Ladies & Gentlemen Studio’s appearance in the product design sphere is like a burst of freshness. Since its inception in 2010 by real-life couple Dylan Davis and Jean Lee, the bi-coastal (Seattle and Brooklyn) design studio has introduced works that resonate with an exuberance, optimism and playfulness defined by pure graphical shapes, basic materiality and lightness in spirit and tone. Brass, copper, glass are favoured materials that are celebrated in their absolute purity.
At the same time, the execution is sophisticated and thoughtful. The name of the studio itself reflects the team’s penchant for delight, romance and wit. The objects they have designed range from furniture to wind chimes (how beat!) and jewellery that you can buy off their website. We have a chat with the couple, who are also collaborators for the Furnishing Utopia project, of whom we have also interviewed designer Gabriel Tan about.
First thing – the name of the studio! What’s the idea/story behind this curiously appealing name?
When we came up with the name, we wanted a name that is both nostalgic and classic that can represent both of us without us having to use our own names. We also wanted a name that was opened-ended, allowing us the freedom for the studio to evolve.
And also, the meaning behind the graphic of your studio’s name.
Generally speaking, the graphic for our studio is to keep it clean, simple and minimal.
There is a very strong geometric focus in your aesthetic. For example, the ‘Shape Up’ pendant for Roll & Hill, your Ovis sling chairs and your wind chimes that has become quite emblematic of your work. We also love the childlike delight that you bring to your products, in terms of both idea and design, the way you have interpreted ubiquitous, recognisable objects, giving them a unique identity. Can you tell us about this obsession/direction?
Much of our work stems from looking at the purity of forms or materiality. So naturally, our work lends itself to geometric shapes as they represent the basic essence of all forms and are universal. Maintaining an element of playfulness is critical to us enjoying our work and critical to relating with the outside world. We want people to see design with the same wonderment that we do. As what we do has morphed over time; the spirit of ‘play’ and ‘exploration’ of our work has always played a role.
Your designs for the ‘Furnishing Utopia’ project combine a good dose of austerity and joy. What led you to choosing these typologies to revise?
We were invited by our good friends from Studio Gorm to be be part of Furnishing Utopia. The intent of the project is to study the American Shaker heritage and reinterpret to the modern context. We spent about a week doing a workshop at one of the Shaker Museum in Massachusetts and learned much of their history, philosophy, craft, and minimalist aesthetics. Outside of what they’re typically known for, we were delightfully surprised to see the playful use of colors and forms throughout the village. We were inspired by many of the colors they use and the philosophy of keeping things tidy.
You have named Enzo Mari as a great influence. Can you share with us some of his designs that you particularly are drawn to and why?
It’s hard to pick just one item and it’s really his general spirit that we find most endearing. The Autoprogettazione series is one we’ve always found extra compelling because it speaks to a purity and democracy of design that helped to redefine what the discipline can be.
Tell us about your childhood. What was it like? Were there any particular influences/experiences that led to your careers in the creative field?
Jean: I was always really into art when I was young and took as many art and science classes as possible. The combination of the two tapped into both sides of my brain as well as fuelled my interest in exploring and learning things in the physical world. Art allowed me to express ideas by physically manipulating materials. Science, on the other hand, allowed me to better understand how things worked. So when I learned about industrial design in high school, I immediately knew that was the perfect major for me that can allow me to be be practical and expressive.
Dylan: Similarly, I was really interested in art as a child, but also in how things were built. I was constantly either drawing or building things with legos or whatever materials were around. I was also obsessed with cars as a boy and dreamed of being a car designer when I was six years old. My Mom still has these amazing ‘concept car’ drawings from that time that featured flying, 1000-horsepower super cars of the future. I’m happy to say my taste refined a bit as I aged, but my fascination with design hasn’t.
Please continue this sentence: Play to me is….
Something we take very seriously! Playing allows us to explore and tap into our sense of discovery. Whether we’re talking about different types of objects, forms, materials, or places, we believe products have the power to relate to people by creating a sense of connection and wonderment.