Inspired by what they miss in everyday objects, design duo Knauf and Brown enjoy working with constraints. Conrad Brown and Calen Knauf met while skateboarding, where an early indication of a shared design interest revealed itself. Critiquing the quality of the ground they skated on, they exhibited meticulous attention to aesthetic and functional detail, qualities that now translate into their designs. We spoke to Brown and Knauf about their inspirations, working style and three of their most recent projects.
Your work bridges a critical view of culture and design. From where do you gain inspiration? Calen Knauf: It constantly comes from different places and often changes. We like to nit-pick small everyday objects and identify what is lacking design-wise. This inspires us to find new solutions or applications. Conrad Brown: Our best design briefs balance guidelines with the freedom to explore materials and usability.
You describe Profile Chair with human-like qualities. Do you often personify your projects? CB: Traditional folding chairs are shy. They’re ashamed of their cluttered leg region, complicated action and material. By personifying the folding chair, people can relate to its problems. CK: We redefined how this type of chair is used. Rather than just serving as extra seating, Profile Chair functions as a regular chair. With a larch wood back and seat fitting into a coated steel frame, it folds up leaving nothing but a profile.
With Heavy Stock you found both a durable and modular solution. Does this reflect how you realize your concepts? CK: The idea of a visually light, modular and flat packable shelving solution came out of pure utility. Looking for a TV console, we only found bulky and unadaptable options. So we developed something that didn’t already exist. We conceived Heavy Stock to divide large spaces, while allowing access from both sides.
For Micro Studio, you transplanted your atelier into a hotel room. What took place that night? CK: Every room of Vancouver’s Burrard Hotel was taken over by artists and designer for one exhibition and party night. CB: We were invited to occupy a room, but decided not to showcase work and instead represent our active studio as the condensed version of a full design process. Planning, production, documentation and retail. CK: The idea was to demonstrate what designers go through on a daily basis to make people realize that the objects around them don’t just appear out of nowhere. We didn’t plan ahead and so raw marble, rope and spray paint directed our intuitive process. With space, time and material constraints, we rapidly produced a series of objects.
What do you hope to achieve with future projects? CB: We are fans of the Cradle to Cradle theory, following a product’s lifecycles and how long it stays in use. We love objects and if we can influence other people do the same, to fix their furniture rather then throw it away, then we’ve succeeded. Perhaps the most ecological design solution is Ebay; classics are passed from one user to the next and gain value over time. We want to design products that become heirlooms but also promote reuse.
City of Residence Vancouver, Canada
Education Emily Carr University
The Knauf and Brown Motto ‘There's no reason it needs to be ugly’
Best advice received Knauf: Don't marry your first idea; Brown: Do hundreds of concept sketches
Best tips for designer Knauf: Never discard your first idea; Brown: Learn when to outsource and when to do it yourself
Three things every designer needs Knauf: A pen, good communication skills and for design to possess you; Brown: A camera phone, notebook and pen at all times!
Newest additions to your studio A bunch of marble and Solidworks.
First design that inspired you Knauf: discovering Achille Castiglioni's Sella chair at five years old; Brown: Nike Air Max 97 in original silver with a red swoosh
Photos courtesy of Knauf and Brown