He may be legendary for his industrial design projects for the likes of Vitra and Magis but Munich-based Konstantin Grcic is keeping us all on our toes this year, first by venturing into fashion territory for Wallpaper* Handmade (more of this to come in our August issue) and now by producing a collection of limited edition tables for Galerie Kreo, emblazoned with a graphic language inspired by the sports industry.
'What I particularly like is how the graphics on sports equipment refers to performance,' he says. 'They create the illusion that the object with them is faster or more powerful than the one without.' The graphics on the tables, however, are entirely made up. 'I am interested in the psychology of graphics in relation to products and more specifically how the semantics of certain colours, words and symbols can change our perception of them,' he explains.
There's also something distinctly Memphis-like about their eye-popping colours and so-bad-it's-good aesthetic, albeit with a more hard-edged, masculine feel. With names like 'Apache' and 'Jetdog', the Champions collection consists of four large tables and four small ones, each produced in editions of six.
To create the graphics, Grcic eschewed conventional transfer foils used in the sports industry, in favour of expert lacquering skills of Walter Maurer, who worked with Andy Warhol and Frank Stella on their art cars for BMW in the mid-1970s. Maurer painstakingly builds up the graphics by using many layers of paint, which, when finished, almost look like they have been inlaid. 'The lacquerer technique is old school,' Grcic explains. 'I wanted to achieve the same level of quality found in an old lacquered Chinese box.'
By incorporating this level of craftsmanship, and by putting his designs in a gallery context, he pits them against the anonymous designs of the sports industry, questioning the relationship between high and low in the product industry. And, to reinforce the point, the tables are laid out in the space 'like they are Formula 1 cars lined up on the starting grid of a race track,' as the designer specified.