In years to come Ross Lovegrove will doubtless be appreciated as a designer ahead of his time. The man has consistently been responsible for converting a boundless vision of shape and materials into extraordinary, covetable and thought-provoking yet practical products. At the London Design Festival, we took the opportunity to find out a little more about his take on how design has changed over the breadth of his career, his views on environmental awareness in design and how he manages to continually subvert the established use and behaviour of materials.
How have your design processes and the way in which you view design changed over the course of your career?
My procedures have changed seamlessly in tune with advances in process. My aim has always been to try and remain relevant and up to date - in my conceptual thinking, the way I visualize my ideas and ultimately how these are communicated.
What in your opinion are the biggest factors concerning young designers today?
The biggest factors are moral and ethical factors relating to motivation and purpose socially moving from the individual focus to collective environmental issues.
Impacting upon this too is the digital age and the growing ability of many to create fantastic forms and visions. The key is maybe how to make these polarities compatible.
How does the London Design Festival differ in your opinion from other design fairs around the globe?
The Festival is different in that it’s time to begin again and the key players are injecting a new energy that reflects the cultural and economic dynamics of London as perhaps the only true global city in Europe. It’s becoming a very poly-dimensional event and will continue to grow in highly free and creative ways because of who live and practice here globally.
It seems environmental concerns are getting more and more integrated in the design world - what and who do you attribute this to?
They need to be but the process of fully integrating environmental issues into design has not even blinked yet. Eventually it will become the new genesis of design in the way materials and resources are processed and employed but for the moment it’s really high volume manufacturing industries that should lead the way, led by government legislation.
If you look at the work I am personally engaged with, for years I have been investing time and energy to understand if I can contribute to this humanitarian issue. I am presently working on new solar street lighting for Artemide to be installed in October at an event in Vienna at the MAK; A new wind generator for Swarowski in Wattens; Solar concepts in transportation for my CNN emission this autumn; and progressing my Solar Endurance Vehicle with ID engineering at the Royal College of Art here in London. I am in discussion with J&J on new Environmental packaging research for high volume global products plus some other things.
You’re notorious for your ability to push materials to their limits - have you always been fascinated by materials?
Materials and their intelligent or inventive application are at the root of what I do as a designer. In many ways studying and helping to define their potential helps transcend the debate on fashion of styling. It goes beyond the superficial into the very tissue of the product and the resulting form becomes enriched because of the trinity of all things considered, closer to a natural harmony if you wish.
Can you tell us a little about your work for Moroso?
I have enjoyed a happy and truly rewarding 20-year relationship with Patrizia Moroso as well as many of the people around her. She is such a delight to be with because she lets designers like me breathe and look for new challenges. Moroso is perhaps the very last but remaining definition of true Italian design combining research and experimentation to push typologies and contemporary processes to create a fluid stream of new aesthetics.
Do you find it difficult balancing commercial awareness with your own inspiration?
No I am realistic in the need to balance commercial requirements and the need to challenge convention by remaining true to ones own process and vision. When these two converge, progress is made and the whole process is economically sustainable. There is little future without risk today and innovation, if only aesthetically, can be a powerful tool - look at Apple.
Would you ever draw the line at collaborating with or for anyone/anything?
Yes very often, but when I decline work I try and make it clear why I decline in the most transparent and honest way possible. My interest is to contribute to a culture of quality and to sustain progress. Recently I declined projects for champagne, shampoo and cigarettes, not at all fields I wish to prop up with my work.
What one product in the history of design do you wish had your name on it?
Too big a question.
500 years from now, which one of your products has stood the test of time and taste?
Nothing - it would be a sad reflection on progress if there was!
What excites and/or terrifies you on a daily basis?
The sheer volumes of people and consumption really shock me. It feels so unnatural.
Click here to read about London's Moroso store opening.