Digital designer AndrÃ©s Reisinger received orders for a chair that didn’t actually exist. He is not the only one.
By Ryan Waddoups
March 04, 2020
For nearly a decade, AndrÃ©s Reisinger, a graphic designer by training, had rendered dreamlike pastel-hued environments on Cinema 4D, OctaneRender and Redshift. One of his animations showed giant CDs swaying slump against the walls of a large bathroom-like setting; another imagined a pink Le Corbusier-style chaise longue perched in a spa, a cotton candy sunset in the distance. In 2018, the Barcelona native hit his stride when Instagram noticed: his account, brimming with these fictional wonders, suddenly amassed thousands of enthusiastic followers. âI try to distort reality, but not too much,â jokes the 29-year-old about the strange but familiar quality of his images. âIt’s instantly dismissed if it’s too weird; if it’s not strange enough, it’s absorbed into reality. This is where I discovered the surrealist.
His Hortensia chair (2018), a gracefully round seat wrapped in pink petals, suggests a thousand-year-old interpretation of a Pierre Paulin classic. Reisinger came up with the texture after examining samples of hydrangea leaves and discovering “the beauty of a hydrangea in full bloom.” Her viral Instagram success was undoubtedly propelled by the burgeoning popularity of neotenic design– plump, childish furniture that makes you smile. Shortly after posting it, three people placed orders. Reisinger’s joy was only dampened by the thought that he had no idea how to make one in real life.
While he always hoped to design furniture and space, âdealing with physical processes instantly flattened my creativity,â says Reisinger. 3D software, with its minimal constraints, allows it to be prolific. To make the chair, he spent six months pitching concepts for it to the makers, but everyone said pretty much the same thing. Due to the complex textile structure of the chair and its unusual shape, the rendering could not be made real.
This is how Reisinger embarked on a year-long journey to make Hortensia himself. In collaboration with textile designer JÃºlia EsquÃ©, the duo designed a fabric covered in clusters of individually laser-cut polyester modules that feel as organic as their hydrangea counterparts. The chair was made after they covered a wooden frame covered with moss. Hortensia made its debut at the Montoya event space in Barcelona at the end of 2019 and will be on display this week at the Collectible trade fair in Brussels.
On the Internet, no one knows you are a dog, the old saying goes. Today, we could add that on Instagram, no one knows that your chair is in fact an imaginary one. As a result, when the demand materializes, designers rush to make them physically.
Instagram has helped level the playing field for digital designers, who still have to learn how to manage the expectations of buyers who want hardware to software. For example, Utkan gunerkan, a Turkish architect based in Milan, found a large following online for his images of colorful, conceptual interiors, so he decided to make this his first furniture collection, which will debut at the Salone del Mobile in 2020. . customers render a material but can’t find it in the market, we have to call tons of manufacturers to find the closest match, which maybe doesn’t even exist, âhe says. And the colors tend to differ between rendering and reality.
Some 3D designers prefer to mitigate the risk by securing the support of an established company. This was the case for Tom Hancocks, a self-taught New York artist and designer whose collaborators included Roll & Hill lighting powerhouse, online art market Twyla and Australian furniture supplier. Stud Jones. Dale Hardiman, a designer for Dowel Jones, approached Hancocks in 2017 to visualize sets for the brand’s tubular steel furniture after being mesmerized by the surreal environments Hancocks shares on Instagram. Finally, the brand entrusted him with the design of a limited edition collection. Hancocks had long rejected the idea that his designs would one day enter the physical realm, but work on the collection for Dowel Jones presented production challenges that he had never had to consider before. âIt’s exciting to work inside barriers and try to achieve something interesting within those restrictions,â says Hancocks, who will be launching his own brand of furniture later this year.
Why the pivot to physical design? âHaving worked in 3D for so long, I wanted to do the exact opposite,â Hancocks laughs. “You can do so much with 3D, but it lacks humanity – you end up creating utopian environments that are super clean and empty.” In other words, humans need human spaces to live.
Even if the line between digital and physical design blurs, the question remains: what is good design? For Reisinger, the answer is basic. To create great things you have to be a rational optimist, he told himself. âThe easiest way to determine if something is viable or not is to do so. “
(All images are courtesy of the designers)