Prix Émile Hermès

Le sens de l'objet

International Design
Competition 2016


Fondation d’entreprise Hermès


2nd Prize
Victoria Gravelier (France)

The concept: Talu is a large-scale construction game comprising 28 high-density foam modules covered in felt. The blocks come in three different shapes measuring 20 to 60 centimetres in height. Users can build an endless variety of structures and environments.

About the designer: Victoria Gravellier is a final-year global design student at Paris’s École Bleue. Talu was created for the design element of her diploma project and the Prix Emile Hermès 2016.

What inspired Talu?

I remembered how it felt to be a child, and how I loved building things with Lego and Kapla. Children always want to create their own city, their own ramparts, a den, a ship. So I chose the name Talu, which means ‘shelter’ or ‘hiding place’ in Inuit. I wanted the game to feel soft and comforting. I researched the materials that would give the best results in both form and function. You can throw yourself around on the modules, sit on them, lie down…

How does the project reflect your concept of play?

For me play is first and foremost about imagination. I wanted to give children the tools for free, creative, imaginative play. I didn’t want a competitive game with rules. Talu is a means to create your own landscape, your own world, and to change it at will. The modules are covered in patterned felt: when they’re assembled the design draws a little chain of mountains.

What are your future projects, where next?

I need to have fun creating new designs. After graduation, I hope I can hold on to that sense of fun and apply it to the interior architecture or design projects I work on. Because creating a feeling of well-being in space is what we do, isn’t it?

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We do not Play at the Table

Joeva Gaubin (France)

The concept: the game is played at table, on a linen tablecloth printed with designs and messages to be discovered using accessories (plates, glasses and cutlery). By sliding the base of a blue glass, players discover hidden red forms in the motifs on the cloth. The blade of a knife is used to decipher ‘challenges’ written in mirror language. A fun way to brighten mealtimes.

About the designer: Joeva Gaubin studied design and completed a Masters in Colour, Image and Design at the Institut Universitaire Professionnalisé (IUP) in Montauban (France). Drawing on aspects of her training, she specialises in working with colour.

What inspired We do not Play at the Table?

Quite simply, the experience of interminable, dull meals from which there is no escape. The game transforms an everyday situation, but it encourages a sense of discovery and observation too. Colour is one of my favourite subjects. The idea of the glass as a colour filter came to me very quickly.

How does the project reflect your concept of play?

I wanted to create opportunities for play at seemingly inopportune moments. Play is unrelated to codes of polite and proper behaviour. The simple equipment, consisting of everyday items (a tablecloth, glasses, knives), is a way of sneaking into people’s everyday lives. I turn an ordinary situation into something different. The game brings a magical dimension to daily life. It can be a source of friendly interaction around the table, too, establishing connections between neighbours.

What are your future projects, where next?

I want to continue exploring the world of games, especially children’s games, through personal projects and briefs. It’s a very rich, creative field, and one I identify with strongly.

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Your shelter

Maciej Chmara and Ania Rosinke (Austria)

The concept: a wooden trolley with a set of accessories (fabric, rope, velcro, lamp, batons, connectors…) that can be combined in infinite, imaginative compositions. The game inspires free play, inviting children to create their own space.

About the designers: Maciej Chmara and Ania Rosinke are Polish-born designers who met while studying architecture and interior design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdansk. The pair live and work together in the studio they founded in Vienna, Austria, in 2012. Their design work is based on an eco-friendly, conceptual approach.

What inspired Your Shelter?

We all remember building dens as children, using things from the toy chest, or cardboard boxes, with their miraculous power to stimulate the imagination. Watching our twin children at play, we wanted to create objects that can be transformed and re-appropriated to become the setting for new stories and adventures. The cart can become a boat, or a waggon, or a storage-chest for toys. The fabric can be used to make a tent or a teepee.

How does the project reflect your concept of play?

For us, play is the starting-point for invention, creativity, discovery. Free play, with no rules or precise aims, is a moment to dream, unhindered, which is very important from an educational point of view.

