Big Designs for the Many
BIG-GAME is a is a product and interior design studio created in 2004 by Augustin Scott de Martinville (French), Elric Petit (Belgian) and Grégoire Jeanmonod (Swiss). The three of them meet during their times at ECAL (Ecole cantonale d’art de Lausanne), a school with an unbeatably high reputation and an overall beneficial influence on the education system. Subsequently, they remain in Lausanne. Over the years, the studio has developed a reputation for pure and simple design with strong graphic accents and quiet finesse. BIG-GAME assumes a variety of job assignments and easily designs both a clock, a chair, an ironing board, as well as an exhibition set, a hammer or home interior. Among their clients are brands and galleries such as Moustache, Karimoku New Standard, Praxis, HAY, Galerie Kreo; their creations are part of the MoMA collection, Zurich’s Museum of Design, Georges Pompidou Center, the French National Fund for Contemporary Art and many other.
The three find a huge repertoire of ideas and put them in unexpected contexts motivated primarily by the purpose of creating a fundamentally necessary design for mass use and daily pleasure. Without insisting on inevitable provocation or non-normative approach, BIG-GAME reaffirms the functionalism of objects and bestows a flexible view of day-to-day dialogue with the environment through the important addition of playfulness and understandable unique humbugs.
We were honoured to have BIG-GAME as part of the design meetings DESIGN IS at Generator and listen to their lecture on Functionalism in design. Here we discuss their professional path and attitude to the discipline.
How did you start working together?
We started working together because we were friends, after 14 years of collaboration we are still friends, for us this is one of our important achievement.
What was the spark that brought you in a common practice?
We met while studying industrial design at ECAL in Lausanne and noticed that we shared the same aspiration of designing everyday objects that make life more enjoyable. We decided to exhibit together at the Salone del Mobile in Milan in 2005 and never stopped working together since then.
What is the balance you try to keep in your team?
Being three associates at the head of a design studio is not an easy task, but over the years we have established a discussion-based working method which is both efficient and enjoyable.
How would you describe your creative process between the three of you? Does each one of you have a certain role?
They are no predefined role. We are all industrial designers with equivalent skills and our creative process is based on exchange. At the studio, we share one large table and we all work on each brief we receive. There is a constant back and forth of ideas: it’s collective creation.
What is Big-Game’s vision on product design? What is your ethos and has it evolved with the years and in what way?
We describe our work as simple, functional and optimistic.
Our goal is to design objects that can be used in daily life, meaning that they are quite functional, but we also always try to bring something extra with the design, so the result has its own personality and eventually is more enjoyable to use.
What is the impact you would like to make in the product design world – both conceptually and audience wise?
We like the idea to put useful, charming and accessible products on the market, for the largest audience possible. Also, for us it is important to work with clients in different fields of design: we believe there is a lot to be learned from cross-pollinizing the expertise and techniques from different industries. We design furniture, interiors, electronic products, timepieces, cookware, aircraft accessories, etc. We always learn something new from each new experience – and this makes the job constantly exciting.
What are some of your influences – visual, historical, educational, etc.?
We are keen on modern architecture, geometrical art, “Ligne Claire” from Hergé, rationalism from Ulm design school, folk art and many others…
What is a dream project? In terms of idea, execution and end-users/audience?
Design is often matter of good meeting and right timing. For us, a dream project is when we meet an industrial partner who wants to launch an innovative product in tune with the real world, with the ambition to touch a wide audience.
You combine strong visual statement pieces like the Bold Chair (Moustache 2009) and in the same time cover an area of commodities like the series of furniture pieces Castor, or Cargo, for example. How would you like these to enrich people’s everyday life?
The role of the BOLD chair is not the same as the CASTOR chair. The first one is a talking piece, an exercise to redefine a chair, some people love and others don’t. For the second it’s a humble chair in term of shape, but it’s an extraordinary well-crafted Japanese product which manages to be comfortable, compact and stackable. We believe that both objects can play their role nicely, but they’re intended for different contexts.
Everyday life – can it be altered and shaped by product design?
Unless you live in the wild, almost 100% of the objects you interact with in daily life are the result of a design process. From the switch in your bathroom, to the train to get to work or the cutlery at the restaurant: a sum of small things that shape your existence. As a designer, you get to influence some of these small experiences.
What is your role in this process?
Through experience and observation of people’s behaviour we question the use of material, redefine shapes and look for colours that will improve the interaction with the product.
Do you consider your style as a provocation or rather – an unabtrusive compliment? What are its merits?
We were taught at school to do everything seriously but never take ourselves too seriously. We are about doing a good serious job – design as problem solving – but also having a result which hopefully carries an unexpected charm and appeal.
What do you consider a successful design?
A functional and efficient object that improve the quality of people’s lives with a little something extra that gives it an emotional value.
How do you appreciate and mesure its success?
If we see someone using it in its real life – especially if the product ages well with time.
What do you consider a senseful and well-executed brand collaboration?
Good collaborations are when all the partners end up with a result that goes beyond their expectations. We firmly believe in teamwork and when we team with good partners we can go further than if we work alone.
We often take art in multi-disciplinary projects (like defining strategies for companies) and when we can exchange with all the stakeholders it’s usually super insightful for everyone.
Would you work for a brand like IKEA – in what circumstances and what is your position on the ubiquitous discourse over more furniture pieces, with better quality on affordable prices?
We designed a shelf in the Ypperlig collection launched by IKEA this month, and we have IKEA furniture in our studio. When designing for this brand, we believe it’s an opportunity to have good design at an affordable price.
As designers do you think that it is in your powers to influnce the habbits of customers and what is your responsibility in the process?
Hopefully if our product is good, customers will not throw it away.
When travelling abroad what excites you in terms of local finds and cultural identity?
We love learning about the industry, the craft and the culture of each region we visit, and of course the architecture, music and food!
What type of professional adventure are you willing to undertake in the near future?
We recently started a company in Hong Kong that designs and supplies aircraft accessories, a very interesting business because you can change the experience of passengers on planes buy making the equipment better.
In the future, we’d like to start more of these design-driven businesses in different fields.
Please, share some of your favorite festivals of design and creativity | books and magazines | exhibitions?
Vienna Design week, Salone del Mobile, Orgatech…
Do you read design critique? What do you get out of it as insights? Would you be willing to reccommend an author/book/blog/media…
We keep up to date with design press doing a good job like INTRAMUROS magazine in France or DISEGNO in the UK – but more generally we are more interested in real life experiences like Walden by Henry David Thoreau,
The Voyage of the Heretique by Alain Bombard or the writings of Fernand Pouillon.