What prompted 5.5 to create projects that people could make themselves?
Involving people in making their own objects creates a real relationship between owner and object. One can appropriate and cherish one's items, instead of simply being a consumer of function and style. We like the idea of a creator-consumer direct link, without all the go-betweens. Our goal as designers is to create a product that people will keep and take care of for as long as possible, so by inviting them into the process of making, you involve them and they get closer to their own material environment.
The title of the series, Cuisine d'Objets, translates to 'kitchen items' in English. What is this in reference to and why did you choose to give it such a simple name?
It's a way to talk about design with someone who doesn't want to hear about design! For this project, we made a parallel between cooking and object production. We cook more than we make objects, but nonetheless, it is always better when it is "home-made!" It is just like if we were contented ourselves with going to a restaurant or eating frozen dishes. So, we proposed a range of recipes to make objects at home in a similar way you'd cook a good dish. You don't have to follow the recipes literally, but instead make them yours and create a dish into which you put all of your personality.
We've heard that when you first presented this project at the Milan furniture fair, you brought French concrete to Italy so that all the materials would be French.
We presented this project for the first time last year during Christmas in the gallery of Laser, a French credit company also known as a patron of art for design projects. We thought that it would be interesting to make a do-it-yourself project just when everyone runs to shops to buy gifts. Instead of always buying gifts, it's sometimes better when we make them on our own. We continued to work on new "recipes" and showed them in the Gallery Luisa delle Piane during the last Milan Fair. We made the products in the gallery and, yes, it's true we brought concrete from Paris, but the real story is that we needed to buy more concrete so we bought Italian concrete and it was better than French. The conclusion is that cooking is always a question of good ingredients, and local ones are often the best!
Were there any ideas for this series that you had but weren't ultimately able to make work?
Not really, but some recipes took longer to create than others. It's like, in the cooking process, you sometimes have to make a recipe several times to improve it and have a good result.
How did the designers of 5.5 meet and start working together?
We met at school in Paris (ENSAAMA — Olivier de Serres) during our industrial design studies and after we got our diplomas, we decided to do one last project together before applying for our first jobs. It was during the summer—we had collected old furniture to build an exhibition. Because this first exhibition in Nîmes got noticed, we decided to show the project during a Paris furniture fair. The project we did, expecting it to be a last experience before work, ultimately became the first in our story.
What got you interested in industrial design?
We live in a consumer society with an industry that produces so many products but also so much waste. We consume too many natural resources and everybody knows that it's dangerous for our planet. In a way, the task of the designer is to make new objects and alleviate that. So, when you start to work as a designer you have two choices: You can stop if you don't want to help or you can try to change and improve this production world. We often say that you can't be a part of the solution if you're part of the problem. So our goal as designers is to help people consume better.
Why does 5.5 like to use everyday objects in its designs?
We often use everyday objects in our designs for different reasons. Designers sometimes make a product that's like an UFO. You don't know what it is or how to use it because it's totally new and it makes reference to nothing. So we sometimes use everyday objects as references or inspiration for the aesthetic of our products. In this way, the consumer has the feeling of already knowing a part of the aesthetic of the object and can easily accept the innovative aspect. In other projects we use everyday objects like new resources. We speak about "raw objects" instead of "raw materials." We explore some alternatives to natural resources when we make some projects like "Réanim" or "Cuisine d'Objets".
You recently created some fixtures for Urban Outfitters stores. Can you tell us about what you made?
We created a collection of "half-of retail pictures." We often work with the idea of "half-of product." We design just a part of the product and the consumer will finish it. When you involve the consumer in the creative process, the result fits their needs and tastes.