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Interview with Pepê Lima

Home > Designer Interviews > Pepê Lima

Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer Pepê Lima (PL) for A’ Design Award and Competition. You can access the full profile of Pepê Lima by clicking here.

Interview with Pepê Lima at Monday 16th of May 2022
Pedro Lima
FS: Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
PL: My interest in design started when I was still a child. Since I was little, I always drew and fantasized objects, not necessarily furniture. When I was just over 8 years old, I drew everything and I already had a certain degree of interest and perception of the details in the products I saw; I didn't look at objects with the common eye of a child, but with a more critical and attentive eye.

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
PL: I worked for many years as a resident designer at a renowned outdoor furniture factory, Mac Design. At the time, I had a lot of indoor ideas and concepts that I would like to put into production, and that's how, in 2015, I decided it was time to take flight and set up my own studio. I decided to settle in Curitiba – Paraná / BR and from there I have been building good partnerships. My studio is one-man; here I am the one who does everything: I create, design, model and render in 3D, I propose to partner factories, prepare the technical drawings, monitor prototypes, take care of my social networks, website, etc. It's quite heavy but I prefer that way, being behind every stage.

FS: What is "design" for you?
PL: For me, design is the creative tool that awakens in the consumer the desire and need to have a product that will meet all their aesthetic and functional needs in a meticulously balanced way.

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
PL: Currently, I design furniture exclusively and, therefore, I would say that armchairs and chairs are the two products I like, and I have the most fun designing. I also really like to design chaise longue, but it's a product that doesn't have much space in the market.

FS: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
PL: Undoubtedly, I am a big fan and connoisseur of the Lounge Chair by Charles and Ray Eames. It is a product with an absurd consistency in its features and rays, the comfort is fantastical, the solutions and details are brilliant. It's normal for us designers to look at another designer's product and think: "-I would change this, or that.”, but with the Lounge Chair this doesn't happen; I couldn't find any small detail that could be changed or improved. Everything matches, everything is in sync, everything is resolved in that product.

FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
PL: A base for a dining table. I already liked and felt like a designer with different and extravagant tastes, which made the base have complicated and expensive details for the time, many delicate and manual finishes. Only one was produced, and I still have this product stored away.

FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
PL: Undoubtedly solid wood. I really enjoy working and creating new shapes from wood and with the evolution of CNC's, a range of possibilities has opened for me, who has a certain conceptual appeal in my creations. Today, woodworking in an elaborate and organic way is the fundamental point in my products.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
PL: At night. I usually have a notebook and pen by my bedside to record various ideas that come up when I'm ready to go to bed. It's also not uncommon for something to come up that I think is so cool that I can't resist, so I get up in the middle of the night and go to the computer to start modeling. Meeting me at 5am in front of the computer is a normal and commonplace scene.

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
PL: Do different. I took it as a design philosophy to always try to focus on something that hasn't been done, that is visually pleasing and unprecedented. So, everything starts from the aesthetics, and from there I will adapt my idea so that it is not only a beautiful product, but also comfortable and functional; after all, there needs to be a balance.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
PL: I'm constantly trying to outdo myself, so I think the emotion that comes out the most in me is pride in realizing that I've outdone myself, evolved, and designed something cooler than the last project.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
PL: It's a feeling of mission accomplished and victory. As much as I have knowledge of production and how a project will be developed, we always come across some difficulties that appear along the way. In the end, when the prototype is ready, I can't think of a phrase very different from: "- We did it!"

FS: What makes a design successful?
PL: I don't believe in a “success recipe”; we have a market for everything. I think the main point is for the designer to stipulate the target audience for which that product will be destined, and from there to reason as such target audience. When I finish a project, I try to put myself in my target's shoes and ask myself the following question: “- If I were such a consumer, would I want to have this product in my house?”. If the answer is yes and there are no doubts, it means that the project is correct and will achieve a good performance with its respective consumer.

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
PL: The aesthetics. A good design must be beautiful, it must attract attention and please from a distance, by photo, by video, through a shop window. Even before knowing if it is comfortable and functional, it must win over the consumer for its aesthetics, make that consumer feel interested in trying that product to define if it is comfortable and meets their requirements. Nobody wants to experiment and neither wants to own something that is not aesthetically well resolved. At the end of the day, it's simple math: the consumer will always see the product in an infinitely greater proportion than they will use it; he sees the armchair in the living room thousands of times throughout the day, but he will sit there three, four, five times and still sitting he will be watching it.

