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Milan Minute: FRONT

Of the moment Swedish design duo FRONT’s designs are based on common discussions, explorations and experiments.

Milan Minute: FRONT

On display at Salone this year were FRONT’s ‘Water Steps’ for Axor – a pair of playful saucers where the principle spout flutes upwards and spills the water onto the second disc underneath it which then passes on the water for use. The designers are fascinated with ‘the magic in design’, and have created objects with explosions, and robotic furniture. Indesign Melbourne Editor Alice Blackwood caught up with Anna Lindgren and Sofia Lagerkvist for a Milan minute to discuss Scandinavian design, the thrill of collaborating with different companies, and working with close friends.

INDESIGN MELBOURNE EDITOR, ALICE BLACKWOOD: From what I’ve read you describe yourselves as being quite experimental; you’re operating within the Scandinavian culture, but you don’t necessarily want to identify within the parameters of its design characteristics. What’s unique about FRONT and your approach?

ANNA LINDGREN: When we first started we didn’t want to identify [our work] as Scandinavian, we were doing something completely different. Slowly we started to see, through our body of work, that there is a Scandinavian element to it. Through the choices of materials, the simplicity of forms, the things that inspire us. You can’t take the Scandinavian out I suppose!

SOFIA LAGERKVIST: When we were exhibiting here in Milan for the first time at the Salone Satellite, we’d been studying industrial design in Stockholm which was quite a strict education. We were supposed to do things in a certain way and so on – but we were trying to interpret things really differently, we were doing loud speakers in glass, we invited animals to be a part of the design process. And then we came to Milan and so many people commented on the Scandinavianness of our design, which was astounding!

LINDGREN: Of course you have your heritage and what you grew up with, and Swedish people have a strong affinity to nature, that is a big part of Swedish culture. But I think the design scene is so international now, you can work with Italian companies, and Japanese companies. It’s difficult to profile yourself, but I think we are trying to have a very broad approach to design, from research experiments and one offs, to more commercial projects. We want to have a really broad idea of design. Some designers do create a distinct style or expression, [but] we are much more about collaboration. Collaboration would be the strongest word we would use [to describe FRONT]. For us, the collaboration with each individual company takes us into a different world, and we are trying to be inspired the uniqueness of each brief.

FRONT’s Water Steps for Axor

BLACKWOOD: Tell me about your design process, and the dynamic between the two of you in collaboration?

LINDGREN: We think more in the same way I would say, rather than in a complementary way. We’re very similar, so we work well together. We’ve been working together for a long time, and its a very natural process. We don’t really know how to work in an ordinary office! Apparently they have Monday meetings in a regular offices – this could be quite a good idea for us actually! One of the most significant things for us is that we try to find inspiration outside of design. For Axor, we were inspired by the idea of just seeing water flow. It’s something that humans have always been fascinating by, and it can have all sorts of impact on us. A waterfall is super powerful. We were really interested in the sound of water, too – that’s something that’s present, but you rarely design around the idea of sound. We look at forms that other designers have made, as well as natural phenomena – lakes that appear in steps, and how water acts in different ways and changes our perception of materiality.

LAGERKVIST: But we don’t live in the same city – I live in London and Anna is in Stockholm. We do see each other a lot, but we also see different things every day, which is good for inspiration. We Skype most days, and we just leave it on all day. We just have each other on in the headphones, it’s almost like we’re in the same room. For models, and looking at materials and samples – that makes the distance difficult sometimes. In the end, we do have 100 per cent confidence that the other one will make the right choice.

LINDGREN: I think we were lucky to find someone so similar to work with, to have someone so similar to collaborate with. This is something I think we should take care of, it’s a gift. And we’re such good friends too, so the work relationship is precious.


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