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Designer Dialogues: Formafantasma

The creatives of Sectie-C, an Eindhoven based design hub, initiated BLANK SPACE MAGAZINE, a magazine that portrays different creative makers in their workplaces while interviewed by colleagues. What fascinates, inspires and drives them to do what they do? Especially for, BLANK SPACE MAGAZINE edited the interviews into interesting short stories. This week, Hannah van Luttervelt and Lucandrea Baraldi sit down with Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin of Formafantasma.
Why do you design?

Andrea: Oh, gosh.

Simone: This is a very good question, a very difficult one. I was interested in design from a very young age, but for a moment in my life, I was thinking of giving up on 3-dimensional design. Then I met Andrea. We started collecting objects, visiting exhibitions and through living together we quickly realised that everything we were talking about was related to design. It means that design speaks to us as a discipline rooted in the lives of everyone, and it is also about politics, it’s about the economy, it's about ecology, it's about all those things that for us are relevant. And this tentacular structure of design and its implications that are constantly expanding are what makes the discipline extremely exciting.

Andrea: For me, I thought I wanted to become an architect. But the proximity that you can have with objects made the discipline of design much more interesting. Of course, architecture can also shape your behaviour, but design even more so, because it's something you touch every morning like the cup you drink from, the trousers you wear... Before meeting Simone, I was still navigating the uncertainty of when you are young, as soon as we started to work together it was immediately clear what we wanted to do.

Andrea Trimarchi
Can you describe that?

Andrea: Well, when we started, we were doing work together as a joke, almost like a game in the evenings, we were taking photos; and already from the first moment, we decided on the name, weirdly enough. So, we already had this programmatic attitude.

Simone: And Design Academy Eindhoven helped shape it. The master's programme was very important for us.

Andrea: Yes, for us the questions there were interesting, like in what way do you want to be a designer, what is your idea behind it?

Simone: Almost existential questions. We were starving for it. All our mentors say that they have this memory of us completely driven and with clear ideas, in our mind, it wasn’t like that. Well, we were definitely driven, but not with so many clear ideas.

It seems like you’ve always been aiming to understand how to exist as designers. Could you describe what your role is now?

Simone: I think a lot of the way we are is influenced by reflecting on the ethical implications of the design discipline, and so we struggled to understand where to place ourselves. The things that we were designing at the beginning were often not commercial because they were either not durable or too political, our graduation work, for instance. But we were interested in exploring ideas. Over the years we started to structure our practice more and nowadays we have a part of the studio that is a bit more commercial and a part that is much more radical and research-based. But to come back to your question. What is our role? Well, our role is a multitude of roles. We are engaged in education, for example with the GEO-Design department at Design Academy, and our role is also about pushing what we can do as designers.

Andrea: And questioning the format. In design, it seems you need to all the time come back to objects. Even museums, they acquire our work, or they commission us to develop work, but they always come for the furniture. Sometimes the request is ‘well, do your research but then we want to have objects in our archive.’ Art is much more ahead, they can sell videos, they can sell ideas or temporary installations. In product design, sometimes you don’t need a physical object, but a new strategy.

How would you describe the new type of designer?

Andrea: For me, it’s someone that is engaged. With small ambition or big ambition, but is engaged with the issues of today.

Simone: And of course, the big issues of today are related to the ecological crisis, we cannot really skip that, it is the elephant in the room. What I find exciting is that if you think about when design was operating after the Second World War you could see the energy in designers because there was a world to reconstruct, there was the joy to make life really better. And for a long time after that design had to navigate the necessities of economic expansion and to work as a tool for that. Nowadays in front of an ecological crisis, we can either cry the whole day or also feel the joy of realising that we have to completely change our way of thinking. This is not only depressing, but it's also exciting. We have the chance to really move on from modernism and that is brilliant. That means that if the world is still there in 20 years, it will be completely different. And that is for me completely… it gives me goosebumps, it's just great to be witnessing this.

So, we have touched upon different scales of design, from single objects to large ideas. In essence, what is good design?

Simone: It changes, it's never universal, it's never stable. But at the moment, to me, very, very good design is the one that moves beyond the necessities of the user and thinks more from a holistic perspective. Which are the implications of design? What is the impact on the environment, the impact on the labourer, the impact on other-than-human creatures? Design is not just thinking about making humans happy, I think we concentrated for a very long time on that. Let's be clear, we love objects, we love pretty clothing, we love pretty colours, we don't want to neglect that. But it's important to realise that that is only one side of design. Paola Antonelli always says: ‘The opposite of beauty is not ugly but it’s laziness.’ when there is not enough effort put into the design of things.

The full interview with Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin (Formafantasma) can be found in the third edition of Blank Space Magazine. You can follow Blank Space Magazine here.

Interview: Hannah van Luttervelt en Lucandrea Baraldi / Fotografie: Wouter Kooken (Blickfänger)