Design Legends ("DL") had the distinct honour to interview legendary designer Pepê Lima ("PL") for their original perspective and innovative approach to design as well as their creative lifestyle, we are very pleased to share our interview with our distinguished readers.

DL: Could you please tell us a bit about your design background and education?

PL : I studied at Centro Universitário Belas Artes de São Paulo and graduated in 2004. Since my hometown was in another state, every vacation I would go home to be with my family. Through some contacts I, eventually, had the opportunity to intern in an esteemed outdoor furniture factory, Mac Design, whose headquarters was in my hometown. Every vacation I`d put together the useful and the pleasant, visit my family and intern. I would do just about anything in my internship, help with the cleaning, carry wood, help with the masonry, assemble and package furniture, etc. All of this was crucial to my growth and learning process, as I understood how a factory worked in every section and every step of production. After graduating I became a permanent employee in this same factory, where I remained for a couple more years. In 2007 I went to Italy, lived in Milan for 5 years, where I studied the Laurea Magistrale in Product Design at Politecnico di Milano. When I returned to Brazil I went back to working as resident designer at Mac up until 2015, at this time I had way too many ideas and projects for indoor pieces, I decided I needed to branch out build my own studio as to take up more clients. This is how I ended up in Curitiba in 2015, where opened my own studio and remain until this day.

DL: What motivates you to design in general, why did you become a designer?

PL : To be honest, I found out I had a liking for furniture even before I even started design at university. I`ve always been the type of person who likes to watch a lot of movies and I noticed I would always pay attention to the decoration and settings in movies; I mean, who never had an urge to sit on Kirk’s chair? This sense of observation also extended to everyday environments, I would always pay attention to armchairs, tables, and details; not like an indifferent person would, but with a very critic and interested eye. From then on, I believe it was all pretty automatic, I would sit down with the intention of drawing a horse and in the end I’d catch myself drawing a chair. In university, I had gotten used to the furniture world and I was convinced that’s what I would end up doing. Despite that, I always studied courses focused on general design, instead of only ‘’furniture design’’; at the time, I didn’t want to limit my opportunities in the market, I even participated in a mini-system project for Toshiba, in collaboration with a studio in Sao Paulo, but I was always convinced it was my calling to draw furniture. All of this brought me to where I am today.

DL: Did you choose to become a designer, or you were forced to become one?

PL : It was entirely my choice. My mom’s dream was always for me to become a doctor, and to be fair, I even signed up for med school. In the end, I got accepted at a design college and didn’t show up for the med test. I already had a pretty solid idea that that was what I wanted for my life, and my mom supported me, since I shouldn’t study something just for her sake, but dedicate myself to what I really liked.

DL: What do you design, what type of designs do you wish to design more of?

PL : Currently I put my focus full time on drawing furniture. In particular, it`s easy and interesting for me to draw armchairs and chairs; I think it’s more fun and it allows my creativity to run wild when I work with these products. I’m also a big fan of chaise lounges, but they’re not very commercial or demanded. For now, the thought of changing areas doesn’t cross my mind, I feel like I still have a lot to do and to show.

DL: What should young designers do to become a design legend like you?

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.

DL: What distinguishes between a good designer and a great designer?

PL : Everyone will both succeed and fail throughout their journey, it’s inevitable and we should be able to learn from our mistakes. I believe the proportion between your rights and your wrongs is what defines whether you’re a good or a great designer; from a commercial point of view. From a professional point of view, a great designer has ethics, doesn’t get inspiration from nor do they copy other’s pieces, doesn’t draw for competitor factories, is always open to receiving feedback and listening to the client’s needs, is aware of environmental issues in their project’s development, etc.

DL: What makes a good design a really good design, how do you evaluate good design?

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.

DL: What is the value of good design? Why should everyone invest in good design?

PL : Here in Brazil and also in the world, the market is becoming more and more demanding and on the lookout for innovation. The times when everyone could copy each other’s works without any trouble are gone; it was a big carnival of similar pieces for sale. On the other hand, some factories would develop products on their own, without any design knowledge, without skills, talent, etc. they had no idea what they were doing and would put out absolutely ordinary products that weren’t well resolved. With bigger expectancy and competition, factories found out that investing in a good design resulted in a visible brand growth, product quality and in becoming a successful company. From then on, a growth in demand had been noticeable and since then Brazil has started gaining more presence in the international design scene.

