Well, I’ll never forget dealing with VitrA – the bathroom company in Istanbul, not the other Vitra, (by the way it took about 45 minutes after they called to work that out) – and [spending] an hour talking [to them] about sculpture….We spoke about Henry Moore, paganism – all that – and it was that connection that made me take on their project. Anyway, at the end of the day, they said they wanted a ‘Ross Lovegrove’ bathroom. I said, “Please tell me, what’s a Ross Lovegrove bathroom?!” And they said “It’s white and organic” – which, as it turned out, was actually right for the product. Still, slowly over the years I’ve been trying to twist that white, curly and futuristic label to get a bit more free from what people expect you to deliver as a designer. Organic design is just one of the definitions describing what I’m trying to do with creativity and expression.
I’d say technology [such as] 3-D printing has had an effect that’s both good and bad. I’ve always tried to adapt – Darwin never spoke about the ‘survival of the fittest’ but the ‘survival by adaptation’ and I remembered that, so any time some new tech comes along that will change the polarity of how we create, I jump on it. I did the world’s first magnesium-injected chair years ago and I made a model of [it] in my workshop, spraying foam, covered in dust, breathing it all in... And that was the last time I ever did anything in a workshop. After that, I hired the right people, bought these new computers, bought the software and, rain or shine, decided that approach was what I was going to do.
We work with a network of the most advanced people across Europe and beyond, and my team are high-level generative designers, mainly architects who understand modern processes. The creatives I work with are among the best in the field of parametric modelling and 3D printing. We are like a digital SAS unit. At our level, the process of computational work is very intense, but the positive side that you get to create things that are very enriched, formally really beautiful and ever so complex in a sculptural sense. You see this kind of extreme digital design mainly in
architecture, like with Zaha Hadid studio, or 2D AI-generated imagery, very rarely in physical industrial design like I do.
I believe I am a sculptor; designer is just a title. I’m more interested in the emotional presence of the object. Mine is a form of generative design, meaning they grow. If you think of old mechanical objects, they were bulky and oily and squeaky. But we’re in a new age now – with digital design, you press a button and this object grows out of nowhere. It is incredibly emotional. So, why would anyone do things the way they were done a hundred years ago? Some of my designs may seem insignificant, but at least they test an ideology.
I’ve been designing since I was 16, and there hasn’t been a day when I haven’t considered how things are made. Design has therefore become instinctive. You can get through this business being distant, copy and be lazy. But I won’t make anything that could be made even five years ago. I want people to be able to carbon date my designs, to remain relevant, not only in terms of process and materials but also the changes in our environment, social and cultural. What we do here is an aesthetic revolution - sculptural and technological.
I’m an evolutionist, more than a designer. I don’t know what design is anymore, I create form, I understand form and I’m enjoying the digital age to create it. I’m hoping to push that even further. My work also relates to nature, in an evolutionary sense as I’m concerned with reduction. I exercise what is called ‘organic essentialism’ which means using nothing more – nothing less than is needed. I feel comfortable in this organic, isomorphic, anthropomorphic, liquid age of making things, but I try not to force it into things that don’t need it.
Personal projects because I do them for myself. I loved working on my design-art seminal works. A series of pieces that I have made in carbon fibre and aluminium. Those really synthesise the concept of ‘organic essentialism’. Art kind of works and exhibitions are always a moment of hesitation for me, I’m looking internally at what I do so that I can grow again. Then there are also the products that I’m known for, like the water bottle for instance, that have sold very well, but these projects for me are really more about the meaning of ‘why we produce them’. I’m always trying to do things with minimum resources but at the same time achieve the maximum iconic effects. Ultimately I’m looking for a ‘system’ that can let me approach the work that I do with some degree of logic and intelligence.
