Thirst asked Chicago designers to choose objects they’ve created and discuss.
What does this object say about you and your practice?
About half of my projects are client-centric industrial design, the other half are experimental. This work, Mobi, shows the experimental space in between art and design that I find interesting. The industrially made, mass-produced, injection-molded module units are made to satisfy curiosity, not necessarily for a prescribed utility. I enjoy the process of setting conceptual principles and investigating the process. In this project, my initial objective was to investigate the ideas of extravagance and elegance, the two polar components of abstract beauty. It manifested in modular systems where complexity is achieved in the simplest way of expansion. After realizing this, I sought an appropriate application of this module system, which yielded in a number of various forms, scales and use.
How do you gauge the success of an object?
Aside from the typical measures such as market, audience reactions and enthusiasm from critics and peers, I think a project is successful if it is able to guide me to the next steps. If I learned from the projects things I didn’t expect, I feel that the project is successful. In this regard, Mobi was a successful project. It opened up a good range of next steps to explore, I met many new people through it and I learned much from the experience. Another fun thing I realized is that people seem to remember this project by its name, which does not always happen. I learned to be accessible to various types of the audience through different mechanisms I built into the piece. It can be very esoteric if it needs to be, but it can also be enjoyed by children.
Why do you design in Chicago?
I like Chicago. Sometimes I feel like its design industry could be bigger and have stronger national and international presence. Chicago’s design scene is small but very collegial. There is a certain sense of genuine interest in making good products and helping each other that I seldom witness in other major cities. Designers here are more comrades than competitors. Despite the relatively moderate “design scene” for an international city, Chicago has a great brand image that is globally recognized. I don’t have to explain where Chicago is, people from other parts of the world seem to know this place and have a positive image of it. For me, Chicago seems to offer a good balance between family and ambition. The speed at which Chicago moves is good for me. Cities like New York or Seoul move at a different speed, quite a bit faster than I can comfortably bear. I am not consumed by work in Chicago, I can also have a family.
Made of injection molded polypropylene, in mass quantity.
Purchase through Chicago’s Volume Gallery in a variety of furniture incarnations for residential space or at a monumental scale for public art.
Author: Rick Valicenti
Rick Valicenti has led the Thirst design studio since its founding in 1989 and has established himself as one of the most visionary designers in the country, winning the 2011 National Design Award from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.