What are your future projects, where next?

We’ve been working very hard in recent years, on exhibitions, projects and competitions. So we want to go travelling again, and make time to get bored! It’s very important to take time out in our profession.

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Interactive Wallpaper

Alexandre Echasseriau (France)

The project: wallpaper printed with conductive ink incorporates a sound system with an external control box. Sound is activated by placing a hand on the wallpaper: the walls of a room become an experimental play space. The system is connected to a dedicated Web site that allows the user to pre-select the wallpaper design and its associated sounds in advance.

About the designer: Alexandre Echasseriau has worked as a freelance designer since 2013. A graduate of France’s École Boulle, his work is rooted in a knowledge and love of fine craftsmanship. At ENCSI-Les Ateliers he began working with state-of-the-art technology, creating workshop prototypes. His current projects combine these contrasting worlds. He lives and works in Île-de-France, where he has recently installed a workshop with digital tools and prototyping equipment.

What was your inspiration for Interactive Wallpaper?

The idea came to me while I was researching my diploma project at ENCSI. I had thought about various objects combining artisan skills and technology: an iPad case printed with conductive ink, for example. The wallpaper project was a natural extension of that idea. I’ve developed it in association with one of France’s last surviving wallpaper factories.

How does the project reflect your concept of play?

It’s an interactive ‘game’ that requires the user to master the system and make it their own. You need to touch the wallpaper, but it's not necessary to log on to the Web site wich is a dedicated space to buy a selection of wallpapers and the sounds associated with it.

What are your future projects, where next?

I’d like to create simpler, more low-tech products than I have to date. And I’d like to work more closely with traditional trades in the applied arts – I’m fascinated by artisan skills. I’d love to work with one of France’s last surviving armourers, for example, or a feather-dresser, to create a sound system based on feathers.

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3rd Prize ex æquo
Léa Pereyre and Claire Pondard (Switzerland)

The concept: Demi-jour is a shadow-game in the form of a collection of cards which can be fixed to the back of smartphone, like a case. To create the shadow pictures, simply unfold the relief shape in the corner of the card (images of objects or figures) and activate your camera flash or assistive light. Then you can animate the figures in a darkened room.

About the designers: Léa Pereyre and Claire Pondard met as students at the École Cantonale d’Art in Lausanne (ECAL). After graduating in industrial design in 2015, they chose to begin their professional careers in Lausanne. Claire is currently assistant designer at the Big Game design studio; Léa is a research assistant on a project exploring cloud computing at the robotic systems laboratory at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).

What inspired Demi-jour?

We worked on the use of shadows at ECAL, and we were both fascinated by the idea. We both remembered having fun as children, making shadow pictures in the park, and projecting huge shapes from tiny forms. Demi-jour is a two-dimensional response.

How does the project reflect your concept of play?

We wanted a game with a poetic, almost abstract feel, using minimal equipment. Demi-jour allows users to create their own play environment. Each card is the starting point for a new, made-up story. The idea is to use the architectural and features and objects in your own home as the setting for the projected shapes. The house becomes a near-abstract décor in its own right.

What are your future projects, where next?

Demi-jour was our first joint project after graduating. Now we are very keen to continue working together, and perhaps even set up our own design studio.

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Valentin Adam and Maxime Loiseau (France)

The concept: Oracle is a niche receptacle, and a mobile phone app. The app gives players a colour to find in their immediate surroundings. Each team choses an object corresponding to the given colour, and places it in the niche (the ‘oracle’). The object’s colour is analysed digitally, and validated (or not). The team with the most ‘successful’ objects wins.

About the designers: Valentin Adam and Maxime Loiseau met while studying visual communication at the École Olivier de Serres (ENSAAMA). Valentin subsequently co-founded the agency We are from LA, before opening his own graphic design studio, Playground Paris, specialising in visual identity and animation. After a Masters degree at ENSCI-Les Ateliers, Maxime worked in digital design in San Francisco before returning to Paris where he is now a freelance designer.

