September 18, 2011

‘Film, Graphic design, Installations, Photography, Objects, and everything in between’. We recently interviewed the design collective who thrive on collaboration.

Household are a design duo with a difference – they are actually a collective. Established by George Wu and Sarah Gottlieb in 2008 they already have a fascinating back catalogue of work made with other artists and designers; contraptions and products which are often wonderfully clever appropriations of everyday materials and everyday technology.

The results are often crackers, like their  ‘Human Scanner‘ designed and built by Household in collaboration with Dario Utreras who is now part of the Household team. A person is wound through a ‘human scanning’ structure whilst quickly sketching the gradual passing appearance of a person laid on the glass screen above. Rethinking the machines which are designed to make us efficient, to make us think about the human process and our own abilities. This is where we first came across Household, and now we’re hooked. Here are some burning questions we put to George and Sarah recently.

Your name ‘Household’ is the basic term for a residence in which people and things are made and nurtured, a base for progress. Are you the parental unit of the Household family?

We came up with the name Household exactly because of it’s meaning, we felt it well suited the structure and way of working we wanted for our studio. It also fitted with the greater idea of working with a broad network. So yes, to some extent we do see us as the parental unit of the Household family, although we might fit under the category of very experimental family structures.

What has been your most ridiculous idea to date, and did you make it?

All of our ideas are a bit ridiculous, we have been very fortunate to make them! Our most recent exhibition is Paper Labour, at the Space X gallery in Exeter. A series of three large sculptures these explored how paper toils for us everyday. One of these is a large book that users can lie on and become a page. The experience is quite surprising, you feel pretty exposed lying there and it’s very hard work to turn yourself over. Quite ridiculous but it gets the point across!

How do you differentiate between your design and art?

We don’t. Labels are hard, as we come from a design background we think we will always see ourselves as designers. Even if some of our work appear in galleries and in “the art world” we will see it more as pushing the concept of design and what you can call design, rather than calling those projects art.

You seem to be putting humanity back into mechanics, do you think people need reminding to distinguish between virtual and real life?

We think mechanics bring things to a level which is easier to comprehend and there’s an element to physical, tangible things which seems irresistible to all of us; it automatically makes playing and involvement natural. As we have a main emphasis on collaboration, this is a particular interest we also want to shine through in our installation work and mechanics has been a great output for these ideas.

HUMAN ERROR_The Scanner from Household on Vimeo.

50 Hands Orchestra is a book with 50 pages which are designed turn into 50 whistles, allowing readers’ to become musicians without musical ability. How do you know people will respond and understand?

Well hopefully if you have designed something right, it should communicate and involve the audience it is aimed for!
We have held several workshops with the book and the particption level, and FUN, that we have had give us a pretty good idea about involvement. But this said, it is always that side of design that we have missed in traditional graphic design; audience involvement.

50 Hands from Household on Vimeo.

Household thrives on collaborations. Who do you want to work with next?

We are in the middle of a collaboration with Fabien Cappello, who we have worked with on our very first collaborative project while we were still all at the RCA together. It is great to work with him again and we do really enjoy doing several projects with the same collaborators and building up a proper family relationship. Currently we are preparing the next Poundshop for London Design Week, our ultimate dream has been to take this overseas, to discover and collaborate with new designers abroad.

The simplicity of your designs; unpolished inexpensive materials and straightforward mechanisms, are in turn clever and beautiful. What materials would you avoid and as technology progresses at a rapid pace, how will Household change?

We think we wont have restrictions as such, we always want to use materials and techniques appropriate for the idea whatever that might be. We have always been pro exciting technological progess. It might more be a matter of the lack of skills that have restricted us to only work within a certain material and mechanism level, but hopefully new collaborators could bring new skills and therefore new ideas and methods!

The Poundshop designed by Household is now open. If you can’t make it down during London Design Week, you can shop online for some very nice things, from screen prints to mini-rosettes for ‘minor sporting achievements’. Well designed things priced from just £1. And a beautiful website.


Jane Faram


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