One grows up, and has a series of influences and those influences bear down on how you design objects eventually in your life. Some of my early work was definitely experimental. I was exploring and trying to see where I would fit in. A defining moment was a camera that I did at the Royal College Of Art during my studies. At the time the Memphis movement was all the rage, but I doubted that whole language to be honest, the colours and basic geometries didn’t feel very natural to me. So I designed this camera, that to me defined some sort of restraint, which I still have in me. Very much like my DNA staircase, a self made object, which has everything that I’m looking for – in terms of elegance of form, minimum material, appropriate technology and succinct function. If I were to do a camera now though, I have this feeling that I should do it in a cartilage type of material, somewhere between nylon and silicon, or biological skin. I’m often looking at principles called netification, choralization and reduction of mass through perforation and so on, not necessarily in terms of products but cars and architectural projects too.
I thought that by now I would have completed a project for an electric autonomous car and a new small-scale architecture that would both relate to contemporary issues and material/technological capabilities. I was getting really close up until about two and a half years ago and then covid and the Europe-Russia political crisis hit and kind of took away these possibilities. I had spent a lot of time and energy trying to set these up, so I became rather demoralised and it took the wind out of my sails for a little bit. Now I'm trying to reinstate those ambitious projects again but in the mean time I keep myself busy working on speculative and personal art pieces with as much invention and optimism as I can.
In five years I would hope to have had some exhibitions of my work that give me the opportunity to organise my mind and understand better what my contribution was, is or could be in the creative world. I will probably look for projects that complete my body of work as a designer, or revisit some projects that I always thought could be better. As a sculptor/artist I will continue to express my inner most feelings which indirectly reinforce my design and explore concepts that move people emotionally from the deep past to the deep future. I will continue to seek out my dream of transportation and architecture even at a modest scale but if this does not happen by commission I will probably try to build those myself. I will always continue to draw and try to stay relevant.
As a Designer I consider myself a sculptor of materials and technology; and as a Sculptor I am aware of the transformational power of form whether it reveals functional intelligence or expressive abstraction.
Sculpture within design brings iconography and strength of concept whereas Design within Art becomes a popularising weakness in my opinion.
If you look at them as facsimiles, and referenced for printed art editions, then yes. Higher numbers tend to reduce the value but equally make the initial art accessible to a greater audience. For example the TyNant PET water bottle I designed in 2001 has sold multiple millions of examples. As an icon of water itself it was conceived by drawing on an early digital Wacom tablet then carved by hand in the analogue sense. For me the initial intense months of search for its unique, immaculate form was never lost in the massreplicated industrialised product and remains as a seminal embodiment of Art in Design.
Design is a process of calculation and problem solving where reasoning leads to success. It's where you have a clear vision and then have to convince many others to approve or believe in your aesthetics and objectives. I’ve always had a problem reconciling my concerns about the
motivation of design as a service linked to consumerism in the negative sense. I am personally motivated by ultimately achieving with clarity my first conceptual vision without compromise no matter what I’m working on. I am searching for something with sensual, emotional and physical qualities that are previously unseen or untouched. Design and the industrialisation of it, is a powerful contemporary indicator of our modernity and command of our resources. So I’m seeking to create, fresh, new-born and inspiring physicality in my designs that are not superficial, that’s why I look to sculpture for some form of endurance over technological obsolescence. But in being true to self I am spiritually moved by sculpture that seems to have emerged from the Earth or the human imagination and that retains a living power of its own. There is force and energy in form and material fusion that pulls on you and I want to understand with my work if there are new original aesthetics emerging that can augment this evolving phenomenon.
The emergence of AI softwares to imagine and visualise is an inevitability given the human desire to bring the hyper-realism of advanced CGI and animation - that we have seen in movies for the last couple of decades - into the fields of three dimensional creation. Parametricism, scripting and the use of subdivision and morphogenesis has led to exciting new structural aesthetics that are helping us transition towards a more biological expression and 3D physiognomy in our physical environment. The potential link to additive manufacturing is profound at all scales and physical states... what is unfolding is an unstoppable new force of nature that acts in symbiosis to challenge all previous methodology and results in terms of the otherworldliness that is emerging in human visual expression.