DL: What would you design and who would you design for if you had the time?

PL : I’m a big fan of the products and aspects of Charles and Ray Eames. If I could pick a factory to collaborate with, the first name that comes to mind is Herman Miller, it would be a dream come true. It’s not a matter of preference, I mean, there are thousands of incredible factories I’d love to design for, but given my passion for Eames products, I believe doing something for Herman would be an enormous personal and professional achievement.

DL: What is the dream project you haven’t yet had time to realize?

PL : Lately I’ve been able to produce and achieve very solid partnerships that accept the challenge of producing some products that a few years ago were only an unthinkable 3D, a pipe dream. As we achieve a good reputation and experience, many doors open up and dreams come true. But if I have to think of a specific project, I have an armchair called C6 which is an item with extremely complex production process. A partner company has accepted the challenge of trying, but it’s still a dream because there is a probability that we won’t be able to execute it.

DL: What is your secret recipe of success in design, what is your secret ingredient?

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.

DL: Who are some other design masters and legends you get inspired from?

PL : Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, Alvar Aalto, Gio Ponti, Jorge Zalszupin, Giorgetto Giugiaro, etc. It`s such a big list, it wouldn’t fit in the interview.

DL: What are your favorite designs by other designers, why do you like them?

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.

DL: What is your greatest design, which aspects of that design makes you think it is great?

PL : For now, I’d say it’s the Fly armchair, it was a real game changer for me and the manufacturing company, as it taught us a lot and opened up to a bunch of opportunities in the future. Besides the commercial side where it had great market acceptance, it was also an A’Design winner, honorable mention in the IDA, and it’s risky and innovative shaped have been a real milestone in my career. But like I said, for now. My goal is to always surpass myself, and I already have some products up my sleeve for 2023 which I think will be even more important.

DL: How could people improve themselves to be better designers, what did you do?

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.

DL: If you hadn’t become a designer, what would you have done?

PL : Probably medicine. It was always my mother’s dream that one of her children became a doctor, as here in Brazil it is a very respected profession; I even quite like it, which it why I believe I would’ve been a doctor.

DL: How do you define design, 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.

DL: Who helped you to reach these heights, who was your biggest supporter?

PL : I’ve learned a lot of things with a lot of people. Some of them deserve a special mention, such as Márcio Cecílio, owner of Mac Design, the first company I came in contact with, much of what I know now I learned from him. I`d have to thank some friends, like Luciano Pedrosa, a furniture representative and who motivated me to show my work, I was a very shy designer. My mom, Maria Miranda always supported me with enthusiasm and my fiancé who is also a designer, Claudia Mazzieri, who always gave me support, encouraged me and many times when I thought about quitting, she would help me think clearly and get through it. It`s a difficult question, you know? A lot of names should show up on this list, such as the people behind all my partnerships and who believe in my work.

DL: What helped you to become a great 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.

DL: What were the obstacles you faced before becoming a design master?

PL : It`s a very restricted and competitive market, normally the industry focuses too much on sales numbers and that results in commercial products. I`ve always been a dreamer, highly obsessed with making different products than what we see in the market, I have my conceptual appeal and until I was able to propose more complex products, I had to go through a long road of personal and professional growth. In summary, I`ve had to draw a lot of products that I wish I hadn`t.

DL: How do you think designers should present their work?

PL : I believe a presentation with a render of acceptable quality is an extremely necessary addition to a brief explanation of the piece’s concept. This must be presented to the correct people inside the factories, as it’s useless to do a presentation if it’s not to the people directly involved with the department of product development in the company. Go to fairs, talk to people and ask to whom you can submit new projects, then write an email, introduce yourself and before sending your work be sure to ask them if they’re willing to evaluate it. Many factories have a complete roster of designers and have no intention of making new partnerships.

DL: What’s your next design project, what should we expect from you in future?

PL : I have a lot of projects in progress, but surely three products deserve more attention. They are two armchairs and one chair, and they’re possibly most challenging products I`ve projected, especially the chair. We hope to complete it by 2023. I`ve been working a lot on my fluidity and organization, which is why I would say we can expect a Pepê Lima with more fluid strokes.

