Q&a / Design
”I’d argue that Scandinavian design is a bit stagnant — it’s stopped taking chances and is a bit of a pastiche”
On giving an outside perspective on what Scandi design should do to stay relevant
16 Aug 2021

Massimo Buster Minale is an architect by trade and has worked for Foster & Partners and Richard Rogers on quite a few of London’s landmark buildings.

— It was great, I loved every minute of it, he says. However, designing skyscrapers is very slow and my brain works very fast. By day, I would knuckle down on the architecture, and then, when the sun went down, I started to make custom motorbikes in my garage in East London. Word about my bikes got out and soon I was building them for London’s notorious rock stars, fashion designers, and the elite. These customers knew I was an architect and asked me to start making fittings and furniture for their homes. That is how our label Buster + Punch was born — the love child of my passion for custom motorbikes, interior products, and architecture.

So, in 2012, he got into interiors for the simple reason that he thought the industry could do with a shake-up. 

— Miles behind fashion and music, people were just sold neutral products, designed to offend as least people as possible and sold as cut-outs in magazines. My mission was to stir things up and show that interior products can be brought to life when you surround them with talented people and sub-cultures, he tells, continuing,

— Before Buster + Punch, interior details as a design sector were fairly dull. Functional home fittings would only be found in big-box retail stores and only shopped by the trade. Light switches turned on the lights, light bulbs gave light, and door handles were for opening doors — they were the last items on your renovation shopping list. Through innovation and our passion for making custom motorbikes, we reinvented not only how these products looked and worked but also the emotional connection that customers felt towards them. We infused our products with all the best of London’s music, fashion, and art talent, and created beautiful ”must-have” home fittings for the fashion conscious.

— We’ve always done things our own way — and we don’t pay any attention to trends. 

You’re British and based in Stockholm. From your partly outside perspective, what’s your view on Scandinavian design?

— There are two strands of Scandinavian design. One is the minimalist, functional way of living and styling, that you see in all the design mags. A hyper-stylised vision that, to many, is aspirational and almost out of reach. If you don’t grow up with it, Scandinavian design can seem almost alien. On the flipside, and again I don’t think natives of Norway, Sweden, or Denmark would understand this, you’ve got IKEA. A brand that’s probably the most influential design company on the face of the Earth. And in many countries, IKEA is almost a luxury brand. It’s an experience brand, which is smart in itself, says Buster Minale, continuing,

— Taking the scene from where I am now, I’d argue that Scandinavian design is a bit stagnant. It’s stopped taking chances and is a bit of a pastiche. There’s nobody taking Scandinavian design forward in terms of innovation and progression. The progression seems to be happening in other places like music, gaming, fashion, and tech.

— We’re not here to change the design scene. It’s that psychological paradox, the scene has to want to change itself. When it comes to changes in society, that’s what a designer is supposed to react to and where we pay the most attention. Our label is meant to be fluid — we change our own scene. As I said, we’ve never followed interior trends and never will. It’s not good business, not good for the planet, and bad for the customer. We make our products to always be timeless and relevant. The only trend that we do believe is on the horizon is the inevitable blurring of fashion and interiors, which has been our mission from day one — the same detailing that you love on your light switch will reveal itself on your backpack. 

Has the current situation changed how people design their homes?

— We’ve seen a swing in people investing in the details, which is how it should be. The fittings, fixtures, and small design nuances that just nail down a style or look. It’s the connection between you, your personality, and the things you physically touch that make a space special. Homes that are extensions of you but feel more seamless because you have a consistent thread through the details. I also think that your home is starting to embed itself in your lifestyle, so details that you see in a kitchen will also be worn by you on a night out.

House of Buster + Punch

Later on this year, the brand will launch House of Buster + Punch — a campaign that will accompany the launch of over 50 new products. It’ll leap from short film storytelling to new music releases on Spotify, to virtual shopping spaces, and finally real-life experiences, with the help of rappers, rockstars, dancers, and artists, including Travis Barker, Johnny Edlind, Amwin, and Chords.

— A note to all young designers and people risking everything to build new brands — stand up for what you believe in, whether political, cultural, or aspirational, and never waiver. The new digital world is built on data and pleasing as many people as possible, which only equates to everything looking and feeling the same. We need our amazing young talented people to challenge that status quo and create products and content that inspires debate — whether good or bad. Ultimately, we need newness to make us as people, feel again, Buster Minale concludes.