Daniel Figueroa describes himself as humble, when we meet for a conversation about his life and his successes during the Stockholm Furniture Fair. Although he is one of the world's most prominant furniture designers, with for instance the prestigious Red Dot Design Award on his list of merits, he gives an almost boyish, slightly confused impression, when he arrives dragging his suitcase to the Kinnarps booth and our meeting.
It is the very first time Daniel Figueroa visits the fair and so far he is very pleased with what he has seen. He shows no signs of the dramatic journey he was just on. The flight from his native Germany took twelve hours, instead of the usual three, due to engine failure.
But as he says:
“Life is not planning! We must take it as it comes ...”
This turns out to be a typical Figueroa comment. Because this is how he sees life and work in general. It's just all about going with the flow. There is no need fretting over what you cannot influence, but you should listen to your gut feeling and not complicate things unnecessarily.
“I detest complexity and complicated people! My motto is to follow my intuition and make quick decisions. It takes no more than two seconds to understand what you see.”
Well, this is his own opinion - and perhaps it is just this ability to quickly read and sense what is happening, which has made him so well known as he is in the industry.
Because he also says:
“I am a normal man with great passion”
The chair has a soul
He applies “the feeling” all the time in developing already existing products. He is not looking to create something new, but to simplify and improve in order to make life easier for people. Most of all he prefers to design chairs. It is his most favourite piece of furniture, especially the task chair. The greatest challenge is to make a chair that is comfortable to sit in for a long time. Much is about functionality and ergonomics, such as how a backrest can be adjusted and how one can move in a chair in different ways. But other issues such as materials and finishes also play a role of course.
“A chair is so expressive and has so much soul and personality compared for instance to a table.”
So, what is typical for Daniel Figueroa?
“Hard to say. I have no conscientious, thought-out style. My design is more akin to my “style of handwriting”. But perhaps the soft lines and curves are representative of me ...”
He thinks that aesthetics are pretty tricky on the whole. It is so culturally weighed down by what is perceived as stylish. What works in the USA may not work at all in certain parts of Europe - and vice versa.
“Discussions with the customer are therefore extremely important! Especially for someone like me who works so much around the world.”
Yes, his field of work is the whole world, Germany and the domestic market are still the biggest ones, followed by the USA and several European countries. He definitely prefers Europe, especially Sweden and has designed for Drabert and Martin Stoll for many years.
“I love stylish and minimal design.”
Happiness is a driving force
Figueroa himself is originally from Cuba but he came to Germany and Hannover as a 25 year-old to study interior architecture and industrial design. He is still there - and he is very happy. After a few years in employment, he runs his own design agency, Figueroa Design, for some time with his wife.
“There is a lot of design talk at home, haha!”
This is easy to understand. Especially since Figueroa describes his profession as something he lives with and breathes 24/7.
But this does not mean that he doesn't do anything else other than design. On the contrary. In order to do a good job, he must be exposed to lots of impressions, he explains. And this he gets by doing completely different things, which makes him happy ('cause I must be happy to be able to design well!').
He finds that happiness in everything from his many trips and encounters with people to all kinds of extreme sports. He loves the challenges of kite surfing and speeding along on his mountain bike.
“Then I feel that I am alive, and life inspires me!”