Ep. 43: Marcel Wanders

International design star, Marcel Wanders, grew up in the Netherlands taking things apart and making gifts from the pieces. After a rebellious and experimental adolescence, he discovered design in school and fell in love. Then he got kicked out. 20+ years later, with many global successes (products, furniture, lighting, and magical hospitality interiors) to his name, he is focussed on celebrating small victories, continually learning something new, and warning against the dangers of design fundamentalism. Listen:

MW_portrait_02.jpg

What is your earliest memory?

I remember my parents having a shop of household products in the small town of Boxtel. They had toasters and broomsticks, as well as kitschy porcelain cats. It felt natural to look at them and consider how they represent what people like and need. My first impulse in design was very pragmatic and straightforward.

How do you feel about democratic design?

I think there is a time and place for democratic design. As a concept, everyone should be able to experience quality design and it makes sense when it comes to the  environment and sustainability. I think there are many areas like sustainable, smart homes and household products that can be offered to everyone seeking a combination of form, function and quality. If we can make something that makes those three things affordable that’s an even better outcome.

Knotted Chair

Knotted Chair

What’s the best advice that you’ve ever gotten?

The best advice I ever received was being told to never quit. Very often, it's when you think you have exhausted every idea and design that juxtaposing color, pattern or material sparks a whole new concept. That is the beauty of what we do. And when you allow yourself to be open to trying something different, you find that inspiration can be found anywhere.

How do you record your ideas?

I have a sketch book with me at all times. Design is not a linear process, so I don’t expect to sit down on a schedule and be creative for a set amount of time. Inspiration can strike at any time, so I am constantly taking notes and illustrating ideas. If I am without my sketch book, I record ideas on my notes application on my iPhone.

Snotty Vase

Snotty Vase

What’s your current favorite tool or material to work with?

I like working will all types of materials. Every kind of material brings its own physical nature, and therefore, its own set of limitations. That is why I love combining materials. I find great  reative inspiration when I juxtapose material like glass, wood, marble and textiles. Technology is a fascinating tool to me. I'd love to know more about technology and where it is going to take us. It has a wonderful impact on design and I look for every opportunity to learn more about it and explore it.

What book is on your nightstand?

I enjoy reading anything that illustrates our sense of place and investigates why we are here. Most recently, I read Ken Wilbur's A Brief History of Everything. It's an excellent exposition of where we are and where we might go as a society.

Iberostar Grand Portals Nous

Iberostar Grand Portals Nous

Why is authenticity in design important?

More than important, authenticity is everything. Even when working within a world of fantasy, the authentic nature of the creator investing himself into the object or interior design must come through. Without a genuine passion and commitment to the process, real connection cannot be made. Without connection, meaning is lost. The purpose of design is for those who experience it to be affected in some way. Without authenticity, you miss out on what can be a truly moving experience.

Favorite restaurant in your city?

My favorite restaurant is Toscanini. I also like The Duchess. Of course, I always say that where we eat and what we eat are less important to me than with whom I am dining. It is the company that makes the meal. The perfect meal for me would be to invite the four most inspiring women in my life to dinner, and it would be a meal to last for eternity.

Mondrian Doha Atrium

Mondrian Doha Atrium

What might we find on your desk right now?

On my desk, you will find multiple projects in various stages of completion. Amid the chaos, you’ll see samples of materials, sketches and inspirational items. It may look like a mess, but it’s really a perfect illustration of the creative mind – everything everywhere, but right where it needs to be.

Iberostar Grand Portals Nous

Iberostar Grand Portals Nous

Who do you look up to and why?

There are many people I look up to in my life. My parents were very supportive of my earliest endeavors. They saw the passion for design and creation that I had at a very young age. I also look up to my daughter, Joy. It’s funny to talk about looking up to your child, but she is so bright and full of grace that she has become my greatest inspiration. I am also inspired by the people in my studio. Every day, I am surrounded by some of the brightest and most creative people in the world. I don't follow any one person in particular because I think you can learn something from everyone, and they become the sum of who you are as a designer.

Mondrian Doha Bedroom Suite

Mondrian Doha Bedroom Suite

What’s your favorite project that you’ve done and why?

It would be difficult for me to look at one specific project or assignment to hold in highest regard. Every assignment brings unique challenges and brings out something different in myself through the process of creation. Whether done in collaboration or made as a personal edition piece, it is the opportunity of what's next that drives me most. I am proud of both the things I create and the projects with which I take more of a creative director role. Looking forward, ever-changing consumer trends and cultural shifts will inspire and challenge us to find new solutions. I think the great thing is that we don't know yet what the future will be, which is why my favorite project will always be the next one.

What’s your favorite project that you’ve done and why?

It would be difficult for me to look at one specific project or assignment to hold in highest regard. Every assignment brings unique challenges and brings out something different in myself through the process of creation. Whether done in collaboration or made as a personal edition piece, it is the opportunity of what's next that drives me most. I am proud of both the things I create and the projects with which I take more of a creative director role. Looking forward, ever-changing consumer trends and cultural shifts will inspire and challenge us to find new solutions. I think the great thing is that we don't know yet what the future will be, which is why my favorite project will always be the next one.

Mondrian Doha pool

Mondrian Doha pool

What are the last five songs you listened to?

September by Earth, Wind & Fire
Train in Vain (Remastered) by The Clash
I’m Too Sexy by Right Said Fred
Closer by Ne-Yo
Spoons (featuring MNEK & Syron) by Rudimental


Thank you to this episode's sponsor CanvasPop! Clever listeners can get a 50% discount on a $100 order by using the code CLEVER50 at Canvaspop.com.


Special thanks to Tai Navares for editing this episode.
Music in this episode courtesy of El Ten Eleven—hear more on Bandcamp.
Shoutout to Jenny Rask for designing the Clever logo.