Of course, Tobias FrÃ¤nzel thinks design is fun. After all, he played a lot of ping-pong while minding his booth at SaloneSatellite in Milan. He couldn’t help it; he was there to show off his Ping Pong Door. There was less opportunity for him to use the Seiza Meditation Stool to get away from it all, as he was always challenging passers-by to games. He claims, “I’m like a truffle pig searching for […] ideas and […] I love it when people smile when they see products that I’ve made.” What great energy.
Ping Pong Door – closed
The concepts behind your work run the gamut from play (Ping Pong Door) to work (VarioRackk) to relax (Seiza). Which area do you think needs most of our attention these days? How do you respond to these needs?
All of them are very important since their interplay makes life fulfilling! At this point in time, my work responds to just a section of things people can do … think about pure human interaction, sex, charity, boredom, tolerance …
The main question is, how good is the quality of activities and products in terms of reacting to human needs and how honest are they towards their users? I believe that watching TV is not relaxing, playing Nintendo is no real game and communicating via Facebook is not a satisfying way to converse… to me, they are just a few examples of pretty ugly cash cows and they are misanthropic! It’s like eating at McDonalds for nutrition! I’m not satisfied with the current situation, so I’m changing it according to my personal needs and -coincidentally- reaching more people than just myself.
Design can solve problems and it may have the potential to trigger new behavior, change realities in a small scale, and make life a little more intense.
Ping Pong Door – open
Your wallpaper features line drawings of a wide assortment of icons. How did you make your selections?
I grabbed just about “anyone” that crossed my path while combing through Google picture search. It was a rather democratic or random procedure. Everyone was welcome, no matter how trivial, ugly, childish, pornographic, heroic, sick, beautiful… at the end I was looking at a huge crowd that was completely mixed, and they got along with each other pretty well.
What was the reaction in Milan to your work?
It was awesome; people were applauding; some called me the “new Leonardo da Vinci,” so I was blushing every now and then. Just one American guy said: “This [PingPong Door] is the coolest idea because it’s the most stupid idea – in a positive way!”… I didn’t really get it.
Unfortunately, there were only few industry people who showed up. But we’ll get the products out anyway.
Seiza Meditation Stool
Where and on what will you focus next?
My website! I hate these things, they eat up so much time because I’m not strong in the field of typo, graphics and presentation … but I’ve already started to work on a new functional product and I can’t wait to test it out!
I’ve also recently launched my own design company in Berlin, together with two experts: one is an experienced salesman with good contacts in the industry, and the other one is a great product developer. As a team, we are going to get one product after another on the market, and I can still focus on my design!
Portrait by Claudia Neuhaus. Product photos by Marcel Koehler.