What inspired Oracle?

We wanted to explore ways of using digital technology to foster interaction between the virtual and real worlds. The game draws on the potential of a mobile phone app while at the same time encouraging a closer, alternative look at the real objects around us, as we enshrine them for a moment in the ‘niche’. Oracle transforms our everyday world into a game.

How does the project reflect your concept of play?

Oracle is accessible to anyone, and can be played with almost anything. We like this limitless, open-ended approach, and the fact that the game can spark discussion about colours and objects. It’s a way of ‘re-enchanting’ our everyday surroundings and breathing a little magic into the objects we possess.

What are your future projects, where next?

To keep on experimenting and having fun while we work.

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Benjamin Charles and Simon Joyau (France)

Concept: Dorémix is a small, musical wooden train connected to a tablet computer. The tablet controls the train (which is also a mobile speaker), and allows the player to compose a melody based on its journey along tracks connected to notes. There are two different pre-recorded melodies, depending on the circuit. The player may compose other melodies by varying the circuit taken, the speed of the train, and instrument options.

About the designers: Benjamin Charles and Simon Joyau met at the Nantes School of Design (France), graduating in 2008. After working in various design and architectural agencies, they joined forces in 2015 to create Dinettes, a company and brand offering innovative design solutions for the culinary arts.

What inspired Dorémix?

For us, play means building, manipulating, mixing – things we can do with objects, but also in the world of music. And so we created a hybrid from two iconic childhood objects: a little wooden train and a musical box. The idea was to create a circuit with music to listen to, or compose yourself. Playing with the train can be relaxing and contemplative or highly creative.

How does the project reflect your concept of play?

We wanted to create something people can interact with freely. There are two pre-recorded melodies, but the player can create others using the tablet computer, which controls the train and manages the music. The device becomes an instrument which can be used to compose a short piece of music. The user can mix sounds too, by accelerating or slowing the train. It offers limitless possibilities, and no rules.

What are your future projects, where next?

We want to develop Dinettes, the company we set up recently. Dinettes offers innovative catering solutions – a fresh take on the food truck concept, together with objects and furniture adapted to new uses and lifestyles.

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Camille Courlivant, Rose Dumesny, Line de Carné (France)

The concept: Clico is an augmented reality construction game for children. Clico brings an object constructed by the player to life, using a mobile app and a tablet computer. Five modes of transport are suggested as the starting-point for the construction: a submarine, a locomotive, a helicopter, a boat and a rocket. The child can then take his or her object on a journey through its associated, augmented reality universe.

About the designers: Camille, Rose and Line met as students at École Olivier de Serres (ENSAAMA) in Paris. Camille is artistic director of the KTM Advance agency, Line is a freelance designer and scenographer working on projects for children’s toys, and Rose is completing a thesis on digital design at the Orange experimental laboratory in France.

What inspired Clico?

We’ve always played games together, and we’ve been planning to work on a game design for a long time. Our initial idea was to combine digital gaming and real-world construction. The augmented reality app brings an imaginary world to life, animating the objects in our everyday surroundings. Children playing the game can see their own construction moving through a virtual décor: they can take their submarine on a journey through an underwater landscape.

How does the project reflect your concept of play?

For us, digital technology is a tool we have to engage with as designers. It’s not necessarily a negative thing for children. But owning a tablet shouldn’t be an end in itself – everything depends on how you use it. Clico clearly has an educational dimension, because it helps explain what augmented reality is, and builds bridges between the real and virtual worlds.

What are your future projects, where next?

We want to carry on working together, develop Clico and create other game-based worlds. Ultimately, we’d like to set up our agency focused on games connecting the real and virtual worlds.

