Four successful designers, trained in the Monsieur Design studio, talk about his method and why it works

Pioneer, enfant prodige and master of international design, creator of a characteristic language and an interdisciplinary, inclusive vision of optimistic commitment. Philippe Starck has nurtured many designers in his studio, starting in the 1980s.

Generations that have come to grips with the urges and spirit of the time, and have incorporated aspects of that experience in their own design attitudes. What remains of the Starck legacy in their work?

We asked the master himself: “I don’t know, and I am not convinced that I should know and that I can know. Every generation, fortunately, changes in very important ways. And, in our case, faster and deeper. I have noticed that the new generation of designers is rediscovering ethical values, a humanist and social vision, and communist values.

” When asked if his design vision has given rise to a school of thought, the answer is as provocative as ever: “Since Memphis, design has become formalist. It is very simple, requires no technology, no intelligence and almost no talent. So, there have been at least one or two generations of uselessness in design.

Today, ecology has joined us, and I suspect that the current generation of designers must be almost entirely motivated by this concern. It is up to them to turn it into an ‘adult’ ecology, mastered and not caricatured. Also, whether it is design or any other field, there is a strong duty to deserve to exist to serve our community.

Nobody needs to be a genius, but everybody has to participate; to the great evolution of our human species. And one way is through transmission. The idea is to constantly innovate, to create ideas and products that benefit society.

Creativity must be everywhere, in all professions; a businessman can be creative, and so can a plumber. Life would be more pleasant and meaningful if we were less consumers and more human, more honest, more visionary, more responsible.

Creativity, longevity, transmission are the key words, and artificial intelligence, bionism and dematerialization are the next steps.”

Christophe Pillet about the Starck method

Christophe Pillet worked in Starck’s studio from 1989 to 1992. “What we learn from him,” Pillet explains, “are not practical or technical notions, though he has a lot to teach in those terms as well. What we learn is how to grant form to a vision, an act of imagination, a dream.

We learn that everything is possible, that an ideal can take on form, materialize, and be shared. He shows us that the purpose of design is not to make a good object, but to suitably construct the world and to imagine the right objects for its description and composition.

His lesson, which is still timely, is to track down and destroy clichés, to learn to see in a different way, to offer alternatives rather than relying on the conventional and the established, to bring the margins into the center… All this is urgently contemporary, as are the themes to be investigated.”

Matali Crasset about the Starck method

Matali Crassetwas part of Starck’s studio from 1993 to 1997, in charge of the Thomson Multimedia project and the Tim Thom design center. She too emphasizes that the master’s legacy lies above all in a way of thinking and getting beyond limits, applicable in any context,
on any scale.

“We owe Philippe Starck a debt of gratitude for having opened doors and been a trailblazer for a whole generation of designers,” Crasset explains. “Without him, I wouldn’t be able to do the same work. Also in the area of ecological issues, Starck has been upstream, pioneering at times: just consider the Good Goods catalogue or the reflections on how to make plastic-free televisions, for Thomson Multimedia.

Today, at a time when overproduction and the extraction of resources are at the heart of the reasons for global warming, designing objects has to be done with a clear conscience.

For my part, I’m committed to working in new ways, making the most of material resources, working with companies on a local scale that have a beneficial impact on their ecosystem.”

Ambroise Maggiar about the Starck method

Ambroise Maggiar, a Parisian residing in Milan, worked in Starck’s studio from 2011 to 2017. In that experience, he says he discovered “the discipline of creativity nurtured by panoramic curiosity.”

Apparently distant concepts that create balance in the design. “This method has permitted me to serenely approach many different themes, from the world of luxury goods to local crafts.

It has also given me the tools to develop micro-architectures, seeking the meeting point between analytical and methodical reasoning and the artistic, cultural dimension.

I tend to think that it is not only Starck’s method that makes his projects pertinent, but also his sensitivity in the balancing of the countless parameters of the project; always in contact with the present and the future.

In his multidisciplinary career of creativity, he has shown us a unique ability to anticipate the challenges of contemporary society: from sustainability, which of course he tackled very early on, to the concept of public space, seen as a zone of inclusion of the individual and their integration in a multicultural society in a state of transformation.”

Athime de Crecy about the Starck method

Belonging to the generation of the Millennials, Athime de Crecy worked in Starck’s firm from 2017 to 2022. “Far from the image of an imaginative poet, the reality of his practice is of extreme intellectual rigor. Everything is measured, classified and calibrated in a creative process that is almost scientific in character.

We never discussed design as such, but always how people use objects. I try to continue with this approach in my work. He uses his position as leverage to push manufacturers to seek out the most cutting-edge materials, at the very limits of technical possibilities.

When he still uses plastic injection parts, he pushes to use only bio-sourced, bio-degradable plastics, not derived from agricultural products. He was the first designer to adopt a code of ethics, which he rigorously applies, because ethics is not a question of individual responsibility, but is connected to the form structures must assume to generate virtuous effects.

I firmly believe that the new problems of the world impose alternative ways of organizing production and of thinking about the relations between designers, industries, resources and users. But in the current logic of production, I think Starck’s method can be ranked as an outstanding example of ethical design.”

Cover photo: Ph. James Bort, courtesy: Starck