Toan Nguyen

Born in Paris in 1969, Toan Nguyen is a French industrial designer. Currently living in Milan, his studio is focused on all aspects of design, from product development to art direction, in partnership with leading international companies based in Europe, North America and Asia. His recent works include products made for Dedon, Laufen, Fendi Casa, Coalesse, Studio TK, Vibia, Viccarbe, Walter Knoll, Lema, Busnelli amongst others.

FAE: What inspired you to become a designer?

Toan Nguyen : I think it all began when I was a kid. I loved drawing a lot and, while trying to say that I wanted to be a “dessinateur” – illustrator in French, I always misspelled to “dessineur” which actually sounds like “designer”. Call me revisionist but I think that was the beginning of my vocation as a designer.

Growing up, I attended a one of a kind school: ENSCI, still today the only one in France dedicated exclusively to industrial design. The school, also called “Les Ateliers” – workshops in English, gave me the opportunity to experiment many different fields from craftsmen handwork to photography, video and so on.

FAE: From furniture collections to sanitary ware, you have designed them all. What do you enjoy working on the most?

Toan Nguyen : I enjoy almost equally working in all fields, with all kinds of material and for all types of market. Actually, what I most enjoy is working on a different theme every new day.

I also don’t really feel I already faced all the possible fields, so I am still very excited when new opportunities come out.

FAE: What does awards and accolades mean to you?

Toan Nguyen : It is always nice that our works is appreciated and awarded by recognized design professionals, but it is also important to keep the feet firmly on the ground and not to lose sight of the main purposes.

FAE: Tell us more about the Bellows collection.

Toan Nguyen : The Bellows collection is practically the first result of my own office.
Walter Knoll asked me to design an iconic complement. Bellows has been designed with the intention to give another interpretation of upholstery. The Bellows stool and side table have no foam core and a loose leather or fabric cover. Everything is about softness and casual nature. The height adjustment mechanism is invisible but at the same time gives to the stool and the side table a different and natural shape at each position, such as an over the knee boot in soft leather reshaping when the knee is bent.

FAE: You have a long-standing collaboration with Laufen. Tell us about this association.

Toan Nguyen : I started my collaboration with Laufen on a very unusual project: a urinal. For sure, it was not at first glance the “dream project” for a designer but at the end it was a very interesting challenge to focus on a disregarded product category. The result, Antero earned the status of design object winning a Red Dot award in 2012. Then, my relationship with Laufen became continuous.

FAE: What can you say about the INO collection for Laufen?

Toan Nguyen : INO started simply as a project to exemplify the incredible innovation of a new Laufen patent that they named SaphirKeramik, a process allowing very thin thickness together with a great resistance and an incomparable precision.
It is not every day that we get a design project with such innovative material. It’s easy to quote Mies van der Rohe’s ‘Less is more’ but at the end only few projects truly illustrate it. ‘Ino’ is one of these, the culmination of a reduction in every sense from the volume and the dimensions to the unnecessary aesthetic gestures.

FAE: You keep experimenting with different types of materials. How important is this for you?

Toan Nguyen :Essential. Processes and materials are on the top of my priorities. Since I am not a chemist, I always have in mind the possible application of any material, with a long tradition or brand new, on an industrial product.

FAE: Share some details about your Algorithm lighting collection.

Toan Nguyen : Algorithm consists of endless compositions of light globes suspended at different heights from a ceiling anchor of tubular metal mesh.

With Algorithm, the intention was not to design a completely defined and “finished” product, but a tool which allows any customer to create his own lighting system, in relation with the architecture space, the area to light and the desired kind of “graphic pattern”.

Algorithm is also a physical object; each lighting source is the combination of the advanced technology of a dimmable led diffused and the value of a transparent knurling blow glass diffusor.

FAE: You introduced the Dual Lounge seating collection this year. Tell us in brief about that.

Toan Nguyen : The Dual Lounge is the fruit of a balanced combination of several character traits apparently in opposition. Its monolithic and organic shape is divided in two by a clear-cut line: the upper part is enveloping and dedicated to the user comfort, while the base is a subtle counterpoint of balance, tension and transparency. The low-back version stimulates a dynamic attitude and a collaborative discourse whereas the high back incites rest and relaxation.

FAE: With 2017 coming to end, planning for next year’s projects must be underway. What can we expect to see from you at imm Cologne in January?

Toan Nguyen : Regarding the projects in development, I have one rule: never disclosing them before their launch. The design process is most of the time an obstacle course and I always try to safeguard each step until the project becomes a product.

FAE: Designing has become a popular choice among students now. What would be your message to the emerging designers?

Toan Nguyen : One advice that I can give to young people is to always try to follow their passion and what they are studying for. In the case of design this won’t be easy at all due to the high competition and the very few significant opportunities. This means that they will have to work a lot, don’t give up but keep strength for a while.

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