Internationally acclaimed designer Humberto Campana grew up in small-town Brazil and found imaginative freedom in crafts and the local movie theater. During his adolescence it was considered subversive, even dangerous, to become an artist so he decided law school was the best way to get to the big city. He eventually abandoned law in order to “construct his life with his own hands.” A near-death experience led to his first chair design and the formation of an enduring studio partnership with his brother. Listen:
What is your earliest memory?
A trip to Rio we took with my family in a Jeep when I was 5 years old. It was quite a long drive, about 400 miles, where half the road was unpaved. We came across forests, rivers, all sorts of wild animals like wolves and monkeys. Unfortunately that route doesn’t exist anymore, due to deforestation and urban growth.
How do you feel about democratic design?
I am all for democratic design, but one that is authentic and relevant. Democratic design only makes sense if it’s good and truly improves people’s lives.
What’s the best advice that you’ve ever gotten?
Don’t follow trends, follow your heart.
How do you record your ideas?
In the past I used to draw my ideas in a journal. Nowadays, when an idea is really good, it just lingers in my head and creates a dialogue with my mind until I am ready to transfer it to the material world.
What’s your current favorite tool or material to work with?
What book is on your nightstand?
Memories of Cleopatra by Margaret George.
Why is authenticity in design important?
Because it shows its origin, its roots. It’s the way out of bland design.
Favorite restaurant in your city?
Roma, in São Paulo. Traditional Italian cuisine.
What might we find on your desk right now?
At the moment I have color pencils, drawing paper, scissors, box cutters, rocks and crystals.
Who do you look up to and why?
Andrea Branzi, because he remained loyal to his beliefs from the start.
What’s your favorite project that you’ve done and why?
I love our “Sleeping Piles” installation made for Milan Design Week, because I believe the future is to transform nature into architecture.
What are the last five songs you listened to?
1. The end of a love affair, Joe Barbieri
2. Me conte a sua história, Nando Reis
3. Bim Bom, João Gilberto
4. Ryuishy Sakamoto, Bibo no Aozora
5. Chiara Civello, Fortíssimo
Special thanks to WantedDesign for hosting this episode of Clever LIVE at their event during NYCxDesign. Thank you also to Tarkett and Paintzen for sponsoring the conversation lounge.
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