Marcel Wanders reveals his favourite design icon; it’s all about taking the simple approach that’s best. Iconic designs often herald change. Whether a chair, a light or an object, its birth can signal an entirely new way for design. Marcel Wanders’ Knotted Chair, designed in 1995 for Droog Design, went against the hard edge minimal aesthetic of the time. “It was at complete odds with the industrial aesthetic. It was seen as the renaissance of humanism,” says Wanders, who based his design on the traditional craft of macramé.
Since graduating from Arts Arnhem in the Netherlands in 1988, Wanders has been bringing his humanistic designs to life for companies including B&B Italia, Bisazza, Poliform, Moroso, Flos, Cappellini, Droog Design and Moooi, which he
co-founded with Casper Vissers in 2001 (they now share 50 per cent of the business with B&B Italia). Recipient of endless design awards, Wanders refers to his designs as ‘new antiques’. His Shadow Lamp produced by Cappellini blew the cobwebs away from mahogany sideboards smattered with lace doilies. “There’s always been a familiarity about my designs. People feel at home with them even though they haven’t seen them before,” says Wanders.
While Wanders’ award-winning designs appear as though they just happen by chance, he is by nature a theoretical designer, perfecting each move to achieve an exacting result. The Knotted Chair, the Airborne Snotty Vase and the
Zeppelin Suspension Lamp have become icons in homes and museums around the world. “My Snotty vase hasn’t become an icon outside of the design profession. But that doesn’t mean it has had less of an effect in communicating an idea
to a much wider audience,” he adds. Wanders clearly follows his own design path, but he also admires others who have forged their turf in pursuit of ideas. Both Philippe Starck and
Achille Castiglioni are singled out. “Starck has this extraordinary ability to communicate ideas. His energy and vitality can’t be rivalled,” says Wanders. And while pieces from both designers are revered by Wanders, it’s the Taraxacum light, designed for Flos in 1988 by Castiglioni, that’s perhaps proved to be one of the most inspirational design icons. “I think it became iconic because it is such a simple concept that’s been executed to perfection,” says Wanders.
Although Wanders has turned his exacting eye to numerous areas of design such as hotels and restaurants (the Blits, Rotterdam and the Thor, Hotel on Rivington, New York), there are other projects on his radar. “I’d love to design a Zeppelin [an aircraft this time]. It’s not so much about how it would look, but the experience of travelling in it.”
Marcel Wanders continually explores new directions, but his design philosophy doesn’t waver. “I still believe that technology needs to go backwards in a sense and humanity go forwards. Design doesn’t have to be cold and technical; there should be a sense of warmth that engages people. There’s a romantic quality with the handmade and while it may remind you of something from the past, it can take you into the future.”