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3rd Prize ex æquo
Mathieu Lang (Switzerland)

The concept: a new form of the game known as ‘consequences’, based on sheets of paper interleaved between two circular wooden boards. The upper board has a ‘porthole’ in which the players draw pictures. The first player draws something in the porthole, keeping his picture hidden from the others, then turns the disc, for his neighbour to draw a second picture next to the first. Everyone around the table contributes their own drawing, after which the disc is removed to reveal the whole picture, in six parts.

About the designer: Mathieu Lang grew up in Switzerland and completed his design training at ECAL in Lausanne, before embarking on a professional design career.

What inspired Luc?

I wanted a game that would bring people together around something very simple and accessible. The ‘consequences’ concept was perfect. All you need is a piece of paper, a pen, and everyone can play. No need to be good at drawing in order to take part: on the contrary, the wackiest, most original pictures contribute the most meaning! I love the power of a collective project, and accidental beauty. I name all my projects for people I know, so this one is ‘Luc’ after a friend who’s an illustrator.

How does the project reflect your concept of play?

Play is a social activity. It should bring people together: that’s what’s most important to me. With this game, there’s an element of sheer pleasure. The result is never disappointing because it depends on surprise and discovery of what each individual has contributed, and the final effect. It says a lot about the beauty of the moment, too.

What are your future projects, where next?

To continue learning through travel and discovering new cultures. I also want to develop my knowledge of digital machines and ideally invest in one, so that I can create my own objects.

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Gemma Guinovart Morell and Franz Bourgeois (Spain-France)

The concept: A close cousin of the traditional Mikado, Trikado is a balancing game consisting of a vertical, 40-cm ‘trunk’ of wood against which narrow sticks can be placed. The aim is to place all the sticks, supported directly by the trunk of wood or the sticks already in place.

About the designers: Franz Bourgeois and Gemma Guinovart Morell are trained architects living and working as freelances associated, in Paris. Franz is a graduate of the École Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture Paris-Belleville (ENSAPB) and Gemma trained at the Escola Tècnica Superior d'Arquitectura de Barcelona (ETSAB).

What inspired Trikado?

As architects, we’re used to working in response to a commission. We wanted to create a game with simple rules, using simple artefacts. The idea for the basic wooden ‘trunk’ came to us gradually, as we thought about the competition theme – and the idea for the game took shape from there. We love the idea of an initial base for infinite possibilities, exploring and challenging the concept of balance. The game is ecological, too, with great economy of means. The container is part of the game, and the sticks are very light-weight, made from maple wood.

How does the project reflect your concept of play?

A created world with its own rules offers a chance step aside from real life and immerse yourself in a moment of collective concentration. For the game to work best, everyone has to play collectively at first, to construct a base that will support the sticks. It’s a game of chance and strategy, too – as such, it’s revealing of each player’s personality. Everyone has their own method, their own creative way of placing the sticks, their own sense of risk and daring.

What are your future projects, where next?

We want to establish our fledgling architectural studio and continue our research into the world of design – an increasingly vital complement to our architectural practice. We’re also very keen to develop Trikado with a game publisher, for a universal audience.

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Snail Racing

Guillaume Darnajou (France)

The project: Snail Racing is a game using small wooden snails on a circuit adapted by the player to their home surroundings. Each snail is fitted with a measuring device that allows it to move forward the number of centimetres indicated by a throw of the dice. The first snail to make a complete circuit wins.

About the designer: Guillaume Darnajou has returned to France from seven years in Canada, studying industrial design at the University of Montreal. Now freelance, he co-founded the Otra Design studio with his partner, working on eco-objects with a particular focus on recycling.

What inspired Snail Racing?

Snail Racing was the first thing that sprang to mind on the theme of ‘play’ – it’s a game as old as time itself, and accessible to everyone. Then, a rolled-up tape measure suggested a snail coming out of its shell. The game took shape quite naturally after that. The paradox of a racing game involving snails is very funny, too.

How does the project reflect your concept of play?

