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Interview Tomás Alonso on Pure Talents Contest 2024

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Tomás Alonso's studio works in the fields of furniture, product, lighting, interior and exhibition design. In an interview, he explains how courageous he thinks the next generation of designers is.

Tomás Alonso, photo: Guido Schiefer

Tomás, you were part of the international jury that assessed over 1,000 submissions for the Pure Talents Contest. What topics are young designers currently working on?

First of all, I was impressed by the sheer number of participants! It was a bit overwhelming, but also very exciting! It was particularly nice to see that most designs - and not just in the relevant category - prioritised sustainability aspects very highly. That's a good development. Personally, I think that all projects today should be developed according to sustainability criteria without having to emphasise this.

And which approaches were favoured?

Design, and young designers in particular, are currently working and experimenting a lot with new materials. The competition reflected this very strongly with many entries looking for new materials - and some with success.

How bold is the next generation of designers?

There is still a lot of experimental work that wants to try something new rather than catering for conventional typologies. On the other hand, the market is currently demanding almost exclusively pragmatic solutions. In my teaching work and in the competition entries, I have noticed that many young designers also take a very pragmatic view on this. They are looking for realistic solutions for marketable products more than embarking on adventures.

And what kind of experimental work has been in the current Pure Talents Contest, for example on the topic of sustainability?

In the Spaces category, one of the entries investigated ways of reducing architectural waste - an interesting approach to the circular economy. But other current problem areas were also addressed. Young designers are very aware of their environment, of reality and how it is changing, and their own role in it - that is good to see. The world is constantly changing. You don't always have to judge it negatively, but you have to deal with it. As designers, we need to be aware of the changes and perhaps even anticipate them in order to develop solutions for these new realities. Projects such as the Pure Talents Contest, which do not necessarily have to lead to the development of a purpose-built product, offer the freedom and opportunity to deal with such tasks. And this is gladly accepted.

What was your own experience of the imm cologne's young talent competition, which was still called D3 Design Talents in 2009?

I have very fond memories of Cologne. Professionally, it was the starting point for my career. I took part in a group exhibition here back in 2008, and in 2009 I took part in the D3 Contest with all the media interest, including the Mr Light series, which I took to the galleries. It was already a good platform for many young designers back then - such as Mathias Hahn or Shay and Yael, who founded Raw Edges - which brought us a lot of attention and helped us at the beginning of our careers. Taking part in the contest is an opportunity to look at your work from other perspectives, get in touch with the industry and even make friends.

What general developments do you see in interior design and the way we live?

On the positive side, there is still a great deal of interest in honest materials - materials that don't pretend to be anything other than what they are - and that natural materials make up a large part of this. What I find problematic, however, is the development that many products, spaces and brand images are now primarily made to get a good photo that can be successfully communicated via social media and digital platforms. This is becoming increasingly prevalent because the dependency on the one image is simply too great. As a designer, you quickly feel uncomfortable because we want to make products for people that offer good usability. And not things that just look good.

Does this affect the way we furnish our homes, the way we travel or shop?

This is the direction in which everything is moving. Most people will never be able to have the experience promised by the image anyway because it is geographically or financially out of their reach. Therefore, the image cannot be verified and remains abstract and idealised. This is probably typical for our new reality: we have many experiences only digitally. But hopefully this also has positive aspects that need to be discovered.