Ever present in a conversation with Jean-Marie Massaud is a ‘big picture’ view of the purpose and potential of design in the world today. Indesignlive.sg caught up with him during his recent trip to Singapore.
24 November, 2017
As part of its recent 16th anniversary celebrations, Space Furniture and Poliform welcomed a special designer guest to Singapore for a guest lecture and networking. Dressed in a characteristic comfortable white-cotton outfit, French designer Jean-Marie Massaud spoke to a large audience at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts’ (NAFA) Lee Foundation Theatre. He spoke about his interest in technology, the theme of lightness (which pervades his work), the furniture and products he has designed for world-leading companies, conceptual proposals (for a whale-shaped airship hotel, for example), and the new brand he has started.
Simply named ‘M’, the brand is his vehicle for exploring a wide spectrum of design, with the core aim of making life better within the scenarios of today’s world. So far he has worked on designs for a piano, a solar-power-collecting paddle surfboard, a boat, a car, and shows, among other things.
Indesignlive.sg had the opportunity to find out more about his way of thinking about design and design practice at the Space Furniture showroom.
Above: Terminal, designed by Jean-Marie Massaud for B&B Italia
“I live like the millennial generation. I live in the south of France with my family, but my team is in Paris, and I go there just three days a month. But I’m well connected with my partners. It’s a free life – like working on vacation. When I need to work, I will go to a café with my iPad and check my mail, do some sketches, and then in one and a half hours I’m free for the day. Well, I’m free but my brain is still thinking about it. This is more efficient than if I’m back in Paris and looking over everybody’s computers and asking them to do things every five minutes. I was stressed and unproductive and making people feel that way too.
In the beginning [of my career] I had a lot of ideas about making life more about self-fulfilment and collective harmony, but my experience every day was just stress, jetlag, and feeling tired. I thought there was a problem. If what I say is not what I experience, it doesn’t make sense. So that influenced this decision today to design my life as a really balanced life.
It has influenced my practice a lot. I refuse a lot of work now. And sometimes I choose smaller jobs that are less about ego – and the income! But it’s work that’s based on a very good relationship with the people you’re working with. These days I know I have to do one hour of exercise per day, and do meditation every day for my mind. I have had to learn how to not be unbalanced, and how to enjoy not doing anything.”
It was nothing to do with furniture. I was first educated as an aircraft engineer. Then I discovered design – it was like the Club Med! I was very curious. My very first project was a submarine – far from furniture. Then step by step I became interested in architecture, but I didn’t want to continue studying… I had the opportunity to start architecture by chance. I started doing a lot of projects. I was travelling a lot, getting very tired, and doing more and more big projects…
When you stop architecture you have a lot of people working with you, and you can’t just fire everybody. I started to work more with the furniture companies who had been approaching me. Very quickly I realised that architecture is like driving a taxi. If you drive, there is money; if you stop, no money comes. But in design, when you drive, you get money; when you stop, you get royalties. I thought, that’s a really cool economic system. Designing furniture is very flexible, and it helps me to develop a lot of work independently.
World evolution, the mixing of cultures, globalisation.
Above: Missed Tree planters, designed by Massaud for Serralunga
The territory of design has changed a lot. I think design is no longer just about products, but it’s a global scenario of how to increase qualitative growth for the customer – it’s about the experience of a brand, consistency and timelessness.
Design is a global term. Design is everywhere when it’s progressive, not conservative. Humankind is linked with this technological revolution so we have to invent a better life and figure out how to live together harmoniously again. There will be a lot of discrimination toward people who have access to technology by others who don’t. Some will integrate technology inside their bodies. They’ll have the advantage of extended power over others. What does it all mean for social connections? Will augmented trans-humans take the poor as slaves? People who don’t have access to this – they will not be consumers. We have to think of all these scenarios. It’s crucial today.
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