The four members of Front Design, Anna Lindgren, Katja Pettersson, Sofia Lagerkvist, and Charlotte von der Lancken, design objects, furniture and interiors that explore the process of making and question the conventional role of the designer. The “Design by” series, exhibited in Milan in 2004, marked the beginning of this self-referential study. Rather than presiding over the formal process as ‘creator’, Front illustrates an impersonal approach to design, in which random factors intervene to determine formal results. Their “Design by Rats” wallpaper, for example, is determined by the amorphic shapes and voids left on a roll of plain white paper that was gnawed by rats. When this new, white wallpaper is applied on top of old wallpaper or a colored wall, it is the series of voids that produces the pattern, revealing old motifs and colors through the holes.
In 2005, Front Design conceived of their groundbreaking digital furniture series Sketch, where designs are recorded by motion-capture technology that digitally records the movements of an electronic “pen” onto a three-dimensional file. These drawings are materialized through a process called laser sintering, whereby a laser beams ultraviolet light into a bath of liquid plastic, mimicking the artists’ motion and solidifying the plastic in the path of the beam. Front’s adaptation of this technology serves to eliminate the conventional design processes of “making” and the resulting body of work transformed ideas into objects in just one step.
“[Sketch Furniture] was recognized as a bellwether: the simple promise of drawing a few lines in space, and having them fully materialized in three dimensions, without any further human intervention, only the operations of code working itself through to conclusion. The objects felt like a seductive foretaste of things to come. We haven’t quite reached the ease of production this scenario implies, but every year gets us a little closer, thanks to the continual development of rapid prototyping technology. Meanwhile, Sketch itself has become a classic of sorts – one of the first really persuasive aesthetic implementations of digital tooling,” states Glenn Adamson.
Examples from this series are in the permanent collections of museums such as Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montreal, Canada; M+, West Kowloon, Hong Kong; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Rohsska Museum of Design and Applied Art, Gothenburg, Sweden, and Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany.