From its inception to the present day, design has undergone innumerable transformations of both form and meaning and it has spread to cover an infinite number of fields of action, contaminating and at the same time being contaminated by all those subjects with which it has come into contact. From fashion to education, sport to science, medicine to robotics and from transport to food, design creeps into these and many other areas, offering a unique and innovative vision and resulting in a combination that has the power to create marvels. But what is design really? For some, it is above all a form of inspiration, a way of looking at the world around us, a kind of approach to living your everyday life. This kind of warm, passionate, human design is part of a specific sector of industrial design which is almost innovative in seeking a new blend of form and meaning. Marcel Wanders has this kind of vision. Marcel believes that the wonderful thing about design is that it is for everyone and can be enjoyed by everyone without having to own design. The well-known Dutch designer owns a studio with his own name since 28 years, he is also the creative director of MOOOI, a design company he co-founded in 2001 to promote design talent and provide other designers with a production and distribution platform. When we met him we didn’t want to limit ourselves by just talking about products, so we preferred to investigate his vision of design. We tried to enter the universe of Marcel Wanders in order to look at the world through his eyes. What follows is the result of that encounter.
CB What’s your idea of design? MW Well, it’s a very big question, but I can tell you that my idea of design is that I really like it. Design is very important to me, as it’s defining the human experience on earth. It’s creating connections with people, it also expresses cultures, and so many angles that could be taken further. Its main purpose for me is, above all, to validate the experience of human life on this planet.
CB How do you translate your vision into real products? MW I like doing things which I have never done before. And I’m happy to go somewhere I have not been yet. There is no point to create 500 new variants of chairs every year, albeit very original, interesting in terms of aesthetics and functionality. I think it’s better to make two pieces of furniture, some accessories, do the interior of a restaurant, design apartments and set out in search of new adventures. For example, a year and a half ago I published my book about the painting in the Gallery of Honour in the Rijksmuseum Museum in Amsterdam, which weighs 40 kilograms. No one expected anything like this from me! I can imagine myself being a designer of a Russian ballet, an opera, or a film. I can imagine myself creating a lot of things that I have never done before, and I think I’ll do them one day! I love diversity. Apparently, this is typical of every creator. To please those around you with beauty – how wonderful is that?!
CB Your products are made to be lived and loved. How can design help us to play and entertain? MW I think design has so many different sides and of course design can have a playful side: a side where things are surprising, that can take people through journey, it can tell stories, it can make them do things they don’t normally do. The playfulness in these surroundings is something that design can be part of. Of course design can be a game. The point is that design today is so ridiculous, you can find it everywhere: you’ll find it at your dentist’s, you can find it inside a school, you’ll find it if you go for a holiday. Design finds itself in science, in maths, in culture, in creation and also in gaming. It’s hard to see where design doesn’t have a presence. It means that also design has the capacity to be inspiring.
CB Moooi, the company you founded with Casper Vissers, is a Dutch word that means beautiful (with an extra o). In your vision, how can design save the world with its beauty? MW Is the world endangered? If ignorance destroys the world, design and beauty can’t do anything to save it. Ignorance is a difficult thing to fight. But if you’re talking about pollution or bombing, they can’t destroy the world, they’d be able to stop human life on earth. We’re all going to die, we can kill ourselves but not the earth, our planet is strong. That means that also design has the capacity to be an inspiring force, when it comes to the actual life of those around it.
CB You’re developing a language for the current era you call “Contemporary Renaissance of Humanism”. Renaissance and Humanism were born in Italy: what do you think about contemporary Italian design? MW I think that great design is supposed to be created not just by designers but by designers and companies together. In Italy this collaboration creates amazing works. It’s amazing that each object can pass from the culture that that country has. It comes from industrial designers, it comes from entrepreneurs, together they create incredible works.
CB You said that “design is a tool that allows us to reach out and inspire, to touch others and help live magic and wonderful lives” and this is also what art does. What’s your relationship with art, and what’s the difference for you between art and design? MW I think both of them are related to culture and they also have the intention of making people connect to them. A big part of design is trying to create something to be more amazing than it was before whereas art intends to make special moments in life even more special. So when design has the duty to create better for like 23 hours a day, art has to do it in 1 hour and even more incredibly. Design has to have the intention of making your real meal better, to have the intention of making your travelling to school better, it has the intention of making your bike ride better, it has the intention of making the coffee you have with your friends better, it has the intention for your body to be better so you can rock harder. Art has the intention for you to be in awe of life. It has the intention of creating a moment of silence in a world of violence. It has the intention of connecting to the deepest point in who you are and to do this forever. So it is a more powerful culture, a more powerful sensitivity but it has a smaller place in our lives, less space in our lives but its presence is undoubtable.