Meet the designers: Denis in São Paulo

We catch up with designer and architect Denis Fuzii at his home in São Paulo, Brazil.

From the moment he could hold a pencil, Denis knew he was destined for a creative future. Upon leaving university, Denis, like many of us, was still unsure where to take his new found skills. With a degree in architecture, Denis decided to find out for himself by setting up his own practice - Studio dLux in São Paulo, Brazil. His inquisitive nature led him to explore the world of digital fabrication and Open Design, bringing him into early contact with Opendesk co-founders Joni Steiner and Nick Ierodiaconou. We caught up with Denis at his home in São Paulo.

Denis: Since my childhood I’ve always had a pencil in hand and a sketchbook under-arm. I regularly got into trouble at school for drawing and not listening. 3D design and fine art were my favourite subjects, the only two lessons of the week where I was commended for drawing, not disciplined.

After High School, I was not really sure about university and decided to choose an architecture degree just a few days before my exams. I went on to study architecture at Belas Artes University, finding a love for the built world.

I left university with a hard-earned degree but very little work experience, having only spent a short period of time interning for an engineering company. I was a little lost and decided to find my way by starting my own architecture studio to really understand, in practice, what I enjoyed most.

Opendesk: Tell us about life in São Paulo and your work at Studio dLux

Denis: I live in São Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city. I’ve always loved it here, for its chaotic streets and cultural diversity. Besides the traffic and daily rush hour crush, I live in a quiet, calm neighbourhood and my studio is just five minutes away by car!

It’s fascinating to watch the design scene in Brazil change. It’s only when you experience other cities that you can appreciate subtle differences in design trends. Distributed making and Open Design are very new concepts here and one of my main objectives is to spread these ideas and introduce new, emerging designers to the movement.

After graduating university I started my own architecture business - Studio dLux. As with any new business, the first year was the hardest and I initially struggled to find clients. My first few jobs were probably the most significant, allowing me to build the reputation needed to acquire new clients and grow.

My early work focused on interior design and lighting design projects. It was only after I discovered digital fabrication tools that I began to explore furniture design, leading to my work with Opendesk. Today Studio dLux consists of ten people, including me, with 30 projects in the pipeline ranging from interiors, architecture, and furniture to scenography, exhibition design, and digital design.

Opendesk: Tell us about the perks and challenges of designing for digital fabrication tools and distributed manufacturing.

Denis: Digital fabrication tools afford creative freedoms, such as the ability to go from sketch to prototype in a matter of hours. The speed of this process allows you to learn at a much faster rate, completing the loop between prototyping, testing, and development multiple times in a single day.

Since its release four years ago, we have updated the Valovi Chair three times with feedback from makers around the world. The challenge in designing something for Open Making is the differing situation of makers around the world. Materials such as plywood differ from country to country. It’s impossible to know the situation of every maker in advance. Feedback is essential in understanding the needs of manufacturers around the world.

“I had clients contacting me from all over the world. They had found me because the manufacturing blueprints I shared openly had found them.”

Denis Fuzii

Opendesk: Since you first discovered digital fabrication tools you seem to have been fascinated by Open Design. What’s your view on the movement and how it is changing design practices?

Denis: The world of design is still adjusting to the impact of digital fabrication tools. Increased access to the tools to make has brought a huge growth in the production of physical things, blurring the line between amateur and professional leading designers to question their role. Like fellow Opendesk designer Pierrick Faure, I agree that skill has an important role to play, separating the stuff of beauty from the stuff of needlessness.

I have always believed that design is a beautiful relationship between designer and maker. Open Design and distributed manufacturing allow closer relationships to form as the web and tools to create become more universally available, allowing collaboration to exist where it previously did not.

Opendesk: Tell us about your decision to share your work under Creative Commons licenses.

Denis: When I discovered digital fabrication tools, I became captivated by the idea that weekend hobby makers could become micro-factories. By sharing my work under Creative Commons licenses, I realised I could grant this growing community permission to reproduce my chair. When you come to the internet with an all-rights-reserved mentality you’re actually restricting access to your work before there is any interest in it. By removing this barrier to entry, the manufacturing files for the Valovi Chair spread like wildfire bringing me new, exciting opportunities.

When I created my first chairs - Valovi and Kuka, Studio dLux was just a small architecture studio in a garage. After sharing my chairs, the studio changed dramatically. I had clients contacting me from all over the world. They had found me because the manufacturing blueprints I shared openly had found them.

Feedback is hugely important and sharing my work has allowed other designers and makers to help me improve my projects. For me, there is more to collaboration than the practicalities of group work. It’s a way to learn, listen and share. An object designed and developed in this way is more rich and diverse, for the cultures and opinions it represents.

Today, I wouldn’t even consider designing something that wasn’t shared openly. The collaboration and interaction with the family we have made through this process of sharing is more important to me than the object itself.

Open Design is a hugely disruptive concept and has the potential to create a better world, simply by encouraging people to share - an essential condition for society to function healthily. By sharing source code, be it manufacturing blueprints or instructions, new relationships can form between individuals on opposite sides of the globe, connected only via the web and a common goal.

“The collaboration and interaction with the family we have made through this process of sharing is more important to me than the object itself.”

Denis Fuzii

With Opendesk, I have experienced the magic of digital fabrication tools and the web of opportunities they have unlocked. I have come to value design as an increasingly inclusive domain that welcomes collaboration and I look to the future of democratic, distributed making with excitement.

Photography by Alexandre Brandão Guedes

Designs featured in this article