DADADUM — Interview
DADADUM, Swiss design brand launched by the graphic designer and entrepreneur Demian Conrad.
Hello Demian Conrad, how are you?
Super dupa dada dum!
We interviewed you in 2012 as an award-winning graphic designer. Now you are at the head of your own product design company. Can you tell us the story of DADADUM and why you chose to be a design editor?
The passion for furniture design started way back, in 2007, when I also founded my design studio. During the following years I discovered the tremendous amount of great design hidden on our Swiss design heritage. From the Landi chair, just back on production with Vitra, to the great production of Hans Bellmann, Max Bill’s Horgenglarus chairs, Willy Guhl Loop chair and many other masters of the silent Swiss revolution. I then discovered the philosophy behind the idea of « Die Gute Form » by Max Bill, and I realized that those concepts were still resonating with our contemporary needs, and the confirmation of that was the big revival of the Danish Design in 2010. As Swiss design shares a lot with Japan and Danish design, it was an obvious conclusion that we should also be proud and enhance our culture.
At the same time something great is happening right now in Switzerland: due to the new type of management of certain Swiss design schools, the quantity of Swiss designers on the market has been growing exponentially. From one side that is making more difficult for them to find a job and scrape out a living with it, but on the other side, because of this, Switzerland is becoming a playground of new generation of thinkers in new contemporary design. Just think about the great projects like ACE here in Lausanne, or the INCH furniture in Basel, but also more culturally driven projects like « Depot Basel », « La placette » in Lausanne or « Take a seat » in Zürich. This sparkling energy in our country convinced me that there is a potential to put back Swiss design into the global arena.
You are trying to continue the legacy of the Swiss design thinkers.
Who are your references?
Of course the field of furniture design is really connected to architecture, then the first big name of course is Le Corbusier, who, as a Swiss designer, has created the most striking pieces of the modern movement. He had always a great vision behind his production, everything was always clever avoiding the repetition. The experimental « Cabanon » with compressed spaces and multifunctional furniture is a great example. Then of course Max Bill, who, thanks to his knowledge in architecture, brought clever product like the Ulm Stool. Last but not least probably the one more technologically driven was the Swiss architect Fritz Häller, a genius in modular architecture, who learned the lesson of Le Corbusier and pushed it further into the global blockbuster USM.
But of course a lot of influences are coming from other contemporary architects which I really admire, from the wise and obsessive projects of Peter Zumthor, the sophisticated use of spaces of Diego Olgiati, the sensitive projects of Gion Caminada or innovative projects by Fabio Gramazio and Matthias Kohler. And great references come of course from designers like Fabrice Aeberhard and Christian Kaegi who are innovating the way how to relate to industry, or the playfulness of Adrien Rovero, or the respect to the Swiss heritage by Moritz Schmind.
How do you collaborate with the designers? Are you at the beginning of the projects?
First we have to do a distinction: editors take existing products and then put them back in production. For DADADUM it is more exact to talk about a Brand, because we create new projects from scratch. I’m acting as a creative director and managing the collection and then I brief the designers to create something for me, that is the way we generate new value.
The relationship with designers and the development of the projects are something really emotional and difficult to describe on paper: I can say that the creation of a piece is not of course a one-person project but it’s a team work; indeed the implication of the designers is huge as the one of the craftsman working in finding the new solutions to fix our problems in the most beautiful and functional way.
Would you like to talk a little bit about the three products you already published?
Alps Express by Nicolas Le Moigne:
We always said that “God is into the details”, and that is true for Alps Express, a modular shelf easy to assemble and reconfigure, made out of a bended steel with the precision of a half of millimetre. The project came to life because of the wish to have a solid steel shelf that could appeal to a contemporary space, without any vintage chrome effects or shiny surfaces. The purity and the sophisticated system of connections create the charm of this piece of furniture. When you look into the details you will see a kind of origami effect due to the interlocking of the plates together. A really Swiss, functional and solid product.
Riviera by Alfredo Häberli:
As native of Ticino, I have always had a great respect for the stone mining industry which extract those huge monoliths from our Swiss mountains. So I asked to Alfredo if we could do something with this material and then the idea to create a series of small table came out. There are 4 different sizes made by 4 stones that have different shades (from dark grey to bright grey), and every table has its own singular identity. It’s an amazing great set of sophisticated tables that brings to you a contact with a 4 millions years old material that vibrates of a unique energy. Before finding the final solutions we went through several prototypes of different typology. I then realized that one material and the transportation issues were keys for the success of the project, so then Alfredo reengineered the project giving birth to this amazing family.
Cresta by Jörg Boner:
We always said that a chair is the most difficult project to create, and that is true when you want to challenge the status. Cresta Chair is an amazing chair with great contemporary flavour with its roots on the solid wood alpine chair but reengineered to be more efficient and more aesthetically pure. All is about the connections, and the central joint allows to connect the seat and the back, creating a unique solid wood shell. Cresta is probably the first kind of this type created, and that is possible thanks to the sophisticated CNC 10 axes machinery. The chair is conceived to be used in contemporary alpine spaces, and is shaped with an ergonomic form to help you enjoy a lovely meal with your best mates. For Cresta we have created a family of products, a small table 90 x 90, for either small spaces or restaurants and a big generous 240 x 90 table. We are working right know to extend the family with new items.
If you need more information please to go check our website dadadum.com
We saw that you did a small project with Carlo Clopath (Puscha). Is he the next designer to collaborate with DADADUM for a bigger object?
Puscha is a special project we did for the exhibition about Swiss design at « teo jakob » and is an exclusive limited series. I cannot say too much about it but something is being developed with Carlo…
You are involved in several projects like Design Dialogues and the Creative Hub. Would you like to tell us more about that?
Yes ! In the late 90’s I was involved in tech companies and I saw how easy you can get finance, support, coaching … Then, starting DADADUM, I realized that the design field has absolutely no « design policy » what so ever. With that I mean there is not capital to grow new companies, and the majority of the projects are either financed personally (FFF) or by private investors. Then interfaces to the financial and the coaching fields are almost non-existent, except for the great project of Claudia Acklin, Creative Hub, which I suggest to contact if you have any ideas or dear project to realise. And we are also weak in terms of promotion in comparison to other countries like Italy, Denmark, French… of course we have some good promotional vectors but also when you try to promote outside it’s always difficult. Of course there are new people like Michel Hutter who is doing amazingly to bring Swiss design abroad, but only one man is not enough, we need to get better organised or at least go to the same direction. For that I founded the association « Design Dialogue » whose aim is to connect the people and all the pieces of the Swiss design puzzle and then to help to promote Switzerland abroad. The first project we are launching is the « Swiss chair archive » a project that wants to show to the world the great heritage we had in creating iconic chairs. This project will be exhibited for the first time this month at Design Days in Renens. The second project we are preparing is the « first Swiss design symposium » with the aim to create a place and an interface for all the players on the design field to be connected and to exchange ideas and hopefully give birth to new projects and solutions.
If you are motivated to join this cause please join us at designdialogue.ch, we need your help!
The last word…
Interview : Dennis Moya & Tiffany Baehler 09.14
Images © Daniela Droz and Tonatiuh Ambrosetti : Alps Express, Cresta, Riviera.
This interview is part of a series in collaboration with the Design Days 2014.