Graphic Living

Two-dimensional aesthetics have an increasingly important role to play in everyday experience. In particular, the type of visuals commonly seen on screens and interfaces is made to ‘react’ not only to the eye (like the images of the analog era) but also to the touch.

This ‘reactive’ relationship with the formal profile of everyday life has become so pervasive that even solid objects have to come to terms with it, either through projects of ‘opposition’ (as in the case of intentionally materic, neo-artisan bodies) or through explorative efforts that investigate the guises assumed by the two-dimensional when it gets ‘deviated’ towards the three-dimensional.

This is precisely what happens in a recent furnishings design trend featuring elements purged of any apparent physical character and distributed in domestic space with the quality of a graphic, linear sign – two-dimensional, in short. Such as the wall wardrobe COM:POS:ITION 2.2 by the German studio GobyMM; or the phantom-like presences of the Border Table series by Nendo, hinted at in space like soaring drawings more than ‘things’ subject to the force of gravity.

We should point out that in spite of their digital derivation, these objects are anything but the mere reproduction of a visual code extraneous to the tradition of design. Quite the opposite; black, slim frames represent a ‘meme’ with a long history in design, at least dating back to the first steps of rationalism and, through the successive post-rationalist openings, reaching the ethereal design of the 21st century.

So it should come as no surprise that the combined arrangements of reason and structure, cleanliness and necessity embodied by the Geometry Made Easy lamps of Sara Bernardi (studio MICROmacro) are inspired precisely by those same squares, circles and triangles that offered nascent rationalism its first formal alphabet, arrayed here as airy filigrees in a space made clear and at the same time (and this did not exist in traditional rationalism) charged with the ‘mystical’ values belonging to an era in which electrical connections have taken on true divining properties.

The Mask mirror (a ‘mysteric’ object par excellence) by Federico Floriani for Petite Friture is also moving in a similar direction. While the geometric mystique becomes openly technological in the Non Linear series by Scott Franklin and Miao Miao (studio Nondesigns), a collection of modular Led fixtures open to forming infinite luminous combinations.

When it comes to the dialogue in progress between the ‘structural’ tradition of design and its evolution in the epoch of holographic visibility, it seems particularly clear in the project Três by the young Brazilian designer Gustavo Martini, a coat rack without bolts, in which the shelf seems to sustain itself in the void.

A more playful interpretation is offered by the Lines & Dots ceiling lamps by Pablo Figuera and Álvaro Goula, dancing signs that seem to emerge from the visual universe of Miró, like ‘earrings’ to adorn domestic space, or the Node lamps by Els Woldhek and Georgi Manassiev (studio Odd Matter), like big furniture ‘brooches’ in space: mystical, graphic, linear.

Actually, precisely these last examples demonstrate that we are looking at a sort of Art Nouveau 2.0 that translates into two-dimensional signs not so much the phytomorphic curves of the natural world, as the virtual lines of digital interfaces.

In this sense, ‘graphic living’ represents the latest evolution of other trends that have emerged in recent years, that have been analyzed in this column (“Digital Matters” in Interni 641; “Slim Design” in Interni 654) and share the assumption of the digital aesthetic not as something opposed to the solid object, but as something literally incorporated in it: not real imitation of the virtual, but borrowed lightness of the vectorial spirit in the slim yet tangible structure of furnishings.

Text by Stefano Caggiano