Sketch Troop

Surface Magazine

“We’re constantly searching for knowledge,” says Sofia Lagerkvist, one quarter of ascending Swedish design stars Front. “ We begin most of our projects by asking: Why is a particular object made in a particular way? Can we do it differently?” These questions have led to some pretty interesting answers. In the two years since Lagerkvist, Katja Sävström, Charlotte von der Lancken and Anna Lindgren founded Front (the group met at Stockholm’s Konstfack University of Arts, Craft and Design), they have collaborated with animals, put stereos in glass bottles, designed an ever-changing museum interior and, most recently, used hi-tech animation tools to create furniture. “It’s about exploring what the task of a designer really is,” says Lindgren, “How do we make something new?”

Front’s combination of childlike curiosity and vigorous research has made them Sweden’s most talked about new designers. Their work has been praised by everyone from Women’s Wear Daily to Droog Design, who has collaborated with the foursome since last September. Their latest project, which is perhaps their most radical yet, was shown at design.05 during Miami’s Art Basel fair alongside such industry veterans as Ron Arad, Gaetano Pesce and Ettore Sottsas. Front displayed a set of strangely cartoonish-looking furniture that had been created from their latest self-invented design and manufacturing process.  “We like to merge two completely different techniques that have never been combined before,” says Lindgren, “It’s like a meeting of two separate worlds.” The group’s basic inspiration was exploring the relationship between a sketch and a final product. By hooking up motion capture sensors –the technique used to register actors’ movements for animated film characters- to their index fingers, each Front member was able to literally draw their designs in the air. “Normally, you make a two-dimensional sketch, but these were three-dimensional, like you were creating an invisible object,” says Lindgren. An added difficulty was that they couldn’t see what they were drawing. “You have to sketch very quickly so you can remember what you did,” says Lagerkvist.  The sketches were saved in a computer file and brought over to a Finnish factory that specializes in a type of Rapid Prototyping called Selective Laser Sintering, normally used for car manufacturing. The motion capture file was translated by a laser-beam, which slowly built a prototype from a pool of liquid plastic. The material was applied in multiple thin layers, which were hardened by the laser. After approximately four days the real-life product slowly rose out of the liquid, much like a sea monster rearing its head in a horror film. “It was really strange to see the furniture just appear like that,” says Lindgren, “There was definitely a sense of giving birth.” The limited edition furniture collection (a table, chair, lamp and sofa) is available at Barry Friedman Gallery in New York, and the project may be expanded in the future. Front still seem to be slightly in awe of their own invention. “It’s so fascinating to bypass the whole manufacturing process,” says Lagerkvist, “In a sense, the pieces are made by hand, but no one has ever touched them.”