DL: What’s your ultimate goal as a designer?

PL : Continue doing different things and exceeding myself in every project while I still have health, creativity and the necessary strength. I can’t think of one particular end goal, since the end is very subjective: people change, visions change and everything is in constant transformation. Which is why I’d rather focus on doing my best while I still can.

DL: What people expect from an esteemed designer such as yourself?

PL : I think the people who appreciate and follow my work hope I can carry on with my way of thinking, acting and projecting. They wait for an evolution of what I am today, not a change. It’s very important to keep evolving whilst still maintaining your identity as a designer.

DL: How does design help create a better society?

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.

DL: What are you currently working on that you are especially excited about?

PL : Without a doubt, the Eleanor Chair. It’s the most complex product I’ve designed, with such fluidity that in this very moment it’s being 3D printed, so that we can study the next production steps. Normally I work with technical drawings, but this project’s high level of organicity made us opt for new solutions such as 3D printing. I’m very excited to find out how this product will turn out.

DL: Which design projects gave you the most satisfaction, why?

PL : The Fly armchair, being an internationally awarded product and for its level of innovation. The Edge armchair is also a product that, although I think it’s outdated and isn’t even in production anymore, it’s a product that I have a big appreciation for, as it marked the beginning of one of the most solid partnerships I have today, with James Furnitures.

DL: What would you like to see changed in design industry in the coming years?

PL : More design, less numbers and more accessibility for all. I think the industry should focus less on the commercial aspects and open a bigger space for designers to dare in their creations, suggest diffent products and show that there is still much more to be done and explored. We also need factories to focus their efforts along with the suppliers and shopkeepers to ensure that design isn’t perceived always as an elitist area, but an element that can be present in most of the population’s lives.

DL: Where do you think the design field is headed next?

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.

DL: How long does it take you to finalize a design project?

PL : If we consider only the project itself, I usually draw, model and render a medium difficulty piece in one week. Some products are simpler and I have a very clear idea of what I want to do, in which case I might be able to do it all in one day. It always depends on the clarity of the idea, the complexity level of the product and how dedicated I am in executing that project. It’s very relative.

DL: When you have a new design project, where do you start?

PL : The first thing is to stem from an idea, I usually challenge myself as a beginning point, for example with the Fly armchair, I thought: ‘’I’d like to make a piece that looked like it had been exploded’’. With this concept in mind, I start with the sketches. The sketches are always the doorway to my projects.

DL: What is your life motto as a designer?

PL : Always do different, whatever the cost.

DL: Do you think design sets the trends or trends set the designs?

PL : I believe both, it’s an exchange. The designer has to be aware of the market trends and always try to propose projects that are coherent with the current requirements, such as fabrics, colors, shapes and finishes, etc. From this point of view, the trends tend to contribute to molding and guiding the designer. On the other hand, every designer has their own style and always tries to add innovations in their products, which can be well seen and accepted in the market, and turn into a new trend for other professionals and products. In this case, the designer had a role in altering the trends.

DL: What is the role of technology when you design?

PL : 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.

DL: What kind of design software and equipment do you use in your work?

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.

DL: What is the role of the color, materials and ambient in design?

PL : It`s the elements that will determine the target audience and characteristics of a product. Is it a somber piece, is it elegant, comfortable, playful, etc. When you have a defined product target and concept, it`s vital to pay attention to the colors that will be presented with it, the fabrics depending on feel, the visual aspects and what type of environment it`s intended for. For example, it would be pretty weird if I proposed an entirely wooden and slatted chair to decorate an elegant downtown apartment; these are the characteristics of an outdoor chair and it would be strange to have it in an apartment dining room.

DL: What do you wish people to ask about your design?

PL : I think the questions I like to bring out the most in my audience are: where did that idea come from and how was that made.

DL: When you see a new great design or product what comes into your mind?

PL : It’s very thrilling to me to keep up with the evolution of the designs and the professionals themselves. When I see an interesting new product, I quickly think to myself: “What a genius! Congratulations to them”. It’s important to keep in mind that every time something new and exciting comes out, even if it’s by the hands of another professional, it sets the stage for an eventual collaboration of solutions in future projects. Design is a constant exchange of information and knowledge.

