Charlotte von der Lancken

One-fourth of the Swedish firm Front answers a few questions on industrial design, inspiration, and process—using her thumbs.

Job description: We’re industrial designers.

Current projects: A few exhibitions and new projects for the Salone, in Milan. We’re doing a new table, and we’re working with Moooi and Swarovski—something spectacular!

First step on a project: We always collaborate in the decisions we make. The first thing we do is sit down and talk about the project, about all the different angles and why we’re doing it and how we could do it differently, how we can develop it into something we find interesting.

Last step on a project: Lots of our projects are experimental. Sometimes they turn out just as we wanted, sometimes they don’t turn out at all, sometimes they become something totally different. We document the process. When we did the Sketch Furniture, the film was essential to understanding the actual product because it’s all about drawing the pieces in the air and then making them physical objects.

How do you break a creative block? That’s usually not a problem. We have lots of ideas, and it’s very difficult to decide which one to make in the end. It’s the biggest struggle we have.

Why do you do what you do? We’re very curious.

Education: We all have master’s degrees in industrial design. We actually met in school, at Konstfack. We did our graduation project together.

Mentors: For us, it’s been pretty important to ask other designers how they work. We talk a lot to Hella Jongerius, for example. We’ve asked her to be a mentor to us, and she’s been really helpful. We also talk to Tom Dixon and Marcel Wanders. You have to ask the best.

Dream team: We received the Designer of the Future Award at Art Basel, so we did an exhibition with Galerie Kreo, in Paris, of furniture that we made together with a magician. We made a lamp where the shade is levitating and the bulb is invisible, so you can’t see the light source. The interesting thing was that his way of thinking was very similar to ours. He was playing with the audience’s expectations, and he used their expectations to mislead them.

Office chair: Ikea, of course!

Office sound track: Hot Chip, at the moment. We received a collection of CDs from a British company called Moshi Moshi. We listen to them a lot.

Favorite tchotchke: I have a small box where I’ve collected things since I was a child. If a fire started, I would grab it. I put the most important things inside—old stones, feathers, coins.

Most useful tools: You can use a glue gun for anything you want to attach to anything else.

Bookmarks: Dezeen, of course, and Designboom. We also find odd materials or techniques on the Internet, like chain-saw sculpturing or glass that glows in the dark.

Best place to think: Out walking or sitting on the metro.

Something old: I have some old Fornasetti plates. They’re golden with small love messages written in English, but since Fornasetti is Italian, he wrote with the wrong spellings—really weird English. It doesn’t seem as if it’s on purpose.

Something new: The remote control that Naoto Fukasawa did for Plus Minus Zero. It looks like a toothpaste tube.

Favorite space: We were in Tokyo last year, and we went up to the Mori Arts Center, in the top of a skyscraper 54 levels high. I like places that are really high up in the sky.

Underrated: The iPhone, because everybody says it’s so yesterday to have one. But I think it’s really good. It thought about a lot of good things.

Overrated: Flying. Lots of people like to go by plane, but usually it’s not that glamorous.

Learned the hard way: How to run a company. We’re all designers, and we didn’t know how a company worked in the beginning, so we had to learn. It’s pretty complicated. We’re still learning.

Command-Z (undo): No. It’s always better to do things than not to do them.

Dream job: I think designer is my dream job.

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