Why was it important to develop an aesthetic alphabet?
PERNELLE POYET: It all started with a personal project. I wanted to lend form to ideas that already existed in my mind – to transform them into a set of tools that I could build upon. My goal was to externalize the principles and language of my design process, to convert intangible ideas into objects that I could not only use, but visually communicate to others.
How does Alphabet work exactly?
I owe a lot to French artist Aurélien Froment and his performance piece, Par Ordre d'Apparition. Alphabet is a bit like my own little theatre: the objects are the stars, and I am the director of the show. Alphabet is comprehensive. It displays and categorizes all the elements involved in making an object; it materializes and gives order to the various principles, forms, dimensions, materials and surface finishes that I, as designer and director, use to tell a story.
Alphabet brings design back to basics. What did you learn or take away from this exercise?
That a basic form can express almost everything and anything. It all comes down to application and context. I also realized that I should stop describing this language of forms as a ‘system’. A system implies a rigid or fixed universal method that can be applied to anything, regardless of the circumstances. The aim of Alphabet is to give order to utopia, a condition that is by definition free from fixed principles.
What can a language of forms do for the future of design?
Nothing and everything. Design languages have always existed. Every designer has a language of forms that’s either recurrent, expressed or defined in their work. This vocabulary is part of a much greater dialogue. The final narrative, along with the way in which we use such principles, is a personal exercise; it depends on the designer. So it’s hard to predict to what extent an aesthetic language might affect the future of design.
Is there such a thing as too much design?
Mass production is both a blessing and a curse for design. The overproduction of objects is one effect of a greater economic model, one that is in itself problematic. An abundance of things, however, is what makes the design profession profitable, for it not only allows me as a creative to make a living – and, in so doing, to be part of the surplus – but also forces me to question and position myself among this mass of objects. My goal is to counter these issues with high-quality, engaging products that tell lasting stories.
Photo Lothaire Hucki