London Design Festival has just ended a week ago and when I think about what struck me is that kind of back to basics tune in the air. Bare objects or beautiful objects with aesthetic and functionality reduced to its minimum : so can be said of Punkt’s new phone, Samsung x Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec’s Serif TV, …. There would be more but I have chosen to highlight these projects better than other along with interviews of British designers and entrepreneurs whom to me are strong ambassadors of what also has become some kind of soft power. Changing the way we look at certain things in our daily lives. By ambassadors, I mean Mark Holmes, Founder and Designer of Minimalux, Punkt’s Founder and CEO Petter Neby (actually Neby was born in Norway and the company is based in Switzerland), Paul de Zwart, Founder of Another Country. I hereby start with Holmes a brillant mind whose taste for polished brass, copper, black nickel, aluminium, silver, rhodium, gold gives way to objects that redefines the style of office tools and accessories. And beyond. As the company was preparing for the the launch of two new designs (The Clip and the Ballpoint), a week before LDF we shared some thoughtful words.
Business Madame : Of course one might think that its name stands for itself but beyond that – what is Minimalux’s ethos and what does it stand for as a brand ? How does it translate into the product ?
Mark Holmes : Aside from the purely aesthetic definition, Minimalux stands for doing few things at an exceptional level – a ‘minimum = maximum’, ‘less = more’ philosophy that informs all elements of the brand from the product itself through to our lean, efficient business structure and strategy going forward. In terms of the product, the simple, minimal forms are small but have powerful presence. They are made from singular materials and utilise well honed processes of production & finishing that we know can be executed to a very high degree. This is accompanied by product packaging that is both basic and complex – made up of simple utilitarian white card, precisely cut by laser to a fraction of a mm and folded into structures that protect and display the product with minimum fuss but maximum effect. The overall intention is to present a quiet, non ostentatious idea of luxury, the quality and appeal of which relies on what is left out rather than added.
BM : What did your debut collection consist of ? Was it a statement or a stand refering to your previous design contribution with your former partners or did you simply shifted to something new ? Where do you stand now – what have been achieved ?
MH : We started with a series of pots and vessels (the earliest design genre adopted by man). They all had common linking characteristics… They were all machined from solid metal, they all shared the same basic dimensions and all had primary forms – either square or round in format. Having previously worked very intensely alongside a multitude of highly diverse, exceptionally talented designers, all with their own individual expressive and progressive approaches, I developed a personal desire and need to simplify things and get back to basics in terms of form, process, function and product genre. It was a shift that I realise now is more in tune with my own characteristics both personally and as a designer in my own right. With regard to timing, Minimalux arrived at the dawn of the last major world recession. I’m sure the cultural climate played a part in helping to justify the approach we were taking. The idea of a new brand communicating an understated approach to design and luxury seemed all the more fresh, relevant and needed. At present our collection includes many of our original designs. We’ve experimented a little over the last 5 years and surprised our audience with a few unexpected additions, which I think is important for a design led brand like ours. I do have great belief in the original concept we started and as such we remain very consistent with our overall aesthetic message, which is evident with each new product we release.
BM : Some objects generally said to be basics or ‘simple daily things’ may have people thinking that it is straightforward to design … And even now we tend to undervalue or overlook simplicity as we mistake it for easyness, lack of craftmanship and design or lazyness.
MH : It’s true that simple forms can be undervalued and overlooked, by nature they are silent and do not shout the words ‘look at me’, so it’s not surprising. Everyone has there own taste and ways of seeing and it would be wrong to believe that you can develop products that appeal to everyone – I’m happy and reassured that there are enough people out there who value simplicity, and the added beauty or efficiency it can provide. You only have to look at the success and mass appeal of Apple products to see that people are drawn to a minimal formal language. The power of marketing is a big factor in Apple’s success but it’s their approach to design that creates such extreme desirability. In terms of producing simplicity, for me it is the greatest and most rewarding creative challenge. Editing on any level is difficult but if done right it will ultimately result in something better – by stripping away at anything that isn’t needed you achieve refinement and the ability to communicate a far clearer message… think of Haiku poetry for example.
BM : If I refer to Dieter Rams (606), Raymond Loewy (Bic pen), John Pawson (cutlery to houses, small to hyper large scales) … Other names come to mind but my say is that these have in common to have produced radically unconventional design that differentiates mostly by its bareness or minimalistic approach. Bringing up both premium and mass products, always functional : good design. – You seem to share this mindset for uncompromising and functional design.
MH : The names you mention have all had a great influence on me and the formation of Minimalux. It is exactly their uncompromising approach that sets them apart as masters in their field. You can clearly see in their work a consistent striving for reduction – always looking for an opportunity to strip back in the pursuit of greater functionality and beauty. They are all highly skilled industrial/product designers who have provided great functional contributions to our lives. If there is a difference in mindset between us it probably lies in this notion of Function. Although all Minimalux products provide some kind of use it is not the dominant element and something that is often derived from the form. I consider this to be part of the DNA of Minimalux and informs the unique genre of product we supply to the market place. Our product can often be a beautifully simple form with a loose function attached – so in this sense we’re seeking to celebrate and elevate the idea of ‘The Object’ in it’s own right – something you can choose to use or not use but in either sense has value and integrity. A Minimalux product requires a slightly different consumer mindset to that of going out to buy a supremely functional and beautiful Dieter Rams designed product.
“… by stripping away at anything that isn’t needed you achieve refinement and the ability to communicate a far clearer message… think of Haiku poetry for example.”
BM : Until now your vision has been limitated (for the best) to small scale design, with office accessories for example. Could Minimalux give us a broader vision of the office space or would you design larger scale objects such as furnitures ?
MH : We have actually developed a number of large scale pieces and released the first of these last year, with the Hash bookshelf. We intend to release items like this, only very occasionally and see them as a complement to our main line of small goods, rather than a whole new category within our collection. They serve to broaden our audience reach whilst showcasing the same level of production and finishing we utilise generally but obviously on a much bigger, spectacular scale. As such they are very expensive to produce and the market for them is much more limited. Having said that it’s still extremely worthwhile for us present these designs not least because they further communicate key elements of the Minimalux production ethos. As for the future, perhaps Minimalux will develop many more larger objects and enter into other design genres… we’ll see. For the time being we’re intent on building on our core message with our range of small goods – I feel there’s a lot more we can do there without mixing too many other things into the pot – I’m determined for Minimalux to remain easily read as a brand and to communicate it’s mission as clearly as possible!