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Design based on simplification and astonishment

18 November 2021

5 min. to read

Tijs Gilde © Boudewijn Bollmann
No Soft Thing was the appropriate name of the exhibition of Tijs Gilde and his fellow studio members Onno Adriaanse, Paul Coenen and Tim Teven during DDW. At Sectie-C, they share a workshop and showroom, and each has their own office. "It's the ideal situation and a luxury to make your products in the workshop and show them directly in the showroom," says Gilde. They share the same ambition and work ethic; they like to get things done. About their products, Gilde says: "Our designs are not soft. We use hard materials like stone and metal and make rather tough, robust products."

Things have changed quite a bit for Tijs Gilde recently. Previously, he worked for labels and was hired as a designer. Nowadays, he experiments with materials, like for Envisions. And he does exhibition design, as was shown during DDW. For the exhibition Things That Matter in Microlab Hall, he responded to the theme. On our relationship with things and their value. "For the scenography, I therefore made everything with almost nothing, literally by taking air as a starting point," he explains. He blew up volumes and further stretched the identity of the raw space by making the existing ventilation pipes longer, letting them come down and ending in a bench to rest on. He divided the texts that introduce the exhibitions into a series of texts that you can read through while walking in a sort of tunnel.

Designing to reflect

He recently changed the name of his design studio to Studio Guilty - a name with a wink. "Tijs Gilde works for that studio now," he explains. That change came out of the lockdown when he was temporarily working as an art director and had time to think about how to shape his business. "Art direction is contextually interesting because you also think about the identity of stuff, the cost and the price," he says. He now sees himself more as an entrepreneur with a business that includes all those aspects. "I am now a brand myself selling products through my own studio." His trend-focused approach, with his background in trend forecasting and strategy, is becoming more in the background, although his work is certainly related to the zeitgeist. "I see design as a reflection of the constantly changing society in which we move forward together. The new generation designs more inclusively. Individualism is making way for a kind of communism, in which 'I' becomes 'we'," Gilde observes. "Designers reflect on a world that is going to the dogs, in which inequality exists and oppression is practised. That has a clear link with the use of more human materials and the deliberate non-perfection," he believes.

Fascination for the experiment

He himself reflects on the increasingly digital world that has become more complicated by designing from a need for simplification and wonder. That is one of the characteristics of Gildes work. He researches materials with a fascination for experimenting with structures, patterns, colours and shapes, in which the designer almost always starts out from a circle, oval or rectangle. He turns these around, twists them or stretches them in order to design from a mathematical language of form. In doing so, he seeks to simplify the often complex constructions that lie behind them. "The challenge is to give these complex designs, with, for example, complex corners that have to connect to each other, a clear appearance," says Gilde. He then looks for new possibilities of - serial - production and develops (3D) techniques to realise that.

A trip to the gravel shop

Another thing that inspires him is an outing to all kinds of businesses outside the design world. "I like to look inside other companies and get inspiration from their industrial techniques," he says. "I see if it is possible to work together by manufacturing a design product on a larger scale using their machines." This is also how he came across the gravel shop, from whom he regularly collects bags full of residual material in all sorts of colours. He experiments with these until he produces the T-shaped table lamp that he showed again at DDW, in the joint presentation No Soft Thing. This Gravel Column Light is made of quartz, the most common type of mineral on earth. It's like sand, but the grain is bigger, more like gravel. The sturdy and solid design is literally heavy; 9 kilos of gravel go into one column. It fits the identity of Studio Guilty in which, in this case, rough and unusual materials are given a special and intriguing material quality and complex constructions and clear lines come together. It results in products which, according to the designer, should be accessible and therefore affordable, and which make people happy.  This is yet to be the case for the ceramic vases in his office. They are still in the experimental phase, and the sandblasted aluminium radiator - a lot nicer than the boring central heating systems - is still a prototype. The new series of vases made of steel industrial air ducts is another typical Studio Guilty product that the designer can make in his own workshop, assemble and sell directly in his own showroom. But sales are also quite successful via Instagram or on his website.