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
PL: The designer must be directly involved with the production of their products and pay attention to certain aspects such as the origin of the wood they are using, whether it is legalized and reforested wood, try as much as possible to opt for ecologically correct materials and inputs, avoid wasting energy and productive resources consciously, etc. We need to consider that thousands of pieces will be produced and therefore reflect on the best possible way to minimize the natural impacts that it will cause. If everyone does their part, we will be contributing to a better world and society.

FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
PL: With the technological development of industrial machinery, we are witnessing products with more complex shapes entering the market. In the past, certain ideas were unthinkable or unfeasible and such development of machinery and industrial processes opened many possibilities. When such progress occurs, it is natural to see the emergence of new products with bolder and unprecedented features. Thanks to this, the design is becoming more and more refined while at the same time accessible; what was seen as something totally elitist, starts to be part of the daily life of a larger slice of the population. I predict that in the not-too-distant future, the term “design for all” will stop being a utopia and become a real scenario. Along with this advancement in accessibility, there is also a growth in interest in the area and an increase in the supply and demand for new design professionals.

FS: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
PL: We normally do annual exhibitions at the ABIMAD fair, which is one of the largest fairs in Latin America focused on the furniture and decoration sector. The fair takes place twice a year, in February and July. We also have Casa Cor, which takes place in the largest cities in the country on different dates throughout the year and features environments produced by local architects and decorators where our pieces usually help to compose one environment or another. From an international point of view, Abimovel (Brazilian Association of Furniture Industries) together with APEX (Brazilian Agency for the Promotion of Exports and Investments) select outstanding products on the national scene to be exhibited during important fairs such as ICFF, Saloni, etc. The Fly armchair was at ICFF 2021 and is now at ICFF 2022 in New York.

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
PL: Normally my products are not born from physical and visual inspirations, but from purposes and goals. Some time ago I abandoned the idea of ​​seeking inspiration in materiality and started to challenge my creative abilities with deeper aspects. I realized that the possibilities were greater. That said, I usually impose challenges like: “- What if I made an armchair that looks like it had been blown up?”, from there I will pursue this reasoning, this is my inspiration. Some ideas come out of nowhere like lightning, they just appear and often they are excellent ideas that inexplicably arise where I can mentally visualize all aspects and details of the product. Of course, there are also those with some material inspiration, in elements of nature, etc., but in recent years it has occurred less frequently. I've focused less on what's going on around me and dedicated more to introspection and reflection. To constantly feed my creativity, I follow the most paradoxical path, which is not thinking about it, I take advantage of my day to develop other activities that I enjoy, that relax me and disconnect me from the idea of ​​designing. The less I wait and look, the faster the answers come; it has worked out very well for me.

FS: How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
PL: I usually say that my design is a “sit in the fence”, a middle ground. The conceptual is inversely proportional to the commercial and that's why I try to provide my products with a conceptual tone without harming commerciality; everything just right. That's why I don't usually stick to a particular style. Doing things differently is my motto for designing, trying to develop something that hasn't been seen yet and for that I can't just think about the commercial side of the product. At the end of the day, I end up having a very eclectic portfolio of products, but most of them are products tending towards a futuristic and organic style, where I try to give unusual shapes to materials and especially to details; I love details and am a strong advocate that they make all the difference.

FS: Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
PL: I was born and live in Brazil although I have lived in Italy for many years. Brazil is culturally very rich, we have a great diversity here because we are a big country, and although we have accepted and introduced the culture of design at a late stage, I see that we are achieving a significant space and recognition at a global level; We have many talented designers making a name for themselves around the world. Around here, it is a tradition to use wood in the furniture sector, a very abundant raw material and with a lot of reforestation points. With such a tradition, it was fundamental to learn how to work with wood, which shaped my development and style of the products I design today. The positive point is precisely the fact that I have this passion for the texture and color of wood, as it is my favorite raw material to work with. Therefore, being in a country with an abundance of this raw material is quite favorable. The downside is that the technology here is very expensive, and as I evolve as a designer, my products also evolve and require more and more productive technology. It's not easy to try to do something different in a country where all the technology is imported and expensive.

FS: How do you work with companies?
PL: I present the product in 3D to partner companies, if the project is approved I develop all the technical details of the product and we move on to the prototyping stage and then launch. Currently, my work methodology is for royalties on each product sold.

FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
PL: The first thing, and perhaps one of the most important, is not to try to “modify” a designer's style to suit the company's DNA. On the contrary, focus your efforts and focus on finding a professional who already has the trait that matches your needs. This way everything will be natural, the projects will be created with passion and care which is extremely important! When you design something, you like, the results you get are superior. When choosing the professional, it is also very important to pay attention to whether he has the necessary knowledge to produce the project, so that unfeasible or even impossible ideas are not proposed. Companies should look for a solution with a designer, not problems.

FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
PL: I'm a designer who likes freedom to create, I don't really like “commissioned projects”. I believe that the ideas that come in a fluid and spontaneous way are the best and that's why I usually have a lot of freedom from my partners to create. Sometimes armchairs come out, other times chairs, and so on. They make me feel free to present what I have there at the moment. When the idea comes up, I prefer not to rely too much on my memory and that's why I always have a notebook and pen close by, even at the head of my bed. The first step is the sketch, recording that idea. After that, I'll redraw the first sketch a little clearer and more polished as it will serve as a guide for 3D modeling; With the 3D model ready, it's time to render. Only when I am absolutely sure that the project is well resolved, will I present to the partner factory the realistic renderings of that product along with a brief description for approval. Once the project is approved, I move on to the technical detailing stage where I specify all the measurements of each of the components that make up that product. With the technical drawings in hand, the factory will start the prototype, which is normally developed manually and by hand. When it reaches an advanced stage, if necessary, I personally go to the factory to try the product and make any changes and adjustments. Once everything is agreed, a final version is produced, which will be the one presented at the fair.

FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
PL: Fly Armchair (James Furniture), Loop Bench (James Furniture), Eiffel Chairs (Herman Miller), Carioquinha Table (Claudia Mazzieri), Mini Cooper (Mini).

FS: Can you describe a day in your life?
PL: I am a very methodical and routine person; I wake up and while I have my coffee, I plan the pending tasks that I must solve throughout the day. Thinking about an ordinary day, the morning is usually dedicated to personal matters; apart from the afternoon I dedicate to work, projects, matters with the factories and related things. At night I go back to my personal and family affairs until I go to bed and watch TV until I fall asleep. On days when my creativity is very fast, I spend the morning and dawn modeling or drawing, I am an extremely nocturnal person. I'm quite a homebody and I usually go out very little, usually to take the dog for a walk, or for a car ride without a destination, I like to unwind like that. The weekends I reserve for rest, activities with my fiancée, dog, cat, video games, movies, cars and others. We all need our moments to disconnect from work.

FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
PL: I think the most important thing is humility. Humility to learn, listen to the most experienced ones, accept criticism, ask for help, develop a career calmly and seriously, and understand that there is no one who knows everything. It is normal for students to graduate and leave colleges eager to design for large factories, I also left college with these thoughts. The fact is that we only learn theory there; the practice, the reality of our profession, we will only learn by working, with sweat. So look for an internship, work in a factory, carpentry shop, locksmith shop or things like that, even if the salary is low; learning is priceless. Feel and experience the day to day of the shop floor, help clean, help load products, assemble, pack, bring coffee to the boss, be secretaries, carry raw materials, answer the phone, screw the parts, drill holes in wood, etc, etc, etc, learn everything you can and don't feel unworthy for not putting you at a table to develop new products, don't skip steps. Up ahead, when you are designing for a large company, you will remember this young time of learning and realize how fundamental it was for the development and emergence of the efficient designer that you have become.

FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
PL: Undoubtedly the best side of being a product designer is seeing what a few months ago was only present in your imagination, being there now in front of you physically; and the best, is your calf. Walking around the city, across the country, passing by a shop window or a restaurant and seeing your product there, is an indescribable feeling, to make you proud. The flexibility of working hours is also a very positive point, companies have already learned that the greater the freedom that the designer has, the better the performance of their products will be. But everything has a downside and design is a very restricted and complicated job market that requires a lot of patience and determination. A profession that takes a long time to bear fruit. A very difficult fact is to depend on something that is not easily controllable, as in the case of creativity. It depends on numerous factors and at certain times it can disappear for no apparent reason; still, we have a schedule to follow, we have plans for product launches. We must learn to deal with such moments.

FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
PL: Always do different, whatever the cost.

FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
PL: Focus. Being focused on your project and ignoring outside interference is critical. Perseverance. Many things go and will go wrong over the course of a project and its development, giving up on a good project should not be an option. Patience. Some projects take time to achieve the expected result and we should not speed up the process in the rush to see it completed. If it's still not good, do it again. If it's still not good, do it again. Curiosity. Learn everything you can in all sectors, from the most obvious to the most unusual. Culture and knowledge are important fuels for creativity.

FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
PL: I always draw with a black pen in a checkered notebook. I think the pen is important because it cannot be erased, it helps to train confidence in my stroke; risked, there is no return. The squared paper helps me maintain proportions even in free sketches. In the computing part, software for 3D modeling and rendering and an image processing program. That's it, I'm a hands-on product designer.

FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
PL: While projecting, I simply assess my assignment and set a deadline. I tend to keep my schedules extremely flexible because I think that flexibility helps a lot with creativity, keeping a “cool head” and deconstructing the feeling of obligation. Doing things at a certain moment without will hinders everything. So, it's not strange to find myself playing video games on a Tuesday around 2pm, or taking a nap, walking around town, etc. The important thing is that I meet my schedule and have my project ready on the date I set; the order of events and schedule of my activities, until then, is irrelevant to me.

FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
PL: Thinking, it depends a lot on the product, the idea, how that idea came to me and if in the end I managed to achieve what I expected with the product. After that, it also depends on the manufacture. Some products are more complicated than others to design, a chair tends to be more complex in design terms than an armchair or a bench for example. Certain inspirations arrive clearly, I know every detail of how that product should be, different from inspirations that appear fragmented or with gaps to be filled. In the end, when the 3D is complete, an evaluation is necessary to know if it's the same, if it convinces me and totally pleases me, if it doesn't need alterations. The production part counts a lot depending on the degree of innovation of the product, the difficulties we will encounter, the need for external suppliers of materials and elements different from those normally used by the manufacturing company, etc. Thinking about an average, I would say that an “ordinary” product takes around 6 months to get out of the draft until we have a fully finished prototype.

FS: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
PL: Surely the question I hear the most is: “Where do you get these ideas from?”

FS: What was your most important job experience?
PL: Every product launched has its due importance, we always find new challenges and learn something new. But I think that the development of Fly armchair has perhaps been our most challenging work so far, although we already have plans for a product that will certainly be much more challenging.

FS: Who are some of your clients?
PL: 've worked for many factories but over the course of my career I've learned that it's not cool for a designer to pulverize his work too much for several companies at the same time. That's why I started focusing more on partnerships that were solidified with greater rapport. Móveis James, Marê Mobília, Tissot, Mac Design, etc. are some factories in the national furniture sector that I worked or still work for.

FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
PL: Armchairs. As I am a designer who focuses a lot on designing armchairs, I tend to take a closer look and appreciate armchairs launched by other professionals.

FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
PL: I'm an excellent improviser, I've learned that it's important to make plans but not get too hung up on them. In the future, I would like to continue surpassing myself and trying to do something different, following my style and my freedom to create and put my purest and most authentic DNA in each of my projects. I hope that the partnerships remain solid, that new products enter the market. What comes next? Probably something that will be tricky to produce.

FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
PL: To design I am alone in my studio, and I develop all the steps. I design, do the 3D modeling and rendering, propose my products, negotiate with the factories, develop the technical drawings, accompany the prototyping, help with the launch strategy, take care of my social media and website, etc. In the manufacturing stage, the partner factories naturally have their workers in each sector to transform the projects into real products.

FS: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
PL: We will start prototyping a chair that is extremely organic, all made of wood. I can say with certainty that it will be the most challenging job of my career so far and the factory as well, in this case Móveis James.

FS: How can people contact you?
PL: Currently I am more participatory on Instagram (@pepelimadesign), I have my website that I update from time to time (www.pepelima.com) and the contact email (contato@pepelima.com). Anyone who wants to get in touch can feel free to do so through any of them.

FS: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
PL: For now, I think that's it. I am very happy with the award, and I hope that others will come. Thanks.


FS: Thank you for providing us with this opportunity to interview you.

A’ Design Award and Competitions grants rights to press members and bloggers to use parts of this interview. This interview is provided as it is; DesignPRWire and A' Design Award and Competitions cannot be held responsible for the answers given by participating designers.


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