This isn’t a ‘board game’ – the players have to embrace their surrounding space to construct their own circuit, so it depends a great deal on their imagination. Play is inventive, fun, creative. It shouldn’t be taken too seriously. It’s also a way of bringing people and generations together.  

What are your future projects, where next?

Expand Otra Design, the creative studio co-founded with my partner. Continue our research into new eco-objects and the aesthetics of recycling and repurposing. Engage with as many creative spheres as possible in the worlds of design and interior architecture. 

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1st Prize
Jean-Simon Roch (France)

The project: Vibrato is a wooden box fitted with an electro-magnet that activates a metal blade concealed beneath a leaf of paper. The device allows the user to vibrate objects or forms (provided in the device or gleaned by players in their environment) placed on top of the paper, in a random, ever-changing ballet.

About the designer: Jean-Simon Roch is a freelance exhibition and product designer. He graduated from ENSCI-Les Ateliers (France) in 2015.

What was your inspiration for Vibrato?

My final-year projet at ENSCII looked at animated objects. I enjoy studying how objects and people behave. Vibrato is a response to that: it’s a device that enables the user to bring shapes to life. I wanted to create something using minimal means and technology. For me technology is a tool, not an end in itself.

How does the project reflect your concept of play?

Vibrato comes with a variety of shapes to place on the leaf of paper. But children are free to experiment with the process, using anything they choose. The idea is to show children that they can break rules and make up stories of their own. It’s a tool, an open-ended object. It creates ‘time out’ for the contemplation of movement and shapes.

What are your future projects, where next?

I’m interested in kinetic objects, and narrative and spectacular art installations. I dream of setting up a workshop where I can work and experiment independently, tinker with things and create new ideas.

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©Photos Olivier Borde

The 2016 Edition

Since its creation in 2008, the Prix Émile Hermès has promoted talented young designers and supported their prospective, early-career projects. For the fourth biannual edition of the prize, the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès has chosen the theme of ‘Play’ as applied to domestic design. More than a recreational activity stimulating the imagination and the senses, play builds character and self-knowledge, and gathers individuals together, illuminating and influencing our relationships with others.

Chaired by designer matali crasset, the jury selected twelve finalists from a total of 762 entries from 62 different countries. The shortlisted entries are the most pertinent responses to the creative, experimental, environmental and social challenge of the competition’s theme and specifications.

The selected entries will be prototyped for the final round of judging. The twelve projects reflect the aspirations of a generation that has grown up in the digital era. Each embodies its author’s individual relationship with technology. Two significant trends emerge: nostalgic, pragmatic projects revisiting archetypal games using tangible objects, natural materials and simple devices, often centred on a collective, creative activity (Trikado, Snail Racing, Vibrato, Your Shelter, Luc, Talu, We do not Play at the Table). And experimental projects that build bridges between technology and the real world, drawing on the potential of mobile phone applications or digital ink, supported by tablet computers or the magic of augmented reality (Clico, Demi-jour, Dorémix, Interactive Wallpaper, Oracle). In each case, experiment and discovery are celebrated as the heart of the experience of ‘Play’. Freedom of choice is a central concern: far from imposing strict rules or ‘punitive’ competitive systems, the shortlisted projects evoke multiple journeys from a specific starting point, with invitations to share, dream, create. A chance for players of all ages and personalities to invent their own scenario.

The Theme

The Prix Émile Hermès has supported innovation and promoted talented young designers whose work will accompany our evolving society and lifestyles.
For the fourth edition of the prize, the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès has chosen a theme reflecting a distinctive, universal activity stimulating our senses and intellect alike: PLAY.
Playing helps us understand and sharpen our imaginative processes. Through it, we experience the delights of political and social interaction, literature or romance. Above all, playing is a source of sophisticated or popular entertainment and simple fun. The history of play is the history of the wealth of experiences and memories they supply. But beyond its importance for society, playing is richly rewarding for the individual, too. Play helps us relate to our surroundings and the era we live in. Play is vital for the cultural and social construction of the self.

