Design freedom

We were working on the signalitique at the offices of the Centre Pompidou. On one particular Sunday, we wanted to finish something that had to be at the printers on Monday morning, while the offices at the Centre Pompidou were closed on Sundays. So Elein Fleiss, one of the curators of the exhibition, kindly offered that we could work at her house. However, she only had one computer – so we had to take shifts at her computer, working in turns. We were basically standing around the chair, while one of us was seated behind the computer, working on a document. Then, after 20 minutes (or so), another one of us would take over, and continued working on that same document. Twenty minutes after that, the third one would have a go at the document, etc. etc. So each of us would take 20-minute shifts behind the computer, throughout the whole day, in a continuous cycle, refining the document more and more, until we felt it was ready. It was actually quite a good system, and we joked to Elein that we should always work like this, sticking to one computer.

Years later, we met a Japanese girl, who asked us whether it was true that we only had one computer; apparently, Elein once told her the anecdote about us working in turns behind one computer, and the girl assumed we always worked like that. We told her this wasn't exactly the case – but in retrospect, we should have kept the myth intact. In a way, it is actually very close to the way we work – working on one project with the three of us, taking turns at it and refining it, until all three of us feel it's ready.

We don’t really study theory, in a rigid, academic fashion – we truly live it, by applying it directly to our work.

This may sound absurd, but we really regard all our projects as 'self-initiated', whether these projects involve clients or not. The way we see it – the moment we consciously make a choice to involve ourselves in a project (for example, by saying 'yes' to an assignment), we are in fact initiating it. That makes everything that we do 'self-initiated'. We see none of our work as 'free', in the sense that we really don’t believe that there is such a thing as a project that's completely free of restrictions, free of limitations, free of specifications. There is always a given context to respond to, a series of parameters to work with, a set of circumstances to react to. This set of circumstances might include a client or not – but in the bigger picture, that's not even that important.

So while we see none of our projects as 'free', we do see our own role within these assignments as 'free'; in the sense that, even within the most limited circumstances, we always have a certain freedom of choice. In fact, we know that we always have a freedom to quit the assignment (which is one of the most re-assuring securities that you have, as a designer). Sure, quitting an assignment automatically means a loss of income – but ultimately, we do have that choice (however hard that choice might be).

Experimental Jetset, in Collective Magazine