indesignlive.com interviews prominent Brisbane designer, Surya Graf. Find out all about his design style, his thoughts on the Australian design industry, and his latest exciting project- the Asterisk stool.
June 24th, 2008
Tell us a little about your background. Where did you study design? Your design path
While initially graduating with a degree in Psychology, I then went on to study Architecture at the University of Queensland. While I thoroughly enjoyed the course I often found myself focussing more on the finer detail of projects, with my interest in the built environment shifting towards the smaller scale of objects and furniture design. After a short stint working with a cabinetmaker and some time travelling through Europe I then decided to return to Australia to pursue my design studies. In 2002 I graduated as the university medallist in Product Design from Griffith University (QCA).
How would you describe your design style?
I try to create designs that inspire by refining an idea down to its essential elements. I am always excited by products that satisfy a function with the beauty lying in its simplicity. I am always exploring new materials and processes or interesting ways of utilising existing ones. Often the style can be dictated by the production techniques and needs of a particular project, but generally I would think of my design style as having quite a minimal aesthetic that blends both industrial and organic forms.
What are your design inspirations?
I am inspired most by the people who are around me everyday. Most of the people that I know are either designers, architects, artists, film-makers, fashion designers, jewellers or photographers and their passion for what they do always inspires me to keep moving forward. For me personally I find that design inspiration often sparks from random places. It could be while watching a movie, looking at a piece of stencil art on the street or while fixing a part on my bike. Whether the inspiration is a form, material, function or simply a feeling I try and take these cues and apply them to my own design.
What is most fulfilling part of your job?
Probably the most fulfilling part of my job is seeing an initial concept come off the page and into reality as a finished product. While it is a very involved process, I get to work within a great studio environment and with clients who share the excitement about what they are doing. Working mainly within the area of urban design I also get a great deal of satisfaction from seeing the general public using the furniture and products that I have designed.
Can you comment on Street and Garden’s sustainability mentality?
The S+G studio always considers the impact of its products during the initial design phase. After concept development our designs are refined down to use the minimal amount of materials and production processing as possible. We seek responsible manufacturing practices which address both waste reduction and recycling. All of our cast aluminium items are produced from 100% recycled materials. One of the biggest aspects of sustainability is through the longevity and reparability of our products. Through quality design and manufacturing there is no need to replace the furniture with new items. Many of our early products have been on site for nearly 20 years.
What are your feelings on the current sustainable design trend? Or would you call it a revolution?
I think that the current shift towards sustainable design is fantastic and is definitely heading in the right direction. Both designers and consumers are more aware than ever of the impact that material choices and production methods can have on the environment. As a designer it is a very exciting time because the current trend not only offers an ethical challenge but also creates opportunities that may not have otherwise been pursued. Unfortunately at this stage many of these choices are still largely being determined by economics. For sustainable design to truly become a ‘revolution’ I think that environmentally ethical production methods need to be fully embraced by governments and correctly integrated into industry practice.
Which one of your projects are you most proud of?
At this stage it would have to be the WAVE bench. This was one of the first projects that I developed for S+G and the final production method has had a major influence on how we now produce many of our other designs. The WAVE bench won a DIA Award in 2005 and is now a permanent part of our product catalogue. What is currently exciting me about the product is the fact that we have been receiving a great deal of interest to export the design for projects in the United Arab Emirates and the USA.
Let me know a little about your most recent project?
In terms of my own studio practice I am most excited about my new Asterisk stool (pictured above). It is a rotationally moulded piece that can be used individually as seat/side-table or slotted together to create a high table/bar stool. I am looking at further developing this design over the next few months and taking it into production by the end of the year.
I have also been working on a number of urban design projects for S+G including furniture for North Lakes residential precincts (short listed for the DIA QDOS Awards), custom seating for ‘Pinch Point’ at Alexandra Headlands, and items for the Petrie Terrace Barracks redevelopment. In addition to this much of the recent focus at S+G has been on the development of our new studio space. We have recently renovated a warehouse in Brisbane’s West End which showcases our current design thinking.
Name one thing about the design industry in Australia you would change?
While it is definitely shifting, I think that the most frustrating thing that I find about the industry in Australia is the apparent need to focus on following European design trends. We clearly have all the design skills to be industry leaders not only here in Australia but globally. I think that we just need to have the confidence to move forward and embrace our own design identity.
If you could collaborate with any designer in the world who would you choose and why?
While I would love the opportunity to work with designers such as Konstantin Grcic and Ross Lovegrove who are pushing the limits of industrial materials and processes, I think that I would be as excited about collaborating with someone like director Michel Gondry. I am fascinated by how people work within other creative industries and Gondry has a fantastic way of looking at the world around him. I think that it would be a great opportunity to have an insight into some of his methods and principles for set production and apply them in some way to product design.
Surya Graf is one of Queensland’s most renowned furniture designers. He is currently senior designer at Brisbane’s Street & Garden Furniture Co.
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