World-Renowned Designer Marcel Wanders on Designing Unique Objects

The Dutch designer spoke about the limitations of modernism and designing in the machine age.
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Marcel Wanders, the Dwell on Design 2015 keynote speaker, took to the stage with Dwell founder Lara Deam to speak about the inspirations behind his global portfolio.

"Industry has done great things, but it also has taken away the uniqueness of the object," Wanders said.

"I'm the kind of person who is easily bored, so for me it is super essential to go into new territories," Wanders said. In his work, he is constantly testing new materials and processes. His famous Knotted Chair, designed in 1996, is a strong example of his exploratory method. "We used macramé, which is a technique I had used in kindergarten," he said. "It was a chair that was so imperfect; it was so handmade. That's what made it so important."

This Knotted chair (1996) is a 1:6 model version, produced by Vitra, and is only a few inches high. Its larger relatives—produced by Cappellini—have already found their way into a number of museum collections.

That handmade element is key to his work; Wanders also spoke about how machines sometimes threaten the design process. "Industry has done great things, but it also has taken away the uniqueness of the object." From intricate patterns to delicate crochet, Wanders's products aim to counteract the movement toward sameness in design.

The Big Shadow lamp, which Wanders designed for Cappellini in 1998.

Wanders also spoke about how the Memphis movement inspired his early work with the collective Droog. "Memphis made it clear there was a different way of thinking. Design at the time was elevator music instead of punk rock. The world was static, and Memphis broke that open." Wanders cherishes the Memphis movement because it differs from the status quo of modernism, and his work aims to break conceptions in a similar way.

Watch Wanders discuss his work in a video.


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