Over Negronis at Bar Basso – one of Christoph Jenni's favourite Milan haunts – we caught up with the designer on the eve of launching the new Max Chair with Maxdesign. On the first day of Salone 2018 it's already clear that we're taking the design conversation further than we ever have before.
What key ranges or products have you designed for Salone this year? And for who?
This year, I am exhibiting the Max Chair with Maxdesign. Salone 2018 will actually be the product launch for this design, too!
That’s very exciting! Since you’re focussing on the Max Chair, I’m interested in whether it was designed for a specific need or sector in mind?
The Max Chair is the latest in a broad collection we are offering to our contract clients in particular, but within this Max Chair has a diverse range of applications for many sectors.
As part of a broader range, can you briefly describe the design intent behind the Max Chair?
Our idea was to cover the broadest needs that may be demanded from a chair collection: ranging from chair, armchair, stool, upholstered, stackable, outdoor, recycled material, and more to come. We were very aware that we wanted all of this, but also packed in an archetypical, long lasting design.
And how do you describe that personality?
Combining technique an emotion.
What is the trait you appreciate most in an object of design?
A complex solution made to look simple and easy.
And, what is the trait you deplore most in an object of design?
Products in which the designer has to first create a problem and then present their solution to it.
So what, then, is the trait you appreciate most in a designer?
What does design happiness mean to you?
For me, it is very much a product that reflects both functionality and good spirit.
What does design misery mean?
Waste of material and work.
Aside from your own, which stands at Salone do you always visit?
Always all the Big Brands I know!
And what had you expected to see quite a lot of at Salone this year?
I think that the focus on eco-friendly design is going to be strong this year in Milan. This conversation is really becoming a truly global one, and it is great to see these kinds of considerations take centre stage in our industry.
And, further, what do you believe will be some of the most important commercial design developments in the year ahead?
I think that we are going to see a lot more emphasis on ‘planetary design’: thinking for the planet, and a more holistic approach to sustainability that can encompass wellbeing for the planet as a whole.
Do you have a favourite restaurant in Milan?
What’s the best local secret you’ve discovered?
…Absurdly crazy night clubs!
Well, until now I could never afford one.
Favourite bar and cocktail?
A Negroni at Bar Basso.
And what do you always pack?
I never forget to bring sunglasses and jogging shoes.
What’s the best thing to visit while in town?
Just make sure that you roam around and get the spirit of the city.
And what’s an absolute must try?
Risotto and Bistecca Milanese.
And what are you most looking forward to in Milan this year?
Good food and hopefully success for my new collection!
In your personal opinion, what place does Milan hold for the future of design on the global stage?
For us, I don’t think Milan is just a particular place. It is so central to our industry and pushing the discipline of design forward. Every year – and especially this time of year – the city leaves enough open space for design to create itself.
One of the biggest conversations surrounding Salone this year is the importance of collaboration and team-work to the practice of design. Recently, Giuseppe Sala commented: “Nobody should think they are better than the others, nobody should think they can do without the help of others. The Salone is the best mouthpiece for the enterprising, young, concrete and visionary spirit of the city of Milan.” What does the concept of ‘collaboration’ mean to your company, your design process, and the success of your brand?
Many people’s abilities are needed to create a good product that includes everyone in the whole production chain. This means that the work of design implies that every person is the process is equally important to every other. For me, collaboration means that I get to work with people from so many different fields, not necessarily just with other designers. I find this diversity of practice and expertise very important.
Each year, one of the most surprising things that designers notice travelling through Salone is just how much the lines between sectors is continuing to blur. Commercial design is being heavily influenced by the hospitality sector, and the residential space is being influenced by the design thinking behind offices for examples. What, for you, is especially interesting about this cross-sector conversation?
If I had to just select one thing out of this blurring of sectors, it would be that it changes the hard parameters that stand at the beginning of the creation process. It makes us look at our work anew and approach problems in innovative and original ways.
This year in Milan, a lot of brands of all sizes and specialities focused on the need for flexibility and modular design for the commercial sector. Why, in your opinion, is this a continuing and important trend?
Well for our clients, this is going to absolutely continue. It really responds to a big economical factor for the end user. It simply saves money.
In recent years, we’ve seen an increased focus placed on health in the commercial sector. Air quality, natural light, and psychological wellbeing for the end-user are all important aspects of greater health, but what do you believe we need to begin focussing on as well?
It’s great that we’ve seen such big developments on this front occur recently. But moving forward, I believe that we all need to express more honesty about our aims and goals.
As the professional world continues to change rapidly, what are some of the concerns that you feel the design world needs to start thinking about to ensure that we can satisfy demands in the near future?
Simplify, simplify, simplify.
To see Christoph Jenni's latest work on the Max Chair for Maxdesign, visit the brand at Salone Internazionale del Mobile
Fiera Milano (Rho Hall 10 Stand D16PAV 10 Hall D16 ).