Led by ENSCI Les Ateliers, students participating in this year's workshop are tasked with developing a viable product around the idea of play—whether by creating an object purely for entertainment or by injecting a sense of humor into an object to increase our connection to it. Core77 spoke with designer and professor at ENSCI Les Ateliers, Matt Sindall, about humor, what it takes to understand materials and finding synergy in collaborations.
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Core77: What are some of the different ways in which a sense of playfulness can be manifested in design objects?
There many ways that 'Playfulness' can be found in design, where humor can be imbued within object. It could be present in the form or function, the assembly, a playful use of color and texture or the detournement of an object. This quality within an object is synonymous with the human condition.
In this year's challenge, students can incorporate different materials in their work and will have access to mentors who specialize in glass, textiles and wood. What do you think will be the biggest challenges for students as they work with multiple materials and techniques?
I think the hardest thing will be to create a coherent discussion between these materials. For the students to understand the fundamental difference between the phases of design—between "the idea" which manifests on paper, in models or on the screen, and the materiality of the final object where physicality is paramount.
You emphasize the importance of ultimately creating a physical, viable product at the end of the workshop, not just a concept. Why is this a crucial step for the students to take?
Each material has its own personality—soft/hard, flexible/rigid, mat/brilliant etc. These qualities are not easy to apprehend if a designer cannot manipulate them and merely relies on projecting ideas in a virtual manner. Over time, a designer can gain experience and accumulate an understanding of what these materials are, and which processes are used to create a form. This understanding covers a wide spectrum, from crafts to sophisticated production techniques. These techniques are undergoing constant evolution and a designer has to be aware of them.
What are your expectations for the workshop? In your mind, what would make it a success?
Workshops are about people, the exchange of ideas, discussion, a certain intensity, laughter and working hard. The success of a workshop is based upon chemistry between people; through collaboration and hard work we can attain the best results. I have carried out workshops in France, New Zealand, China, Mexico, and the UK. This workshop is the first time, for me, where students from many different cultures assemble to work on a common theme; this concept is a success, even before the workshop has started. I hope to encourage the students to create a synergy within each group so that they can get the best out of the experience.
The final public presentation with the Jury will take place at the Conversation Lounge at WantedDesign Manhattan on 11th Avenue between 27th and 28th Street on May 16th.