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Form Us With Love founders, John and Jonas
16th October 2017

Prototypa: Q&A with Form Us With Love

“The first edition of Prototypa was held in our studio in Stockholm,” says Form us with Love co-founder Jonas Pettersson. “We called it Breakfast Talks and we ate porridge and drank coffee.”  

Prototypa has come a long way since the coffee and porridge of Breakfast Talks. The forum has since popped up in Milan and London, the latter comprising seven days of discussions, workshops and exhibitions at Somerset House.

Prototypa is an experimental forum founded by Swedish design studio Form Us With Love. The event is designed to shift emphasis away from the finished project and instead highlight the importance of prototyping. “Prototypa is an articulation of where design is heading, involving chance, accidents and intuition as well as, quality control, systems and methods of future advancement.” Although each event has a host – typically a studio of creative force – members of public are encouraged to play an equally active part in the discussion.

The unpredictable and democratic nature of Prototypa means that in order to fully get what the forum is about, you really need to experience it for yourself. Luckily, Zetteler Films were there, camera in hand documenting the London exhibition for those who did, and didn't get to the exhibition. 

We caught up with Jonas on his aspirations for the event...

Take us back to the beginning, how did the concept for Prototypa come about?

Prototyping has always been one of the key stages in our design process. We have long dreamt of starting a prototyping centre in Stockholm, where all kind of creatives can gather to prototype while exchanging knowledge and experiences. This remains our goal and, as part of the journey, Prototypa took the format that you saw in London during the city’s design festival. The first ever Prototypa took place in Stockholm in February 2017.

The latest project by Zetteler films for Form Us With Love

Prototypa is an articulation of where design is heading. Can you elaborate on this?

A prototype is the first visualisation of an idea, it’s an object that is still in its testing phase. At Prototypa, designers, engineers and architects who have worked on an idea come together to share their thoughts around it and where they see it heading. Each prototype is the trigger for a discussion about design, our society, the design industry and its future.

Why is prototyping so key to the future of design?

Technology is evolving fast. Nowadays you could almost think that everything is possible. A fast rough prototype at the beginning of the design process can help define the direction of the project, level down expectations and better align the product’s functionality and its manufacturing process. We prototype with our hands, but we also believe in a more advanced prototyping techniques which may involve virtual reality tools. We’re currently exploring how to take it further...

Prototypa, London 2017. Photography by Dan Weill.

Is Prototypa a response to current manufacturing processes? Do you think there is too little emphasis on prototyping?

Prototypa is not necessarily a response to current manufacturing processes. In many senses, prototyping is a way of communication. One can only prototype for themselves as a means to validate an idea. For us, prototyping is also a way of communicating internally; in our team meetings, with our clients and with manufacturers. Once there’s an idea floating in the air, we quickly create a prototype. For us, Prototypa has become an open forum where everyone can communicate through prototypes. Once a prototype has been made it represents various knowledge, opinions and a cluster of thoughts. It is a powerful communication tool.

Prototypa London followed two previous iterations of the event, one in Stockholm and one in Milan. How has the event evolved since its first edition?

The first edition was held in our studio in Stockholm. We called it Breakfast Talks and we ate porridge and drunk coffee. Shane Shneck, the founder of Office for Design, and Big Game were invited as guests and Lia Forslund asked questions. The 25 members of the public that attended were involved in the conversation. It became an open dialogue around the table where everyone revealed intimate thoughts and process stories triggered by prototypes. We were excited about growing the concept and when Visit Sweden contacted about staging an event in Milan, we instantly thought of a second round of Prototypa.

The Chief Designer of Scania (a Swedish automotive manufacturer), two alumni students from Beckman’s School of Design, architecture practice Wingårdh, and designer Clara von Zweigbergk were participants. The event was a big step. It was a success and suddenly Prototypa became a platform where leading figures of the creative and industrial design scene in Sweden openly shared their work behind the curtain. Prototypa took place in London a few months later and we are already planning Prototypa Toronto in November, as part of IIDEX Canada 2017.

Prototypa, London 2017

How was Prototypa London? Any particular highlights?

One particular highlight was on the Tuesday evening. Both Teenage Engineering and Veryday were simultaneously using the centre table and to have the guys from Teenage create music live in Prototypa amongst Veryday’s industrial design work was completely unexpected and spontaneous. It really spoke of what we are doing with Prototypa: it is a hub. In this instance two creative entities both located in Stockholm were having a dialogue together and, to be honest, before Prototypa this rarely, if ever, happened between Stockholm-based design practices.

There’s a certain unpredictability involved in Prototypa discussions – you never quite know who will turn up and where the discussion will lead. What’s your experience of this, is it thrilling, challenging or somewhere in between?

We are the first ones to be curious about where the discussions will lead! It is definitely a challenge to understand the work and history of our participants and put the right questions on the table. Lia Forslund has done an amazing job with this, always generating room for everyone’s thoughts and taking them to the most fascinating levels.

How do you decide which practitioners to host Prototypa events? The lineup for London was notably diverse: one day it was an electronics brand, the next it was students…

Prototyping is a tool that any kind of creative process needs in order to achieve a successful solution. The broader we get in terms of practice, the more interesting it becomes. Designers have a lot to learn from each other's practices as well as from other designers. There isn’t a proper way to prototype, there are infinite ways of expressing the idea of a chair, for example, and it grows exponentially when we add electronics, artworks, buildings, services etc.

Prototypa, London 2017

It is relatively early days for Prototypa, what’s the eventual vision? Do you plan to continue with the current format?

Yes, we do. Prototypa will grow and become its own entity. We will keep inviting people to talk openly around the table, but we won’t discard investigating new formats. Starting a prototyping centre is still in our minds, amongst other things.

Prototypa relies on collaboration and an openness to varying approaches and viewpoints. Why is discussion and the sharing of information and views such a powerful tool when it comes to design?

By sharing the design process and making it public and understandable we put design on a democratic level. We create a platform for everyone to talk and share. We hope that through an open discussion, all the parties involved in the generation of a product will have a better connection and a better context to create real change.

What difference can Prototypa make to the design industry at large?

As above, we hope Prototypa provides the right context for discussion, to stimulate great minds and connect them, in order to design real change for the world we live in.

Discover more from Form Us With Love.

The whole Form Us With Love team
Prototypa, London 2017
Prototypa, London 2017. Photography by Dan Weill.
Exterior of Prototypa exhibition at Somerset House this September

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