05/12/2011 06:05 am ET | Updated Jul 12, 2011

Philippe Starck On Technology And Design

Philippe Starck might be the closest thing to a household name in the design world. From inexpensive consumer goods to boutique hotels, windmills, high-end bathroom products, and even a "spaceport" - the range of his work is varied to say the least. Whether a suburban Target-shopper or a boutique-hopping jetsetter, you've come into contact with his designs in one way or another.

With ICFF just around the corner, Starck's new work is coming to New York: Kartell's flagship showroom will be transformed into a "Magic Garden" featuring the U.S. debut of his Magic Hole series of outdoor furnishings; Duravit's flagship showroom will continue to display the just-launched Sensowash, Starck's new Zartan chair for Magis (booth 1044) will be shown at ICFF; and, based on Salone, one can guess that his 'Marie Coquine Chandelier' for Baccarat (booth #1118) will also be on display at the show.


Magic Hole. Photo courtesy of Kartell.



SensoWash. Photo courtesy of Duravit.


Marie Coquine Chandelier. Photo courtesy of Baccarat.

I had the opportunity to probe him a bit about his work, and his philosophies on design at the Duravit launch party for Starck's Sensowash.

Jacob Slevin: How do you define good design? And how does your own design process vary depending on the product or project you're working on?

Philippe Starck: Design a rocket for Virgin Galactic, a toothbrush, glasses, shoes or underwear, it's exactly the same way to work; it's the same process. You have not to think about the product. You have to think about how a product like that can help people to have a better life. All our products can show a vision, a certain ethic, a certain way, and that's all. So a good product is a political tool or a political weapon. If not, it's not a good product."

Jacob Slevin:The iPhone and modern phones really transformed the mobile phone as we know it. Is there an existing product typology that you think should undergo a similar type of re-design?

Philippe Starck: Redesign is always useless. We are not here to redesign, we are here to invent, which is rare and more difficult. If you think of the iPhone, it's not the physical iPhone that's the invention. The invention is all the virtual system around, all the organization around - iTunes, all the applications, things like that. This is a reinvention, and you have to thank Steve Jobs for that. It's a revision. The product itself is a very, very small part of the invention.

The creativity in science and technology is the masterkey of everything. Every second we learn something new, and every day, there is something interesting learned. The natural evolution of mankind will be Bionism, the main coaltion between humans and materiality. First a product is inspired from our body, and from that you can bring more and more of the product inside our body. You will see in ten years, the computer will be in our body. Bionism is the only way of human production. That needs very high technology, and also a way to understand that it's the way.


Jacob Slevin is the CEO of and the Publisher of 3rings.