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How do you find your ideal balance between designing a utilitarian object and formal exploration or discovery?
In practical terms, I find that the boundary between utility and form is not clearly defined—I can’t meaningfully think about one as distinct from the other. For me, the decision-making involved in solving utilitarian problems is invariably formal. This is particularly true with dining chairs—which occupy most of my design energy—because they present a host of rigid utilitarian parameters (probably less true with candlesticks). So, to your question, broadly speaking, I feel that the balance for me occurs intrinsically.
How do you concern yourself with commercial issues related to market research and retail placement?
I believe that consideration of retail and trade placement is hugely important, and in particular identifying a point of intersection between the development and ongoing costs for a piece of furniture and its perceived value in a specific market. Awareness of this relationship should inform the design process from the outset: choosing material, production methods and even specific machines as a stepping-off point—tailoring a design to those capabilities, instead of the other way around.
Is there something else about your practice?
Since this question is wide open, I’ll discuss the transnational aspect of my design practice: collaborating and producing with a partner in India. Working across international boundaries, and deriving benefit from them, requires critical thinking about our relative strengths and weaknesses and specifically designing for them. International logistics also informs the process in key aspects—these are potentially huge costs, particularly for a company of our size—and require careful consideration in terms of what can and cannot be shipped cost-effectively.
Designed Objects feature page design by Anna Mort at Thirst
Designed Objects editor Rick Valicenti at ThirstDesigners in conversation
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.