March 1, 2008
Inga Sempé answers a few questions on industrial design, inspiration, and process—using her thumbs.
JOB DESCRIPTION: To conceive objects that are useful and nice, and adapted well for production
CURRENT PROJECTS: I’m working on lighting for Luceplan; furniture for David Design, a Swedish company; a paper lamp for Artecnica; and many other projects, but the contracts aren’t signed.
FIRST STEP ON A PROJECT: To find a way of using an object that will interest me or someone else
LAST STEP ON A PROJECT: When an object is finished and produced, you keep having last steps: communication, sending some pictures, and answering interview questions. It was not part of my job when I began, but now it’s really an important part.
HOW DO YOU BREAK A CREATIVE BLOCK? I have a nervous breakdown, then try to get better.
WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO? I love daily life and objects, and systems and clever solutions.
EDUCATION: I studied at the Parisian public school for industrial design, École Nationale Supérieure de Création Industrielle.
MENTOR: No. I admire some objects, but I don’t have the spirit of a son.
WORLD-SAVING MISSION: I don’t feel able to do such things. I could say that I could do some ecological objects, but the problem is that the companies I work with are not for the moment involved with ecological production, and I couldn’t force them to change their way of production. I’m not powerful enough. They’d say, “Well, we don’t care. We won’t do it anymore.”
FIRST ACT AS “DESIGN CZAR”: Even if I were named designer of the world, it would not change that much because designers do not have that much power in the way of producing things. If I were the president of a big company, yes, I would try to change things. Even if we are shown in the media, it doesn’t mean we have power in front of companies.
DREAM TEAM: I would never work with another designer because I don’t like to. I don’t want to share. There are not many writers who want to write a book with someone else.
OFFICE CHAIR: The one I have I picked up in the street. It was in the garbage. It’s disgusting, with an ugly fabric, so I don’t care if it’s not clean. Even my poor assistant here has a terrible chair. My office doesn’t look like the perfect office of designers: white, with everything in order.
OFFICE SOUND TRACK: I always listen to the radio, but the talking one. It’s called France Culture, and they speak about politics or ecological things, health or movies. I used to work on my own, and I was alone all day. Listening to voices let me think I was not so much alone.
MOST USEFUL TOOL: My laptop—a PC, because for 3-D it is better. I hope that will change.
BOOKMARKS: Yes, but not about design—a lot about real estate, like Explorimmo. I’m always looking for apartments in Paris.
SOMETHING OLD: Paris. I’m from Paris, I was born in Paris, and I’d like to die in Paris.
SOMETHING NEW: Internet
FAVORITE SPACE: My kitchen, if it were bigger and nicer. I just would like it to be a kitchen in which you can eat, and with windows—whereas mine is really narrow, and the windows show the neighbors’ interior.
GUILTY PLEASURE: Coffee ice cream, every two days
UNDERRATED: The present, because one always says, “It was better before, writers were better before, movies were better before.”
OVERRATED: Patricia MacDonald. I just tried to read one book. Maybe she wrote others that were better, so maybe it’s not a really nice answer. But I hated it.
LEARNED THE HARD WAY: Design is hard. You’re involved with many, many people, and you have to deal with economic and technical things that you cannot know, and art directors.
COMMAND-Z (UNDO): I wish I could have dared before to work on my own. But I was so shy, I was not able to look around and go and show my work.
DREAM JOB: I would like to work for a tool company designing some hammers—or a stationery company. I would like to draw some pens. That I would like.