Play as a vital activity for personal growth…

Far from attempting a history of play and its function in society from ancient times to the present, our focus here is the relatively recent recognition of its role as a means of self-discovery and individual growth.
From the late 16th century onwards, advances in mathematics and the study of probability brought a significant change of perspective. Liebniz, for example, saw playing as a means to perfect the art of invention, intimately connected with the pleasure experienced by the player. Liebniz’s vision was propounded by the encyclopedists, who exhorted the effectiveness of mathematical games.
The history of play offers a wealth of descriptions of its political, social, literary, poetic or amorous delights, and above all its function as a source of simple fun, or more sophisticated entertainment.
It was not until the 20th century, however, that the fundamentals of playing were analysed in the context of our socialisation and growth as individuals. The work of Jean Château, Célestin Freinet, Jean Piaget or Donald Winnicott, the more anthropologically focused studies of Johan Huizinga and Roger Caillois, the philosophical approach of Jacques Henriot, and British and American research since the mid-1980s (with the advent of video games and digital platforms) have all had a significant impact on our view of the function and practice of play.

Objects, supports, settings…

Playing is a pastime subject to a set of rules. It’s an entertainment with no impact on ‘real’ life, and yet ‘gaming is far from a thing of no gravity or consequence’ – in practice, playing often illustrates the values of an entire culture, and may even contribute to their definition and development.

Candidates are invited to reflect on the following aspects of play in the context of contemporary life and society:
Playing allows us to act freely in a context perceived as fictional and unrelated to everyday life. It takes place in a circumscribed space and time governed by a specific set of rules, whose outcome cannot be predicted. Playing does not lead to material possessions or real wealth.

We may distinguish usefully between the objects used for play, and the structures of the game itself (the rules and schemes followed by the players). Crucially, the tension between the latters’ ‘playful’ attitude and the rules and structures of the game should be understood as one of the formative, foundational aspects of the experience of game-play. The game’s material or virtual components, supports and locations appeal first and foremost to our fictive imagination, as vectors for experiences in which the players are the creative ‘movers and shapers’.

We may surpass ourselves in play. Playing is a fertile, rewarding activity for the senses, the intellect, and our self-esteem.

Reality, engagement, experimentation…

Designers often produce games in their own image, emphasizing play as a creative, experimental force structured by rules. Active participation in playing develops autonomy, the powers of the imagination, observation, manual dexterity and eye-to-hand coordination. Games and toys for adults and children alike are often conceived as alternatives to ‘education and learning’ in the classical, normative sense.
Distrustful of the latter, designer games often endorse the concept of learning by doing / making / playing (Bruno Munari, Enzo Mari, etc.). The Bauspiel Schiff [Alma Buscher, 1923] or the House of Cards [Charles and Ray Eames, 1952] demonstrate a determination to create games designed for open-ended, unpredictable personal growth and discovery. In this context, pseudo-educational projects will be of little interest. Inherently, designer games tend to favour ‘open’ scenarios with a wealth of unexpected possibilities.

Technology – which of course includes digital technology – may have its place here. Entries may seek to question or redefine the very nature of playing, and its supports and settings. Or they may suggest new materials and devices to help us reformulate the contribution game-play makes to our societies and ourselves.

Being together…

Togetherness is a fundamental need in every society, and different cultures have developed their own means to that vital end. Yet playing is notable for its transcultural aspects, and its role as a vector for the discovery of other cultures. Playing contributes to the life of all societies, everywhere in the world. When the physical support or structure of a game enables players to come together as a group, game-play becomes a vector for socialisation and sophistication, even a civilising force.

Playing is an activity with clearly defined aims, expectations and rules, whose implicit qualities and values become explicit over the course of play, even before the outcome of the game is known.

