different things. Niches. What I never wanted was to design along mainstream lines, doing products the way we all want to have them. I’m simply the better designer for things that polarise and that –which transcends the object by far – get a discussion going. That’s where I see a quality.
Function, logic, simplicity – what best describes your approach as a designer?
I like all three concepts. Function in any event. Design has a lot to do with function. But one must sort out clearly what function is, exactly. The concept itself describes practicality – a chair to sit on – but it also refers equally to production, storage, transport and packaging. Beauty is a function, too, one that transcends practicality. And finally the disposal of the object as well, its life and use cycle. I like logic, even if I personally don’t always think logically. Logic means getting down to essentials, to the roots. You can only develop your thinking if you understand how something functions. Simplicity always means stripping things down to essentials, but there is always a certain point at which they become just too simple, too banal, and lose their soul in the process. All three concepts work best when interacting.
Do you miss the concept of emotionality in this series?
Waver, Vitra, 2012, Konstantin Grcic | © Normally, I wouldn’t bring it up. But it makes sense in the series of logic, function and simplicity. As a designer, I’m equipped with a certain kind of rationality, but I’m subjective at the same time. In the end, I decide things for myself the way I think is right. Emotionally, intuitively and very personally. At the end of the day, that’s what determines the quality of a design, its magic.
In a recent interview you said, “For a better world, we need designers.” How are you improving the world?
With one very small contribution; my office is tiny. The design world is itself tiny, in relation to the world. But this little contribution that one makes as a designer is still very important. I’m absolutely convinced of this.
Did your “Chair One” change all of our lives?
Ausstellung, Decisive Design, Art Institute of Chicago, 2009 | © Technological things, like Apple’s products, might yet change our lives; a chair like “Chair One” won’t accomplish that any more. But I’m thinking about something entirely different in connection with your question, about the role of designers in cooperation with companies.
chair_One, Magis, 2004, Konstantin Grcic | © It has to do with responsibility for what is produced and how. With fundamental questions about resources or disposal. Those are really exciting issues. Style, form and function, too, are less urgent at the moment. There is so much going on that’s good.
You will do the German Pavilion at this year’s Architecture Biennale in Venice, together with the architect Muck Petzet. Your theme: “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle“ …
Thematically and conceptually, this is Muck Petzet’s project. I’m responsible for the exhibition design. But we’ve naturally discussed the theme a great deal. I’m drawn by the question of how to present architecture in the form of an exhibition. It’s a comparatively quiet, unobtrusive theme. I am working on a presentation form that will do justice to the theme just because it is so low-key; one that will be able to hold its own at the “Vanity Fair” of the Architecture Biennale for precisely that reason.
Recently, you have been increasingly active as an exhibition designer. What draws you to this conceptual work?
Medici, von Mattiazzi, 2012, Konstantin Grcic | © Dealing with design on a theoretical level is completely different from creating something oneself. It also helps me develop in my thinking and my knowledge of design. The exhibition concept has now established itself in my office as a new mainstay. One, two exhibition projects a year mean we have to design two or three fewer products. That relieves the office and takes the pressure off.
“Design is not just what (something) looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” This was Steve Jobs’ philosophy. Do you have a definition for design?
I don’t think I have a clear definition right off hand. I’ve totally internalised what design means for me. It defines my approach, what I make, how I make it. What I find good and what I don’t. Designers of other generations still had a clear definition that they also really believed in. Today, the world is changing far too fast, and things along with it. But certain principles remain in spite of this, and it is important to uphold them. Others are changing and that is important, too. The main thing is to keep on questioning and examining oneself and one’s own perception.
What developments in design would you like to see?
PRO_SCHOOL CHAIR, Flötotto, 2012, Konstantin Grcic | Photo © Oliviero Toscani Something’s going on in the young design scene right now. It has to do with production and the means of production, which until now were the monopoly of the industry. Enzo Mari’s concept of “autoprogettazione,” autonomous, self-generated design and production, is undergoing further evolution. The means of production are being freed from the grip of monopoly. The industry’s authority is being questioned. The creator either has the means of production himself, 3-D printers, for instance, or the designer becomes the producer and seeks out various partners from industry. This is very exciting and something I’d like to see happen. Nobody really knows where exactly things are heading. But I have a feeling that this development will totally change me, too.