Interview by Anna Bates
Marc de Groot
Marc de Groot is a product designer based in Amsterdam. He will present his Fractal series at the London Design Festival.
Anna Bates: How did the idea for the Fractal series materialise?
MdG: Most of the shapes in my designs are mathematics based. They link to shapes in nature: I try to reconstruct how flowers or ice grows, which is always from one point. This is where the name comes from: a fractal is one shape repeated. I started with a flat metal hexagon as a base and built a shape.
AB: Was it a hands-on, three-dimensional process?
MdG: No, I make classical drawings. There’s not a good computer programme that works for me, so I draw them by hand on the computer – like I’m drawing on paper – so I can be very accurate.
AB: Once your shapes are drawn up, how do you materialise them?
MdG: The flat metal – we use aluminium or brass – is laser-cut and we have a special way of connecting the parts together, which involves only hooking and sliding. This is actually the secret part of the production, so I can’t be too specific, but it’s very precise, almost like making little jewellery hooks. Using this process there are lots of possibilities to create all kinds of different shapes.
AB: So you’ve designed a production process as well as a design collection.
MdG: Yes and at the moment I am just focussing on this specific way of producing. My goal is to make the making process as efficient as possible – it’s not only about making a nice shape, but about building a small business. I’ve been doing city planning, graphic design, interior design – all these things – but for the coming years I’m just going to try to build this brand. I’ve got a small workshop where I school the people who make the products.
AB: How’s the business going so far?
MdG: We’ve grown 30 to 40 per cent over the last five years – so it’s going well. I’m focussing on the hospitality industry.
AB: It sounds like the design process is a bit of a mathematical challenge – do you enjoy this part?
MdG: Yes, it’s a puzzle and it’s also like meditation for me, because it’s a very clear, very pure way of looking at things. I always liked maths, but more in a spatial way.
AB: You mentioned your previous careers in city planning, interior architecture and so on – do you find you’re using the same part of your brain across all these different disciplines?
MdG: I started to do graphic design, where you are working with a grid. By extruding the grid you kind of get the interior of a building. So I started studying architecture and interior design at the Royal College of Art, and then I did a course on environmental design at Design Academy Eindhoven. I think it all comes from the same source, it doesn’t really matter what you do, it’s just how you look at things and how you focus. I’m very interested in structures, and that’s probably the link between architecture and product design.
AB: How much does the light itself influence your designs?
MdG: Very much, I try to design atmospheric lights with a function – I don’t want to see the LED filament itself, but only the effect of the light.
AB: Are there other designers or practitioners who inspire your work?
MdG: I’m inspired by the inventor and engineer Nikola Tesla and the physicist Niels Bohr, so more scientists actually. How things start to be, how they start to exist, or grow – this feeds into my way of working.
Fractal series by Marc de Groot are part of the exhibition Enlightened Design II during the London Design Festival 21-24 September 2017 at The Crypt Gallery, Euston Road, London NW1 2BA. Click here for more information.