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Behind the Design of the WIG Pendant by Chris Hardy

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American industrial designer Chris Hardy teamed up with FontanaArte to create the Wig Pendant, a structural pendant light inspired by the individual elements that form a greater community.

SHOP WIG PENDANT

A Q&A with designer Chris Hardy

Interview by Sarah Schaale

Chris Hardy is an American industrial designer based in Atlanta,
having studied at the College of Creative Studies and the School
of Design at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He has worked
in both industrial and graphic design, collaborating with interior
design firms, retail stores, furniture and lighting manufacturers
and more.

How did you get into design?
My father is an architect so ever
since I was young, I was
exposed to famous
architecture and
design. From
there, I started
spending a lot
of time with art.
As I got older I
really started
having a fascination
with objects them-
selves — what they
mean and why they
existed. I merged the
two and became an
industrial designer.

We wanted to create a very dramatic form, and how people use it and interpret it is up to them.

What's your design process like?
The process is always dictated by the type of project. If it's self-initiated, I usually start with trying to find an interesting idea or concept as a launching point and I have more freedom to experiment. If it's for a client, they have a list of requirements so it's not as open-ended. They give me the starting point that could be materials, aesthetics or something along those lines. Then there is concept generation phase followed by rounds of prototypes and engineering to ready the product for manufacturing. That is how it usually goes, but that doesn't mean it has to. The great thing about design is that it is open for experimentation with all aspects and that includes the process itself. That's one of the things I love about design in that it's always changing for me.

What's important to you in design?
I think it's just to be honest and true to myself and what's important to me. I want to express something in it and not just have a generic piece that's just there to be there…to have a deeper meaning than for my own sake. I want to have something that I'm proud of and that people will respond to and have a connection with. I think that's the most important for me.

 

Where do you find inspiration? The things that I'm interested are usually around the idea of the human condition—how people relate to themselves or life experiences—something that doesn't really have a visual form. I like to take something that has enough depth where I can create the visual representation of it. That will usually break me out of certain patterns or tendencies, and makes for a little bit more of an unexpected outcome.

It is important to me to be open and observant of my surroundings because you never know when something will trigger an idea. Looking for inspiration feels like a never ending quest.

Is it common for many of your designs to have an underlying message? I would like it to be. I don't always have the opportunity to. The story helps people connect to it and understand why it looks the way it does and what your message is that you're trying to get across to an audience. It makes a more valid design than just an object to look at or use. People respond to some sort of story that makes them think and gives them pause enough to look twice. It helps the audience connect on a more visceral level.

As a designer, are there design "mistakes" that make you cringe? Overcomplicating products or objects is an easy mistake to make. Over-designing is very common. And, objects that are just there to make money with no real respect or understanding of the user.

Do you have any role models in design?
I have a lot of interest in the old school Italian masters, but I think the people I find most interesting are the ones that are able to move fluidly from different areas of design—interiors, architecture, products, etc. Someone like Marcel Wanders who's had a great design career but has also been able to take that into manufacturing his own products with Moooi.

Where do you start the design process?
I begin with finding an idea of inspiration that has enough substance to really develop into a product. I try and visualize an interesting aesthetic or material use that I find interesting enough to evolve. Then I do quite a bit of drawing or mockups if I am having trouble understanding the form. I then work to develop the design through form and materials.

How was the response when you introduced the Wig Pendant at Euroluce 2011?
In Milan, the response was great and a lot of people really enjoyed it. People were going up to it, touching it. It was really amazing how it kind of all came together for the show. It's kind of a lifelong dream showing there and to be there with such a presence as Fontana Arte was really special. I've gotten a lot of good reactions just because I'm an American working with an Italian company like FontanaArte, which is something I didn't expect to become a talking point.

How do you think being an American designer sets you apart?
It definitely helps you stand out, especially with the European companies. A lot of them are looking towards the American market right now and that's partially because the American design community really responds well to it too. Whether they are a seller of a buyer they like to see Americans represented within European design manufacturers. There is also the idea that an American designer might offer something new and different. There is a push within American manufacturing for more contemporary design which also helps. It is definitely an exciting time to be an American designer.

Where did the idea for the Wig Pendant come from?
This is actually a piece that I designed when I was in school in Hong Kong

about a year before any meeting with FontanaArte. It was part of a bigger collection that was talking about the difference of cultures. The idea behind this aesthetic is how people relate to each other, especially in close knit societies.You have this form that's made up of all these small forms. It's how they relate to each other; how they see each other in the greater whole of this society. I approached FontanaArte after an introduction hoping to show them my work and they ended up wanting to manufacture it. It doesn't always work out so easily.

Is there a certain space you picture the Wig Pendant in use?
I think that's up to the consumer, but I do believe that it is quite adaptable. With some pieces I do think about if it's going to be commercial or residential, but not with the Wig. If I had the option to choose I would like to see it in an intimate setting, maybe over a dining table, where people are having a real, personal connection with each other just so it could be a part of their moment. But you know, I think it will add a lot of life and personality to any space you put it in.

What does your own home look like?
I would say it's more minimal. But I do like a good mix of pieces. I like to mix contemporary pieces with mid-century modern Italian classics and also some antiques. I like to collect objects that I find interesting—little objects that tell a story about the designer or who used it.

If you could design anything, it would be ____________?
Of course I love lighting and furniture. As far as products, I think simple products for the home would be enjoyable. As I grow, I'm hoping to do something with interiors and architecture. I think my dream project would be to design and build a house for myself. That might be selfish, but I think that would be really fun.

See all of Chris Hardy's work at chrishardydesign.com.

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