Front Design

Originally puplished in Display Magazine No 2 2006


Can animals contribute to design? How does the story of an object influence its use? How can we enhance the way an interior changes over time?These are questions that the Swedish design group Front have asked themselves in a number of projects since their start in 2003. The Stockholm-based quartet consists of Sofia Lagerkvist, Charlotte von der Lancken, Anna Lindgren and Katja Sävström, who all met at the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design. Before having taken their final diplomas they had already formed Front, uniting their common interest in the rediscovery of everyday objects.

In April this year they made an unforgettable entry on the global design arena with the “Animal Thing” series for the avant-garde Dutch furniture company Moooi. Their exhibition area at Superstudio Piú in Milan was filled with lamps in the shape of full-size plastic horses, pigs and rabbits. As design magazines raved about the brilliant move of bringing the farm into our homes, sceptics diminished the plastic animals as kitsch. Whether you love them or hate them, they challenge conventions of design and style.

- It all started with a phone call from Moooi’s Art Director Marcel Wanders. He wanted us to design a lamp that his grandmother would like, Sofia Lagerkvist explains. We started thinking what people appreciate about the things they have in their homes, objects they have a special relationship to. As it turns out, they are often figurative and hold a personal story. Hoping to create stories of their own, they decided to make monochrome reproductions of plastic animals, fit them with 60W light bulbs and invite them indoors.

Ironically, it all started with a project involving animals, but in a very different way. In one of their first projects, Front asked some animals to help them, determining the design in a very direct way. They let rats gnaw away on white wallpaper, creating a unique pattern that reveals the old wallpaper at random places. A fly circling a light bulb was registered by a motion capture camera, creating the design of a lampshade.

- There are always a lot of random factors that influence the final design, what we are trying to do is to let these factors be the most important part of the design process. In the case of the animals, we provided the material and the end use, and left them to design the product, says Sofia Lagerkvist.

The interior design of Tensta Art Hall outside Stockholm was designed to change with time. As people move across the floor, the top layer of grey paint is worn off, revealing a gold floor underneath. In the entry hall there are lots of fast-growing plants that will change the room into an indoor garden. The group even managed to change the outside space, making the city build a large staircase connecting the art gallery with the train station, at the same time creating a new public space.

Front is currently developing the use of motion capture, a technology used to track movements in a space. Trying to find a more honest and intuitive way of designing, they simply draw furniture in the air, creating three-dimensional sketches ready to be reproduced. As their designs are getting big in Japan, the quartet is this fall moving the office there for a few months, to make new contacts and to find inspiration for future projects. Even though this is a design group that leaves a lot to coincidence, they are at the very Front of conceptual design.