Michael Anastassiades brings discipline and crisp clarity to everything he designs. The London-based designer explains how he cuts through the noise
The problem, says Michael Anastassiades, is that many brands are trying to make themselves more visible. The Cypriot-born, London-based designer comes from an altogether different mould, one that's rare and refreshing. For him, it's about creating lighting, furniture and other objects that we interact with and that support our lives, while blending them in rather than making them stand out.
"I try to remove as much information as possible from the products I design," he says. "At the same time, you need to be very careful in defining that line: where do you actually stop?"
It was a question he considered when designing a speaker for Bang & Olufsen (B&O), the newly launched Beosound Edge. The wireless speaker is powerful, delivering the top-quality sound Danish audio brand B&O is known for, but it looks nothing like your typical speaker.To get there, Anastassiades began with the idea of a coin set on its edge. "It was quite an interesting observation for me to really come down to the shape," he says. "I wanted it to be a very abstract, monolithic-looking product. There are no visible buttons, there's no information on it that really communicates that this is an electronic product, or an audio product, more specifically.
"I tried to incorporate some gesture of function through the shape, so that the speaker looks like it could roll," he continues. "I decided to incorporate the idea of operating the volume up and down by rolling it forwards and backwards as an extra function, on top of operating it remotely from your iPhone."
While he designs furniture and other objects, he is best-known for his lighting designs, which have been stripped back to the bare, beautiful minimum, all the visual noise removed
Sound is a new arena for Anastassiades, who set up his own studio in 1994 after initially training as a civil engineer (he then gained a master's degree in industrial design from the Royal College of Art in London). While he designs furniture and other objects, he is best-known for his lighting designs, which have been stripped back to the bare, beautiful minimum, all the visual noise removed. Products like his Ball, String and IC lights (pictured below) offer a moment of calm among the noise of our overstimulated world."A light is switched off 80 percent of the time, so it has to work as a steel object when it's turned off," he says. "When it's on, however, then something very different happens. The glow of the light starts introducing a completely different dynamic. The space the fixture occupies is different, the way the shadows affect the space is different and your overall experience of the object and its environment is different."
The latest string added to his lighting bow is the Arrangements collection for Flos (distributed in Hong Kong by colourliving, pictured below), the contemporary Italian lighting brand with whom Anastassiades has forged a highly collaborative 10-year relationship."We have a very beautiful and free way of working together," he says. "I usually come up with a concept and then a dialogue starts. Once we decide we will proceed with the concept, then an intense two years of development starts between Flos R&D and my design studio."
Technology doesn't need to dominate our lives; it can remain invisible in many ways
With Arrangements, Anastassiades and Flos have tapped into the concept of individualisation, giving people the ability to add and subtract illuminated geometric elements in order to create a chandelier of their own. "I really like how the elements appear to effortlessly hang from one another. I also like how simple it is to add or remove elements," he says.
Whether he's designing a light, a sound object or a piece of furniture, Anastassiades insists the process is the same. "I look at how to interact with these objects, while at the same time, making things that are as abstract as possible."
It's an outlook he adopts in his own home as much as in his designs. His abode is sparse and gracefully simple – and, fittingly, the technology in his life appears to recede into the background. "I have a B&O TV in my home. I'm not a huge fan of TV in general and I rarely watch it, but I needed one during the Olympics because my brother was visiting with his family and I couldn't get tickets for any events. A lot of people don't even notice this TV, which is exactly what I want. It has disappeared within my living room," he says. “I believe that technology should disappear in the domestic setting," he adds. "Technology doesn't need to dominate our lives; it can remain invisible in many ways."
Earlier this year, Anastassiades brought his disciplined aesthetic to Hong Kong with Silver Tongued, a solo exhibition at SHOP Taka Ishii Gallery in Wan Chai. On show were brass pendant lights, volcanic stone stools and other objects that have been pared down in order to focus on their original intention and materials, as well as new works designed specifically for the Taka Ishii gallery space. Silver Tongued is a calm, precise juxtaposition of opposites: light and shade, organic and inorganic, stillness and movement.