The Scarlet Splendour booth at Salone del Mobile feels a bit like you walked into an Alice in Wonderland style alternate universe, a world inhabited by larger than life characters and objects. Richard Hutten’s designs for the brand include the Wolk Chair, crafted in pure brass and inspired by rare mammatus clouds, and the Oasis Cabinet, which is sleek and utilitarian, yet draws attention with its embellishment of 200 brass thorns. Hutten is a key exponent of Droog Design and is one of the leading lights of the Dutch design movement. He is best known for his conceptual and playful works.
Rupesh Baid himself is no stranger to ornate, luxurious products. Design that marries comfort and luxury is his trademark. Apart from functionality and aesthetics, his firm also makes a conscious effort to weave elements of green design into their projects. You can see that they have much in common, each of them has a bold style of design, yet as individuals they are both quite simple and down to earth, and an environmental consciousness that drives them.
Baid and Hutten get chatting.
Rupesh Baid (RB): As a designer, how does your approach to design differ when addressing different scales of work?
Richard Hutten (RH): For me it is the same. The smallest project I did was a 2x3cm stamp for the Dutch Post, and the biggest was a 2,00,000 sqm shopping mall. I mainly design everything in-between and the most important thing is to have an idea. Then I establish what I call the rules of the game, and I try different ways and routes according to the rules I set for myself.
RB: Having designed for so many different brands, does your process get defined by the brand you are catering to?
RH: Clients come to me because they really want a Richard Hutten, but it is always a mix between the client and the designer. I am the father of the product and the client is the mother, and together the new baby gets born. I am sure if I were to present the same idea to another company, the result would be different.
RB: You are known for your fun, playful, out of the ordinary work. How do you see it fit into international contemporary design today?
RH: Traditional design tries to seduce people, but I try to amuse them. I think it is very important that people enjoy life. I have a lot of fun while designing, and this joy I want to gift to people who use my products as well.
RB: As a founder of Droog Design, you are stated to swim against the current, making your work anti-disciplinary. How do you escape what surrounds you, to actually create something different?
RH: I never set out to create something which is different. Everybody has a lot in common but also everybody is unique, and it is my personal vision of the world that I express through my designs. I am anti-things, I am anti consumerism, I try to have a lot of space in my home, not a lot of objects. It is a bit of a contradiction to be a designer and not to like stuff.
RB: Yet your designs…they are not very minimalistic, they are still quite adorned, do you feel?
RH: Well, minimalistic is empty. If you look at a butterfly the way nature created it, every element of the butterfly has a function and a reason for existence and that is how I always try to design. I take away anything that is not needed, and in the end, it is in a way simple but at the same time also very spectacular.
RB: Do you recall a seminal work that changed the course of your design career?
RH: I think the biggest thing of my career was being a founding member of Droog Design. It was 1993, I was quite young and literally overnight I became world-famous, because of my kind of anti-design work at the time. I called it 'no sign of design' as a sort of anti-design statement.
RB: What advice would you give to today’s young designers?
RH: Everything starts with curiosity, so be curious. And go out, do not stare at the screen only. There is a real world and as a designer you design something for the physical world. Be curious, experiment, do not be afraid to fail, it is very important to make mistakes.
RB: What is the one design object that you cannot do without?
RH: I can do without everything. I do not need objects - I even sold my car three years ago. I want to have as little as possible. But if I look in my house, I would say the art is the most essential thing I have.
RB: Do you have a favourite among the myriad products you have designed?
RH: I would say the Table Chair that I designed for Droog Design in 1993 is very important, it is collected by museums all over the world. Then the Dombo mug that sold over a million pieces. When you sell those kinds of numbers, it is not only about a few design lovers, it is people who may not care about design but fell in love with the product.
RB: What is your design prediction for the year ahead?
RH: I am sure that sustainability will get more and more important and that is hopefully a trend which is lasting. It has always been very important in everything I design. I want to make this world a better place and I really hope that this will be the only trend in the future.
RB: And if I ask you where you see yourself 10 years from now?
RH: For me designing is playing and I just want to keep on playing, so in 10 years I have no clue where I will be, as long as I am having fun.
For a designer so engaged with sustainability and nature, as we wrap up, of course it is inevitable that the environment is once again on his mind. And as we ask Hutten what he hopes for 2019, his thoughts go to mother earth.
Richard Hutten: “I want to STIR up the consciousness for the planet, this beautiful thing we are living in, and it has to stay beautiful.”
(See more from the series 'Cross Border Conversations 8X8' )