We sit down with Magnus Long, the London-based designer whose Cross Leg Lounge Chair and Stix Dining Table are featured in #TheConranShopEdit. We talk longboards, Bollywood and his exclusive collaboration with The Conran Shop.
How did you start out in design?
My father trained as an engineer and encouraged me to make things and to be creative. His father was also an engineer so I’ve always been surrounded by workspaces and tools, and there were usually things in various scales and materials being made, which influenced me from a young age.
Now I equally enjoy designing meaningful objects and creating objects that are sustainable in their emotional longevity, as well as basic function.
How would you describe your style?
I use words like relevant, positive, honest and elegant to describe my designs – all are qualities that I appreciate in people and life.
Do you have a design routine?
I don’t design particularly quickly - it can take me a long time to make decisions about the best way to do something. I like to explore the options using sketching, drawings and modelling – sometimes from simple starting points like folded paper or lumps of plasticine, right through to making full-size models in card, plastics, foam and fabric to test ergonomics, scale and proportion.
What does great design mean to you?
I am interested in the idea of elegance, and ‘elegant solutions’ which, to me, is the ability to take in many factors and constraints of a project and then find a response that has design economy but still connects with our rich and complex emotional desire for beauty.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
This will sound like a set-up given who’s asking the questions, but it’s true; working on the ‘Magnus Long for The Conran Shop’ collection has been a great experience. It’s been an intense process but it was also the opportunity I had been looking for to realise designs that were on the drawing board for a while, such as Cross Leg Lounge Chair.
All that collection is made in southern Italy and we spent a lot of time going back and forth to work through the designs and the detailing with the factory there. It’s nothing to do with design, but the seafood in that part of Italy is superlative, so it’s always a pleasure visiting the region. Great manufacture, great food – perfect!
We’re excited to showcase your award-winning Cross Leg Lounge Chair and Stix Dining Table in #TheConranShopEdit during London Design Festival. What influence has being based in the capital had on your work?
I love living in London and the standard of creativity and design is so high. It’s impossible to not think about my work within that context but I like the personal challenge to work at that level. It can be intense, but I see that as a healthy pressure to search for a clearer, more elegant way to design.
What advice would you give to emerging designers?
Build things with your hands, even if it’s ultimately going to be made by a machine in production. You learn and discover a lot from playing with physical volumes.
Also, it takes a while for people to trust you as a designer, and it’s as much about the relationships as it is about being a designer, both can take years to nurture, so start early and be tenacious.
If money were no object, what would you buy from The Conran Shop?
Brazilian architect, Paulo Mendes da Rocha’s ‘Paulistano Chair’. It’s casual, refined, and elegant, and the blackened steel frame with terracotta leather is beautiful.
Finally, a quickfire round - get to know Magnus in 60 seconds...
Describe your workspace in five words. Right now: ‘a place overrun with models’
What are your favourite London hangouts? Hampstead Heath in the summer and London pubs and galleries in the winter.
What, if anything, do you collect? Material samples at the studio and various objects of craft at home.
Would you prefer a magazine subscription or a DVD box set? Neither. Okay, maybe a different random magazine every month
What’s your addiction? Being in, or under, water.
What was your last dream about? I definitely dream, but I don’t remember them. I like it that way.
Would you rather have the power to travel back in time or see the future? Difficult - probably travelling in the past because travelling to the future would spoil the surprise.
Best invention of all time? The longboard because it’s so simple and peaceful.
What was the last film you saw? Wild Tales, "Relatos salvajes".
Do you have a nickname? Yes, I have different ones with different friends and family.
Who would play you in a film? Years ago I went to India and was told I look like Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan. In his movies he often flies, so let’s go with that.