Grupa interview

Interview with designers and founders Filip Despot, Ivana Pavić and Tihana Taraba.

What would you say is Grupa’s design philosophy?

Light affects people in numerous ways. We don’t just design how our lamps look and function, we also design how they feel. This is why we approach every segment of a project as a friend that keeps asking ‘how do you feel'? This is because by designing lighting objects, we design the mood. How it disperses light, how it feels under the fingers, how it bends and stretches, even how it sounds – we question everything. ‘Taman' is an excellent word in our language that means ‘just right' and it is the perfect answer to all these questions.

What is minimalism to you?

Our minimalist answer would be: emphasizing the essential and reducing the irrelevant. For example, the cable has to be an essential part of our design as it is in Ili Ili and Model or it has to be cleverly hidden like in Baluna and Arigato. It is that simple and simple is our favourite challenge.

How did you decide to leap into the world of manufacture?

Our Ili Ili lamp is to blame. We developed the prototype and before we knew it, a big architectural bureau wanted to put it in 500 hotel rooms. That was the moment that pushed us to the other side of the design desk and into the factory. Simply because it was the only way we could deliver the lamps. We’ve learned a lot during the process, the most important thing is that this is how we wanted to make all of our future products.

What are the benefits of being designers and manufacturers at the same time?

Being able to develop a product from the ground up gives us the opportunity to design every single detail and control the process from the beginning until the moment the customer opens the package, which we design as well. In this way every single part is made to seamlessly fit and work together.

Attention to detail seems to be a big thing for you.

It is THE thing. It is the reason why most of our products have certain parts that had to be designed from scratch. There were no commercial dimmers that could match the Baluna design, so we had to create one. How to hide a cable from sight on an adjustable ceiling lamp? We know now. And it doesn’t just come down to how things look, it is as important how they sound and feel. Is it important how a coffee table sounds when you put a cup on it? For us it is, this is why we spent months perfecting a sheet of metal that sounds perfect on Dot tables. What kind of finish do we need to use on an adjustable lamp so it has a perfect grip when you want to extend it? As designers we have tons of dilemmas like this. As manufacturers we are able to answer them all.

In a world of automatisation you decided to go with the handmade approach.

We do it because it gives an undeniable quality to the end product. Every single piece of any of our lamps goes through skilled hands that bend it, colour it, put it together and check it over and over again. This way the craftsmanship becomes an essential part of the product, something you can see and feel. There is another dimension as well – for example, the fact that the glass of the Baluna lamps is blown by a master glassmaker gives not just quality to it but also a story. And the story is what makes a good product great.

Is this the reason why you are able to create customised versions of your products?

Exactly, we design it and manufacture it so we are able to play with it. If a client or a project has special demands regarding certain aspects of one of our products, we can modify it accordingly. This is how Ili Ili became both a table and a wall lamp in a hotel and how Baluna became a 2.5-metre wide chandelier with 6 spheres. We modify the design and then run to the factory to work out how can we produce it.

Besides working on your own projects you collaborate quite a lot.

Yes, we love sharing a vision with architects and interior designers. Sometimes our task is to come up with new products for their projects and other times we are asked to customise our own products. This is another area where being our own manufacturer is a great advantage. As we are responsible for every part of the project, we can deliver not just a design that perfectly fits their space but also products that perfectly fit their budgets.