Designer interview: Daphna Laurens

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In this interview series, we will enter into a dialogue with the designers we work with. How do they perceive the design profession? Where do their motivations and fascinations come from? How did the products originate that can now be found in the Vij5 collection and what influence has their education had on what their design studio looks like now?

In this blog we visit Daphna Laurens (Daphna Isaacs Burggraaf and Laurens Manders), who bring together applied and visual art with the aim to transform everyday products into objects with their own identity, working from their studio in Eindhoven.

Text: Anieke Branderhorst & Daphna Laurens
Photography on location: Blickfanger
Portrait photography: Mike Roelofs
Product photography: Vij5 + Daphna Laurens

The collaboration between Daphna and Laurens is essential: without Daphna there would be no Laurens, and perhaps also vice versa... It feels as if their drive to create is anchored in their genes. What's more, creating simply gives them satisfaction!

Daphna Laurens: 'Our collaboration is a team effort in which it is not always clear, and as far as we are concerned also not important, who exactly 'invented' or 'designed' what. Each assignment or 'briefing' requires a specific approach.'

"If at the end of the journey, a design is not embraced by one of us, the chance that it will be fulfilled is very small."

Daphna Laurens

Arjan & Anieke: 'How do your products come about?'

Daphna Laurens: 'Material can be a starting point, production techniques or the requested function can be leading. If the assignment allows, we try to find ways to surprise ourselves (or each other). This sometimes succeeds by 'playing' with shapes or by 'copying' each other when we work on a project. By doing this, and sometimes by completely 'misinterpreting' the other person's sketches, we come up with ideas or paths that we probably wouldn't have taken individually. You could say that the process has few 'rules', but both namesakes of our design studio have to agree on the end result. If at the end of the journey, a design is not embraced by one of us, the chance that it will be fulfilled is very small.'

Arjan & Anieke: 'What do you think is the essence of product design?'

Daphna Laurens: 'The answer to this question is, like many things in life, subject to change. Whereas ten years ago scarcity of raw materials and circularity were hardly discussed on the big stage, nowadays they are an integral part of our profession. This is one of the things that influence the answer to this question. For example, we are now working on a project where the inside (construction of the product) is at least as important as the outside (appearance).'

The design of the Long Shade, which is part of the Vij5 collection, is a good illustration of how Daphna Laurens anticipated a transition that was/is taking place in the world of lighting. You could say that this product arose from a certain spirit of the times.

Daphna Laurens: 'The Long Shade is a 'long' lamp, born from our desire to add an LED lamp to the Vij5 collection. However, our intention was not to design a fixture in which an LED light source could be mounted in the place of the 'light bulb'. Instead, we wanted to create a design that would take advantage of the new possibilities and incorporate the dimensions and technical characteristics of LED into our design. To illustrate this 'transition' we extruded the silhouette of a traditional 'lampshade', and that actually became the basis for the design of the Long Shade.'

'We technically developed the Long Shade entirely in collaboration with Arjan and Anieke. We always made choices and adjustments together.'

Arjan & Anieke: 'What do you hope your work will bring other people?'

Daphna Laurens: 'If our process ultimately leads us to a form of a product, it is less relevant to us that the user can also trace this process back. So we don't feel the need to tell a story with a design. One of the criteria for ourselves is that it should make us 'happy'. This can be because of the beautiful shape of a product, or because it performs great regarding its intended functionality. If this is the case, hopefully this will also be what we 'bring' to the user.'

The LookShelf, also part of the Vij5 collection, is a good example of a product in which 'the requested function' was the starting point for the design. A function that Daphna & Laurens initially needed themselves because it arose from their own observation:

Daphna Laurens: 'Looking at all the, mostly, art books in our closet it suddenly struck me that they were all closed. Which could be described as strange or unfortunate, given that the books are brimming with beautiful prints and/or photos. As we often do when designing an exhibition, we have positioned ourselves when designing the LookShelf to be very 'subservient'. This with the aim that what is supported by the LookShelf (the books) receive as much attention as possible while the product itself excels in its functionality.'

'We think that what the LookShelf and the Long Shade have in common with the other products in the Vij5 collection is that they are, in the positive sense of the word, fairly 'everyday' and 'modest'. And therefore can be used in a wide range of interiors (project-based or domestic).'

Daphna and Laurens graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven in 2006 and 2008 respectively, but they both took their courses in different directions.

Daphna studied 'Man and Wellbeing' where emotion, the relationship between man and object, philosophy and tactility played a clear role. Laurens studied in the direction 'Man and Communication' where 'the art' of communication in the broadest sense of the word was investigated. Their fascination for the relationship between man and object, product and space originated here.

Arjan & Anieke: 'What do you really remember from your education?'

Daphna & Laurens: 'Naturally, it differs from person to person what the most important lessons are that you learn after following a course. In addition to design skills such as feeling for shape, proportions, colour, context, et cetera, there are also less 'identifiable' things that you learn, such as confidence in yourself, perseverance, stepping outside your comfort zone and free-thinking.'

Arjan & Anieke: 'Which (life) lesson would you like to pass on to the next generation?'

Daphna Laurens: 'Dare to make mistakes, try things out! And keep going!'

"We would love to design and build a complete house, both exterior and interior."

Daphna Laurens

Arjan & Anieke: 'Why and when did you start your own design studio?'

Daphna Laurens: 'After we both finished our studies and successfully completed a number of assignments, it was clear to us that we were stronger together and could come up with better designs. It started with exhibition design (and execution) but was soon complemented by product design. Over the past years, our admiration for 'good' serial (industrial) production has grown and we have also found more and more connections and assignments from that sector.'

Arjan & Anieke: 'To conclude a few short questions: what is on your to-do list, for example?'

Daphna Laurens: 'We would love to design and execute a complete house, both exterior and interior. It is not necessary that this is for ourselves.'

Arjan & Anieke: 'Is there a product by another designer that you would like to have come up with and why?'

Daphna Laurens: 'Form and function come together very nicely in some of Pierre Paulin's pieces! The Bouroullec brothers from France often 'suffer' from this as well.'

Arjan & Anieke: 'What do you dream of?'

Daphna Laurens: 'Sleeping! (2 small children 😉 )'

Products of
Daphna Laurens
in the
Vij5 collection