"Virtual design" is making life difficult for furniture
companies says Marcel Wanders


Marcel Wanders portrait

News: the proliferation of computer renderings and prototypes on sites like Dezeen is making real products "look extremely boring," according to Dutch designer Marcel Wanders.

Furniture brands are struggling to make their products appear interesting in comparison to online fantasies, said Wanders in an exclusive interview with Dezeen.

"You are so able to present every crazy idea as if it is reality, the whole universe of communication is so strong," said Wanders. "But now it's difficult for a company to be anywhere interesting in a world that is so dominated by prototypes and great and bright ideas."

"The Dezeens of this world are extremely inspirational, but have no realistic dimension any more," he added.

Wanders was speaking to Dezeen in Milan at the launch of the latest collection by Moooi, the furniture and lighting brand he co-founded in 2001 with Casper Vissers.

Moooi exhibition Milan 2014
This year's Moooi exhibition in Milan. Photograph is by Nicole Marnati

Moooi has grown rapidly by recruiting a roster of international designers to create unusual products that sit alongside new work by Wanders, who was one of a generation of Dutch creatives nurtured by conceptual design company Droog.

"It's funny that in the 1990s Droog was doing all this wonderful work," Wanders said. "It was interesting that we kind of invented something which I call today 'virtual design'. We started making prototypes as if they were real, we communicated them in Milano as if you could buy them. That was at the same time a kind of communication being invented as a mass medium."

Today, designers are able to get international attention for products that are not ready for market and in many cases don't even exist as prototypes, Wanders said.

"Now I think it is so big, this virtual design, the prototypes are so important in the world of design and the alternative ideas are so important," he said.

"Now you go on Dezeen and you go through the pages and you find a company like Cassina and oh my God, I mean it's not even their fault, how could they be interesting between all these bright and virtual ideas which nobody is ever going to do? How could a chair or a lamp be interesting?"

"All that is realistic starts to look extremely boring in the world of all this inspirational stuff. It's a really interesting problem that we're going to face. It's a bit difficult to be in such an exciting world because they to start to feel really boring."

Moooi's exhibition is open until 13 April at Via Savona 56 in Milan.

Marcel Wanders image is courtesy of DesignPress.

  • mitate

    But you have to ‘wander’ about a chap who wears such socks and trainers.

  • Alex

    I think that makes “real” products look even more interesting. There is always a place for good design wherever it comes from. Oil paintings are still around even in the digital age.

  • Daniel Brown

    File under ‘First World Problems’

  • brononamous

    So many moaning designers recently. Just move on.

  • Designer

    All I see are manufacturers taking fewer risks and making boring products. Don’t blame it on the people coming up with concepts.

  • zee

    Yeah and the photographer lost his job too!

  • troy

    Didn’t he present his recent Moooi collection as 3D renders on Dezeen?

  • Munchman

    Anyone else cringing at him putting his shoes on that ottoman?

    • Olof

      LOL, I just clicked to comment the same thing. C’m on Marcel! Shoes off!

      • Andy

        What’s the point of it if you can’t put your shoes on it? Come on people. Furniture is for using, not looking at in a gallery!

  • Douglas Montgomery

    “But now it’s difficult for a company to be anywhere interesting in a world that is so dominated by prototypes and great and bright ideas.”

    He’s actually starting to win me round with this statement. Considering how dominating his profile is, this is quite a generous and self-deprecating assessment – giving credit to new designers perhaps not as successful as himself. Not what I would have expected him to say, or at least not conforming to my prejudice about him.

  • Kevin Quigley

    He makes a very valid point. In a world awash with photo-real visuals, it is difficult for companies to decide what to progress into production. This is compounded by the growth in conceptual design that fails to consider production reality.

    The fact is, ideas and concepts are easy. Selection of concepts and development into volume production is tough. I know. It is my day job. We use all the visualisation tools available to us, but these must be backed up by knowledge and reality of what can be achieved.

  • Casey Lewis