DL: Who is your ideal design partner? Do you believe in co-design?

PL : I do believe in co-design, but up until now I haven’t had the opportunity nor the necessity to have a partner for my projects. I’ve developed some pieces in partnership with my fiancé in the past, but we have different ways of thinking and projecting, which is quite normal.

DL: Which people you interacted had the most influence on your design?

PL : I believe everyone in general. It’s crucial to pay attention to the lifestyle of different tribes, classes and necessities. When you assess various different people from different points of views, you absorb a plethora of information. Knowing how to absorb this information and understand the necessities and preferences of each crowd is a key element to the success of a product with its own target.

DL: Which books you read had the most effect on your design?

PL : Honestly, I’m not a good reader, in fact, I would say I’m a terrible reader, especially when it comes to books, they make me sleepy. I’m used to reading articles, news, essays e studies. Reading about the history of big names in the design world has always motivated me and helped me become the professional I am today; understanding how to overcome difficulties and acquire knowledge from past experiences and solutions.

DL: How did you develop your skills as a master designer?

PL : Through basic trial and error. I’ve always been quite adventurous and had a ‘’why not try it’’ mentality. It’s easier to learn from your mistakes than from getting something right and absorbing every possible information in every finished project, plus it’s a more intelligent way of improving your skills. Also, the fact that I’m always trying to surpass myself plays a big part in having each product be an evolution of the last.

DL: Irrelative of time and space, who you would want to meet, talk and discuss with?

PL : Nikola Tesla (non designer) e Charles Eames (designer)

DL: How do you feel about all the awards and recognition you had, is it hard to be famous?

PL : I was never a designer who participated in many contests, personally I’m a very reserved and introspective person. I’d say I can count on one hand how many contests I’ve been a participated in. Even before I won the A’Design, I had a strong visibility in my social media since specialized accounts started sharing my work. It’s complicated because I don’t feel comfortable if I don’t answer everyone, give my full attention to followers and emails, but this demands too much time and in the end a lot goes by unseen. I don’t consider myself famous in any way, but I’d say I’m getting quite a lot of visibility and dealing with this isn’t very easy when you have to take care of a studio and your own personal life. It's easy for an Instagram follower to, for example, think they’ve been ignored and that I’m not an accessible person, when in reality I’m simply an extremely busy person who can’t keep up with everything happening around him.

DL: What is your favorite color, place, food, season, thing and brand?

PL : Color: Blue Place: Mountains Food: Japanese Season: Autumn Thing: Playstation Brand: Mini

DL: Please tell us a little memoir, a funny thing you had experienced as a designer?

PL : When I was still resident designer in a company, in one occasion I was summoned by the technical support sector to help figure out how one of my couches returned to the factory completely bent. As I had projected the product, it was practically impossible that that couch could come to us in those conditions with regular use. We checked everything we could, until we took out the cushions and used some better lighting, where we identified five different types of footprints. Long story short, the consumer took out the sofa cushions and used the couch as the stage for quite a party! Problem solved, warranty denied. It was a fun situation.

DL: What makes your day great as a designer, how do you motivate yourself?

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 night 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. 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.

DL: When you were a little child, was it obvious that you would become a great 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.

DL: What do you think about future; what do you see will happen in thousand years from now?

PL : I have no idea and I’m very worried. We’ve seen the effects of the pandemic, wars, hatred, the world’s speedy destruction and it worries me a lot. With everything that’s been happening it’s hard to know what to think or what to expect, but in the end, I definitely hope that humanity can evolve in a positive way and that people can have more empathy for each other. If this doesn’t happen, and quickly, I’m afraid there is only one, very tragic, future.

DL: Please tell us anything you wish your fans to know about you, your design and anything else?

PL : I'd like to thank everyone and say that the people who like and follow my work are a big part of what fuels me to stay motivated, keep projecting and doing things differently. In the end, a huge part of who I've become is because of you. Thank you.



Fly Armchair

Fly Armchair by Pepê Lima

Hector Armchair

Hector Armchair by Pepê Lima

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