Successful, groundbreaking design is more than a mere sum of different parts. It is a synergy of inspiration, fierce dedication, vision, and hard work. Christopher Jenner, head of the multidisciplinary design studio that epitomizes these qualities. We asked him to tell us what drives his process, and discovered that for him, successful design includes a methodical and in-depth analysis of his clients needs, a philosophical approach to the role of design, the nature of fabrication, and even Buddhist practice.
Sherin Wing: You’ve just launched a new furniture collection. What were the inspirations and was this always a part of your design vision?
Christopher Janner: Absolutely, I’m a bit of a style fascist so the idea of designing and making collections which clients could purchase and use to style their own homes was extremely appealing. The ability to help define the ways people appreciate materials, form, structure, craftsmanship, and technology (key themes in our work) is super attractive. I’m very intrigued by this concept of good and bad taste, how does one define it and what are the parameters whereby one decides if something is good or bad, is it about style or taste? It’s very easy to have good taste, it’s dictated to us all the time but style is something else, it’s an ability to create with what you have – similar to making a great meal with what’s left in the fridge.
L’Artisan Parfumeur, Paris, image courtesy Christopher Jenner
I presented the Swell collection at the worst possible time in global economic history – I was conscious of this from the start, this financial crisis has been going on for years. I took all the capital I had, and put my reputations on the line. I’m a risk taker and I passionately believe that by taking calculated risks and pushing yourself to the limit it is possible to achieve extraordinary things.
SW: You say the line contains elements of childhood playfulness combined with design features that hearken English motifs. And then there are the decidedly futuristic themes. How do these elements combine to creative a comprehensive narrative?
CJ: Complexity lies at the heart of my work, (more…)
The most commonly held and influential idea about design is that it’s the art of bringing essentially unrelated parts into a “composition” or an “assembly”. The funny thing is, from a scientific point of view, this idea is entirely wrong. A much better idea about design is that it’s the transformation of one whole into another whole. Not only is this definition more accurate, it’s also crucial for achieving an adaptive design.
Let’s talk about the important implications of this distinction between assembly and transformation.
Why is it scientifically wrong to say that design is the “composition” of essentially unrelated elements? Because nothing that works as a complete system is really “essentially unrelated” — though the sciences used to operate more or less successfully from that abstract premise, and much of technology still does. By contrast, the sciences of the last century have taught us more and more about the essential inter-relatedness of the Universe, from the largest scales of the space-time continuum, to the push-pull world of the quantum. In the biological sciences, we’ve come to understand the multi-layered, historical interdependence of systems, especially evident in the web-like relationships of ecological systems. Wherever we look in nature, we find vast and intricate networks of connections.