"Design is a straw, a spoon, jewelry, hospital equipment, a piece of furniture, a car, a home, etc. But more importantly design is none of that, those are results of design. Design is a process, a way thinking and seeing, responding to the world around us."
Nicolai Czumaj-Bront in his studio.
"Combining a precise machining process with reclaimed wood. As the weathered and worn wood is shaped, the beauty and character from the variation in color, material arrangement, and signs of wear are exposed to produce a highly precise yet imperfect design."
What motivates your work? Where did you come up with the idea and the FORMS for the "pitch" stool and table?
Well I think there are many reasons why I design. For one, I simply love doing it. But perhaps one of the earliest reasons why I chose to design was the idea that what I created was going to be used. When I was in the Industrial Design program, I almost transferred (yet again) to sculpture. But art, for the most part, is hands off for the viewer; where as with design you create functional objects that can affect people emotionally and physically; they get used and have a life that goes beyond the finished product. And you must design with that in mind. This is a beautiful challenge.
The forms of the Pitch series are based around the idea of growing out of the ground, and as they approach the user, they grow outwards as a way of acknowledging the user and the function. In the case of the stools, the large radii extenuates the grain and imperfections in the wood as well as softens the form visually, but more importantly to the touch. It is great to watch people use these pieces, almost immediately they touch and caress the surfaces.
You state "design is everything." Can you tell me more about this statement, what is design to you?
Ha, I guess it seems like a broad statement, but design has so much breadth, it is tangible; a straw, a spoon, jewelry, hospital equipment, a piece of furniture, a car, a home, etc. But more importantly design is none of that, those are results of design. Design is a process, a way thinking and seeing, responding to the world arounds us. Design encompasses ideas and practices in art, craft, business, marketing, sales, engineering, psychology, ergonomics...ideally its a process which is completely inclusive of all others. I guess I don’t really consider design separate from anything...you either choose to do it well or you don’t.
Iconic Works. Do you have a favorite iconic piece of furniture that was designed, or a past designer, that you look at time after time and think, brilliant.
Right now one of my favorite designers is Patricia Urquiola. I absolutely love the diverse forms and textures that she creates and the variety of materials she uses, as well as her ability to combine craft with design. The Fjord armchair for Moroso is one of my favorites, and the work she did on the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Barcelona was amazing.
You have a degree in Psychology/ Philosophy. Why did you shift from psychology to industrial design, and does this affect the way you think about your work?
I studied psychology & philosophy for 2 years...so I never finished my degree. I also did a semester of macroeconomics...and I soon realized this was not for me. I have always been in or around art and design growing up. My mother is a painter, sculpture, and graphic designer, my father is an engineer, and both of my grandfathers’ did carpentry and furniture.
The shift from psychology/philosophy to design came out of a desire to create things with my hands and give a physical representation or expression to my ideas. It is truly exhilarating to take an idea from a thought to a physical form...something that one can touch and interact with. Design has been an extension or an evolution of those earlier studies. It really was a seamless transition from psychology/philosophy to design. I think a large part of that is because they became part of my design process. Whether it is used in a more applied sense, as in a task chair or a space, or in somewhat of a more abstract sense, as in the Pitch series, where I am looking at the idea of perfection versus imperfection.
What's the design culture like in Michigan?
I’m originally from Chicago, where the city is the hub of the design culture. But, Michigan is unique in the sense that there isn’t one major city center where all of the design culture exists. There is an east coast and a west coast and they’re quite different and each have a long heritage in design.
On the east coast, you have primarily the auto industry, College of the Creative Studies (CCS) and Cranbrook. And on the west coast, you have the three of the largest contract furniture manufacturers in the US; Haworth, Herman Miller and Steelcase. Not to mention Izzy, Nucraft, and Baker (residential) to name a few other furniture companies. I’ve been living in Grand Rapids on the west side of the state for about five years.
To me, a majority of the design culture resides around the industry and not necessarily as much in the greater community. Although, that has been changing. In the past several years, there’s been a large increase in small design businesses and independent studios, along with galleries and international art exhibitions in the area (i.e. the GRAM, Art Prize, SiteLab, Design West Michigan, D/E/C.) This may also be due to the fact that Grand Rapids is college city with about 10 colleges and universities in the area; where a small and close-knit community of artists and designers has developed that continually look to share their work and educate the general public on art and design.
thank you Nicolai....
Go to his portfolio here...
"Questioning the perception of beauty and control, pitch is a collection of pieces that celebrates the balance of precision and imperfection. Combining a precise machining process with reclaimed wood. As the weathered and worn wood is shaped, the beauty and character from the variation in color, material arrangement, and signs of wear are exposed to produce a highly precise yet imperfect design."
all of these beautiful images are taken by Nicolai Czumaj-Bront and Laura Naughton