For the fourth edition of the Prix Émile Hermès, the theme of PLAY invites detailed observation of the relationships, postures and gestures experienced by individuals through game-play, and of the social and cultural needs it fulfils. Candidates will focus on the reinvention, adaptation or creation of games, objects, supports, devices or small-scale spatial and architectural responses. Projects will highlight the cross-cultural aspects of play, and its role as a vector for growth and personal enrichment through shared experience. All entries will demonstrate a strong awareness of the need for sustainable production. Whether designed for simple, artisan production or state-of-the-art technological manufacturing, projects will contribute to the reduction of our human footprint on a planet that will soon support some eight billion people.

The jury of the Prix Émile Hermès asks all candidates to address the issue of sustainability in the production and distribution processes they envisage for their project.

matali crasset
Designer, President of the Jury (France)
Chantal Hamaide
Editorial director, Intramuros magazine (France)
Stéphane Correard
Journalist, critic and curator (France)
Pascale Mussard
Vice-president of the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès and artistic director, ‘Petit h’, Hermès (France)
Pierre-Alexis Dumas
Member of the board of the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès and General Artistic Director, Hermès and (France)
Thierry Wendling
Anthropologist, Head of research at the CNRS (France)

The Jury

matali crasset
president of the Jury, interview

An industrial designer by training, matali crasset is one of her generation’s freest creative practitioners, navigating between the real and virtual, artisanship and electronic music, industrial textiles and the fair trade sector. As a scenographer, interior architect and designer of objects, furniture and services, her work continually challenges the established codes underpinning our lifestyles today. ‘Design is part of life, and life is part of design’, she says. For crasset, the idea always comes before the image. Thinking about how a piece will be used invariably precedes thinking about its looks. As such, her work defies conventional typologies. Her columnar bed-pack Quand Jim monte à Paris (‘When Jim comes up to Paris’) marked her public debut in 1995, as an overt statement of her unique perspective on the changing rituals of daily life. In 2000, her modular sofa Permis de construire (‘Building permit’) suggested a children’s play area. For matali crasset, design is always a space for interaction, appropriation, flexibility. A space in which to promote new attitudes and ways of thinking.

How is the concept of play relevant to a design competition?

Designers don’t only think about materialising ideas, they invent devices, too, and identify connecting themes that give coherence to a space or an object. But this aspect of their work is often under-developed and under-appreciated. Play requires a framework, and rules, and as such it can give greater importance to these things. The material form of the game is only one aspect of the project: it’s the result of a complex system of thought. The project has to fit the dynamics of the game, as part of a coherent whole. It has to establish a scenario. Usually, this side of what we do never comes to the fore.

Did the twelve finalists’ projects come as a surprise?

They’re all very different, both from the point of view of scale and typologies. Some strive for clarity and comprehensibility at first sight: these projects are conceived essentially as inputs to stimulate the imagination. Others are located at the frontiers of the real and the immaterial: these are hybrid projects, both concrete and digital. Which is a very childlike thing, because they don’t distinguish between the two, and pass quite naturally from one to the other. Lastly, a third set of projects is wholly digital, and designed to fit into everyday life. There are child-sized projects and others that engage directly with their surrounding space, or explore symbolism or the quest for the perfect object. Each clearly reflects of the values the younger generation of designers is seeking to communicate.

What is the function of play in your own working method?

My work has long been described as ‘playful’, but that’s not something I particularly looked for or asserted at first. Until one day a friend, who’s an anthropologist, explained what ‘playful’ really meant: ‘experimenting with the world around you’. From that perspective, the term really did reflect my working method, because I love projects that generate interaction, or scenarios and attitudes. Play allows us to create utopian worlds, to take our individuality as designers to the limit – something that isn’t often allowed.

What would you define as a good game?

A good game is something that takes us out of everyday life – that offers a moment of escape, a chance to forget how subject we are to the passage of time, or reality. Most of all, I love games that augment our surroundings using next to nothing. Games by Italian designer Bruno Munari are the perfect example. Munari gives us an operating mode that transforms our environment into an activity. I love games that allow us to see the world differently. And I don’t like competitive games, because I prefer to invent my own rules.