Marc Baroud is a designer, with work spanning over various fields. His enthusiasm for new ventures led him to experiment his approach in projects that are seemingly unrelated to design. In his method, the process is designed first, thus turning it into a stand-alone outcome as it takes a form of its own. In 2012, he founded the Design Department at Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts which he directed from 2012 to 2017. He used his same design approach to shift the vision of design education, with new curricula, envisioning design as broader discipline than how it is generally perceived; one for creating aesthetics. As a product designer, his curiosity led him to experiment and challenge various materials, techniques, objects, and scales, working on a large scope of industrial and artisanal products.
Alongside his design studio, Marc Baroud is the general manager of SPE conseil développement édition, that operates in the fields of service, product and spatial design. He is also the creative director of Formidable Microfactory, a startup developing improved performance products, under the brand Generics.
His works have been shown in Beirut, Paris, Milan, Dubai, Miami and Basel.
Can you recall how or why you became a designer?
“How did I become and why, I have no clue, I only know that I have not thought of ever doing anything else. I knew I wanted to do product design after starting interior design, and then I did furniture design then product design. For me it somehow always made sense. Maybe because my father owned a furniture factory and as a kid I spent a lot of time there and I loved the smell, the craftsman working on furniture. And even when I was really young I would somehow see things, small details, those one millimetre differences at the age of 6. So this love for producing things comes from the factory.”
What would you say are your main influences are when conceiving a piece of work, your starting point?
Well my starting point very often is that I need to write down what I am working on. I am only convinced of any idea when I am able to explain it with a few words or sentences. Writing down my ideas goes together with sketching. The process starts to materialise only when I am able to say what I am doing and more importantly why am I doing it. So this is why I guess that it makes the actual process so important because I need to describe it to understand it.
What comes first – the materials or the design idea?
It is not a matter of shape to me; the shape comes into being as a result of the process and the materials.
What designers have influenced you over the years? Is there a particular time period that you draw from?
In terms of theoretical currents I am a very big fan of the Radical Design Italian Movement. Especially Gaetano Pesce and Andrea Branzi. They were so ahead of their time. Already in the 80s they where talking about the postmodern era and the post-industrial era. They propagated customization and that the standard product or a single module to fit all is no longer interesting. However as a single designer I must say Jean Prouvé.
What trends are you seeing in contemporary Lebanese design?
We have a very specific environment for design in Lebanon. This is why an opportunity for design somehow emerged, because we still have prevalent know-how on various materials and local craftsmen. Also being in a context where somehow we never had public service or government provision, people always counted on themselves to solve problems. So this culture of doing things yourself is very present in our social context becoming almost a culture. And design for me is on the crossroads of practice and culture.
What would you say your values and ethics are when it comes to designing?
I work with a variety of people in production, and when I approach a craftsman with a sketch it is a mutual dialogue; yes there are times when I need to be stubborn when I see ways we can improve certain aspects, but I always have an inclusive relationship during my process.
What are the three inspiring materials that you hope to work with in the future?
Glass. With glass you have to be a chemist in order to truly challenge the material. It is a material that is very difficult to grasp, unless you know the chemistry. Experience is not enough to push the material to new fields and directions; so I am constantly on the look out for the right artisans.
Explain what makes “Leatherscapes” unique? The challenges in production?
First it’s the material itself, for me it is the best leather that I worked with. I maintained the original shape, without cutting or removing parts. This makes it very different from working with materials such as wood or steel. The rawness of the aesthetic makes it very distinctive. In terms of production there are many nuances as you work with craftsman who although very good are not machines. For example depending on weather or temperature outside, when you boil the leather and then you mould it, if it dries too fast there is a problem or if it doesn’t dry fast enough the formation of moisture ruins the surface. External factors play a major role.
What is the best advice you can give to an aspiring designer?
The advice I would like to give to an aspiring designer is to be curious. It is somehow cliché, but by curious I don’t mean to look at the market or other similar objects. Is studying the relationships between people and objects, the experiences and gestures that come into play within these interactions. Then imagining how and by whom these pieces will be used. That is why for me design is really about objects you use and not objects that you just look at.