Young, ambitious, with a promising future ahead, and award-winning to boot. How many times have we recognised these qualities in foreign designers, without it seeming strange to us? Luckily, this small blind spot of ours that prevented us from recognising national talent is beginning to change. That is why it is gratifying and encouraging to find a new Made in Spain design, and that our homegrown talents are looking to the future full of energy. The studio Goula/Figuera, formed by Pablo Figuera and Álvaro Goula, is perhaps one of the most curious, particularly because they have not yet reached 30, and yet success has smiled generously upon them.
Their work, which began through their creative partnership in late September 2012, though they had already worked together at university, has been the product of perseverance and the desire to enjoy what they do. The awards they have received – Red AEDE, Injuve, Design Plus – serve to confirm that they are doing well, though they don’t let it go to their heads. They believe in their work, their designs, and in a world that’s easier to live in with carefully made objects.
1. You’re not yet 30 and you’ve already tasted success. How do you deal with early success?
In this hyper-connected society, where it’s very easy to make your work known through social networks and digital media, it’s very easy for the people who follow you to construct a reality that, in most cases, is magnified. For us, success lies in being able to continue working for a month longer on something we really like.
2. Can we still apply the term emerging to you?
We’ve been working for the past five years, but if by emerging you mean that we’re still not affected by what the industry expects from us, if it’s that we still don’t have a working structure that requires us to continue producing no matter what, if it’s that we can still do whatever we feel like, then yes, we are still emerging, and we hope we can live in an eternal “emergency.”
3. Working for large companies, but also for your own brand. Is this equally satisfying?
Answering that is like having to choose between your mum and dad. When we work for companies, we are faced with a task that comes with a set of stimuli that enrich the project, such as the history of the company, its plans for the future and, above all, its “savoir-faire”. In contrast, with Home Adventures, our editor, we make real designs that come from the need we feel to explore new creative territories, or create ideas beyond the boundaries of the industry. Both sides are equally satisfying.
4.Is it easy to be a two-person creative team?
Since we’ve been creating together ever since beginning our professional careers, and we know each other’s artistic identity very well, we have the advantage of minimising the amount of discussions around a project. We never divide the roles during the design process, nor do we divide the commissions. Is that the most productive way of doing it? Maybe not, but that way we can be sure that we’re proud of everything that we do, and that our creations are half Goula, half Figuera.
5. Are we witnessing the Spanish replica of duos such as the Bouroullecs or the Campanas?
Practically speaking, the association makes things a lot easier when undertaking any business, but once things are underway, tensions can run high and problems can often arise between the partners. The Bouroullecs and the Campanas are brothers, which probably helps. In any case, we have known each other for 9 years, and we don’t just share a studio, but also friendships and our free time. For us, design isn’t just a way for us to earn a living, but a way of life; so if our personal relationship didn’t work, nor would Goula/Figuera.
6. Your designs are simple, but they convey a personal language behind them. Do you find they are conveying the correct message in each project?
When we tackle a design, we never intend to go for a certain style, and that is why our creations are very different from each other. In spite of this, design is similar to art in terms of its emotional and communicative side, and each object we design expresses our way of understanding the world at that moment. This creates a link between then, a kind of inevitable chronological footprint. Once the years have gone by and we look back, will we have sent the right message? We don’t know that yet, but it will be an honest message; there will be things we regret and others we remember with affection, like looking back through an old photo album.
7. You don’t want to be influenced by praise. Is this precaution something you keep in mind when beginning a new job? How many ideas have fallen by the wayside for fear of expectations?
We graduated in 2011 and founded Goula/Figuera in 2012, right in the middle of the crisis. At the time, original design in Spain was having a bad moment, and seen as a fanciful and unnecessary profession, a sign of the boom times. We thought that maybe the situation would help us, that we would be one of the few from our year to dare to take such an uncertain path. And we were right – we were practically alone, and there were some tough years, living on the bare minimum, and we thought about quitting a couple of times. But as Dylan said, when you have nothing, you have nothing to lose, so we haven’t been cautious, nor have we feared the opinions of others. If we had taken all that into account, Goula/Figuera would not exist.
8. Are you able to turn down jobs because they don’t conform to your creative ethics?It’s not so much an ethical question, more about the cost of opportunity; choosing what you want to dedicate your time to. Over the years, we’ve managed to stay on this difficult path we talked about before, original design, so we haven’t accepted potential projects which yes, would have meant a certain income, but they would have distracted us from our dream of making a living creating products that reflect our way of understanding design.
9. Were you caught by surprise by the success of Lines & Dots? Success is relative. Answering yes would be untrue, answering no would sound pretentious. The fact is we spent more than two years working on this project, studying the market and trying to understand what we wanted to say in a sector where there are hundreds of new products every year. Let’s just say that Lines & Dots grew out of a series of ink drawings on paper, after spending many hours in front of that paper.
10. At what point did you realise that it was a success?
One of our first objectives when we decided that we would produce it ourselves was to achieve a certain level of media impact. That it would be useful for the products that came after it, to demonstrate to potential clients that we were capable of designing objects that captured the media’s attention. The fact that Lines & Dots achieved media coverage was a success in itself.
11. What three words define your style?
Legible, expressive and versatile.
12. What have the awards meant to you?
An award is a form of recognition, and in any artistic field public recognition is an essential part, so that the creative side can develop
13. In which direction are your upcoming projects heading?
Against the advice of our marketing expert friends, the next products from Home Adventures will be quite different to the typology and morphology of Lines & Dots. We’re developing a very functional lamp, and working with new materials.
Photos: Goula/Figuera Studio www.goulafiguera.com
This article is also available in Español