Mapping out our five year plans, rarely do we foresee the obstacles and challenges that will someday confront us along the way. The daily things: broken pencils, missed train rides, or a popped wheel. Function is never without failure. Even rarer is the notion of celebrating those failures when so much of audience-facing content is in praise of superlatives or how we got to the finish line rather than the journey. Sina Sohrab and Joseph Guerra of industrial design office Visibility commemorates the uncertainties as well as the milestones that propelled them through 5 years of their practice this past Wednesday, with the opening of their exhibition Under the Office.
All photography by Blanca Guerrero
Known for their conceptual products as well as furniture pieces, Visibility took this as an opportunity to exhibit a quirky archive of past work and prototypes of objects such as chairs, light fixtures, household appliances—with some alluding to failed pitches and killed projects throughout Sohrab and Guerra’s years of working together. “I think the idea of failure is a difficult one to define when you’re starting out. In a general sense you think of it as a negative that something didn’t work out, but more often than not it’s these projects and shortcomings that service the next in a more meaningful way than you’d expect,” says Sohrab.
Since quitting their day jobs to focus on their design office and building their clientele, the co-founders have been on the cover of Monocle, have launched a stool for Matter as well as their first electronic appliance, and built a team of like-minded people—but their accomplishments were not without a set of strong lessons, particularly in a field where creative profiles are saturated online that the pressure to stand out is high. “Hard lessons are plentiful when you’re baptized by fire,” explains Guerra. “A lot of designers out there strive to hone their craft and hopefully the cream will rise to the top. Making money takes creative thinking as well, but everyone wants to make it look easy. Places like Instagram are not a real place for meaningful conversations.”
The need to be visible or to please is a secondary priority for these visual technicians, despite their competitive industry. What’s more important is shaping our environments in a way that show up as authentic, particularly in our common interactions with the material—whether it’s with baby strollers, spray bottles, or corkscrews. There can be big lessons in small objects for all of us, whether we always see it or not.