Philippe Starck is a name that became a brand. From the habitation module on the new international space station to Steve Jobs’ yacht, Philippe Starck’s list of achievements speaks volumes. I interviewed one of most emblematic figures of design in the Peninsula’s bar Felix in Hong Kong–a bar that he designed, of course.
Philippe Branche: How do you see the future of design?
Philippe Starck: I don’t see one. Everything comes to life, lives and dies. The design does not deviate from this universal scheme. The modern design was created in the 1950s, with Loewy, and will end in twenty years. To give a simple definition, I would say that design is primarily a cosmetic DIY. And I believe that it will disappear because of a growing dematerialization of our way of life. Less matter simply means fewer objects to embellish. Design, whose primary purpose is to make the surrounding objects pleasant, should disappear within 20 years.
Nevertheless, I recently became interested in the future of the future, namely space. I worked on the next international space station in collaboration with Axiom, which among others may succeed NASA for the development of space tourism. I can say with some pride that the commander of the space station with whom I worked explained to me that I had intuitively found many solutions to long-standing problems. Even if traditional design will change profoundly in the years to come, I still have numerous projects to realize.
What role does artificial intelligence have in tomorrow’s design?
Artificial intelligence will be everywhere. It is also the only tool that will restore the world. The earth is like a mad boat burning on one side and sinking on the other. It seems that AI is necessary to save our humanity.
Regarding its impact on the design world, I already used AI in cooperation with Autodesk to design a chair. The issue was answering one simple question: How to help my body rest with a minimum of material and energy? For two and a half years, the AI did deep learning. The conceptualization of an object as simple as a chair is paradoxically very complicated. But finally, artificial intelligence managed to produce a more efficient chair than me, using less materials and giving me with more energy. In any human production, there is more good than bad, and I totally believe in the positive role of science.
However, the future of design is not just about using new technologies. It also relies on new places of creation and original sources of inspiration. But today, the world is turning more and more towards Asia, especially China. China has become a normative figure for many Western brands, especially in the luxury sector. But is this also the case for the design? Imagine for a moment Philippe Starck as a Chinese character: 灵 (ling) (靈 in traditional character), a component of the word inspiration 灵感.
This character is composed in the lower part of shamans 巫 praying for rain 霝. Isn’t Philippe Starck a prophet of design whose genius comes from the sky? Two Chinese questions for the iconic French designer.
Who are your muses? And how does China inspire you?
I do not have muses. China is no exception. Nevertheless, I have a vice, I am a sapiosexual: intelligence fascinates me. Einstein, Ptolemy, Pascal, Plato, Descartes or Victor Hugo are for me absolute masters. In China, I admire a very deep sense of emptiness and synthesis.
Do you often work with China?
I work mainly with China when I am invited to do so. These are always very interesting adventures, as with Xiaomi, which is still a very young company, managed in a non-traditional way. Faced with a rather linear structure of reasoning in the West, the Chinese system of thought is atomized. I collaborated with Chinese company Xiaomi on the design of the mid-MIX 2S phone. This type of work is always captivating to better understand these cultural differences.
If Philippe Starck is invariably turned toward the design of tomorrow’s objects and to lands of future like China, he is also interested in future generations of designers. For young designers like Karl Chucri, cofounder of the award winning Studio Caramel “Philippe Starck is undeniably a master of thought for our entire generation.” Finally, a series of questions to sketch what we could call the Starck’s Thought.
Design, is it functional or aesthetic?
It’s only functional. The object is aesthetic only to the extent that it initially responded to its ergonomic demand. There are many parameters with which one can play: sexuality, politics, humor or education. Design only helps to illuminate functionality.
How many projects do you manage per year?
An average of 200 projects.
Which current project is particularly significant to you?
Today, I am passionate about my perfume collection Starck Paris. I am a professional dreamer. With a drop, a milligram of perfumed liquid, one can create an ephemeral universe, a passing dream. For a time, a woman can be wrapped in a real crystal ball, which will protect her or give her more confidence. It’s something extraordinary.
What is human nature according to you?
The human is only evolution. The human is only speed. We exist only because we transform ourselves. I tried to make my fragrance Peau d’Ailleurs the mirror of this evolution, especially on the question of gender identity. The purely masculine man and the simply feminine woman no longer correspond to these fixed boxes. And this fragrance without gender allows me to approach the fluid nature of gender identity.
To conclude, how does one become Philippe Starck?
One cannot become Philippe Starck. One must already be slightly Asperger—which causes a certain incompatibility with society. For example, I have a strong interest in science, but I cannot solve division or multiplication formulas. But I’m trying to create a better society for my friends, my family and my community.
Article from Philippe Branche