An Interview With Materials And Rapid Prototyping Specialist Krista Ninivaggi

Named the 2014 Designer of The Year by Contract Magazine, Krista Ninivaggi of K & Co is an expert in material innovation. In the following interview, Susan S. Szenasy of Metropolis Magazine asks the young designer about her design process, the materials she uses and more.

SSS: You have used Corian extensively in your work. What are the material’s chief advantages for you, and how have you grown more confident in using it?

KN: Corian is an amazingly versatile material that has the ability to transcend itself. In one condition it can be used as a durable, practical material choice; on the other hand, it can just as easily become a complex, parametrically-designed feature wall. Whether it’s used in its simplest form or if it’s altered to push boundaries, I see Corian as a blank canvas for creating new ideas. There are so many positive material properties that altering those properties can provide endless results. It’s kind of the "wonder material" they tell you doesn’t exist when you are learning to design.

The pattern, filtered through Grasshopper and realized in Corian by fabricators Tietz-Baccon. Image Courtesy of Tietz-Baccon

SSS: How good a job, do you think, has interior design been in adopting new material and manufacturing innovations? How does it absorb these technologies in unique ways?

KN: This play between materials and technology was something that I started to toy with while I was at SHoP. I was clearly influenced by SHoP’s history of using technology in construction. When I would look around at the interiors world, I could only see technology being incorporated into smaller scale objects like furnishings. And although product manufactures out there were using technology to make unique and interesting materials, I became leery that my tasks as a designer were leaning towards a consumer audience rather than the design community. So I started to align myself with companies that would make use of technology to allow for customization on larger scales.This led me to this concept of “direct to fabrication,” something that really excites me. I love the idea that we can be in the studio riffing on ideas, and then those same design ideas can go from my desktop right into production with my design files. The commercial carpet industry has been an early adopter of this work flow. I think there is a lot more growth that can happen in this area, and it’s an exciting time to help promote this concept.

The elevator lobby of Shopbop's offices. Ninivaggi created a laser-cut stencil that produced the wall pattern. Image Courtesy of Barkow and SHoP

SSS: The use of the computer and rapid prototyping has completely changed design over the last two decades. What would you say to a new generation of interior design students and practitioners, who have been raised on a steady digital diet?

KN: Because of the scale of interiors, we have the ability to create full-scale mockups in a meaningful way. Through the use of 3-D printing and laser cutting, my team has created to-scale mockups for lighting, faucets, door handles, and cabinet pulls. These elements are so critical to master because they are the touch points for the user. The designer is able to study the tactile qualities, the scale, and the play of light in ways that were only learned through experience before. Having these tools available only means we can push boundaries further since we are able to realistically study conceptual ideas. Experience will only need to be a guideline not methodology.

Make sure to read the full interview over at Metropolis Magazine.

Interested in all things Materials? Check out our new US product catalog, ArchDaily Materials!

About this author
Cite: Susan Szenasy. "An Interview With Materials And Rapid Prototyping Specialist Krista Ninivaggi" 30 Jul 2014. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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