Well first their titles do describe this as a journey of discovery and surrealist dreams suggesting that AI is releasing a form of sub-consciousness that consciousness in the human imagination is too self-conscious of exploring. For years I have been experimenting with the concept of complexity, form, structure and material appropriation moving from the Analogue process of the 20th Century into the Digital realm of the 21st Century using every new tool that’s come available at its inception. What creatives can see in my work now with this new software is a dialogue between my life’s work and an artificial intelligence that is fully informed by imagery and discourse, so that outputs are initiated by acceptance and freedom of co-expression, then revised over and over until the design becomes closer to my vision. The results often challenge my philosophical position about purpose, scale, extreme expression, fabrication and even what my design represents but I accept that these concerns will meld into the process once the ability to talk and express feelings together will resonate in a highly sophisticated mutually future orientated ambition. One way to start this process is to see this software as partner in redefining one’s creative language and thus guiding and influencing a new evolutionary curve. In both of my TED talks I have eluded to this synergy founded upon our increasing understanding of the building blocks of life…at TED Global in Oxford in my talk entitled ‘GENESIS’ I was articulating the need to use algorithms to replace human design process in order to form a closer bond to the logic and beauty of our biosphere and Nature’s embedded intelligence. I believe that with the correct inputs, agency and awareness of all things considered, AI will be capable of defining the absolute logical basis of why, how and what we create…so that DESIGN becomes a new force and regenerative tool for life addressing all the issues that confront us.
Once we understand how to create the manufacturing data set from this AI softwares visualisation and produce almost at a cellular biological level, then the forms and structures we see will drive a radical and disruptive-paradigm-shift in the physicality and perceived value of everything including Art. When I see works by artists like Refik Anadol’s ‘Quantum Memories’, the emotional charge is like nothing else we’ve ever experienced. It is truly mind-blowing as well as mind-expanding as an alternate dimension of the natural World and a radical visualisation of our digitised memories of Nature. The future will hopefully pull together the best of VR, AR, QP, AI, EI, The Metaverse , NFTs and more, to makes us realise that what we create and make in the real dimension of our existence needs to be ultimately more inspiring, experiential, meaningful and emotional.
No, it was rather incidental. I don’t come from a family that has any relationship with design. I grew up in wales in a military family, so there’s a sense of strategy in me which helps me organize. I didn’t know that I would be a designer, though I’ve always been interested in form since I was a young child.
I would have loved to design for David Bowie, I’d like to work with a great musician. somebody that I could design a great bespoke musical instrument for that would perhaps allow them to experiment.
I think about four ‘o’ clock in the afternoon as I tend to slow down a little and contemplate what has happened, what I have done so far and what I still have to do that day. It’s a very critical and anxious moment in my day, it’s either love or hate.
I don’t have a bedside table, rather a huge pile of books that are next to my bed, mainly on art and architecture: Tony Cragg, Anish Kapoor, Isamu Noguchi and many exhibition catalogues.
It is a bit like boiling the frog at the moment, something is certainly bubbling on the surface. I doubt we really get the big picture. We live in these big cites or comfortable places where food is delivered to our door and everything else is there for us. I don’t think that we fully understand the implications of climate change, political instability, population growth and resource draw-downs. There are some really big things happening in the world that will start to eclipse the superficial debate about aesthetics within the creative fields. There is an amazing potential for the industries and brands to engage in something that is way much more meaningful, global and human in the bigger debate. In my opinion there is more opportunity and business to be made joining the front-line of the revolution rather than going against the grain of basic human needs.
‘Stay positive whatever happens’ because positivity and hope is the strongest drive. Have stamina, the future will be very demanding and challenging. Try to remain individual and be yourself. Watch out for a unique corner of this Earth and make it your own, do something that has relevance, that ‘has legs’ and can go forward. Also, think about good environmental and social solutions. We are going to go through a new industrial-ecological revolution because we can’t keep using planetary resources the way that we have done so far without consequences. Be the