After studying interior design and design at the EINA School of Design and Art (Barcelona), Manel Molina i Ponsi worked from 1985 to 1989 as an industrial designer in the Miguel Milá studio. During this period he collaborated regularly as a designer in the company Fco. Llotrens, dedicated to the execution of architectural and interior design projects, and developed his own work of window dressing and rehabilitation, as well as stands and ephemeral assemblies.
In 1991, together with Alberto Lievore and Jeannette Altherr, he founded the Lievore Altherr Molina studio, which for nearly 25 years developed industrial design, consulting, and artistic direction for well-known design companies around the world such as Andreu World, Arper, Foscarini, and Vibia, among others, offering customized solutions. His work in furniture and lighting design, and interior design, product, and packaging projects, some of which have received awards and have been published in prestigious international design and decoration magazines, stands out. The studio has also given seminars and courses for new professionals in several Spanish universities, and their work was put on exhibit in cities such as New York, Paris, London, Chicago, Tokyo, Milan, Stockholm, Cologne, Barcelona, and Madrid.
In 2016 he began a new professional chapter founding Estudi Manel Molina, where he develops furniture, product and communication projects. We talked to Manel about his career path and his studio.
Interiors from Spain: Your vocation for design is linked to your family's artisan roots. What importance does this personal legacy of artisanal craftmanship have in the way you create?
Manel Molina: Being an artisanal craftsman has always been a part of me, I inherited it from my parents. Together with them, and by imitating them, I took my first steps towards learning, understanding, and finally trying to "do".
Drawing, making models, and scale modeling, continuously verifying the work, in my case, involves using my hands as the main tool. Trying to solve an issue with one's own means is gratifying and gives the proposal, in its initial phase, a human aspect that makes it approachable and understandable.
For our study, it is important that this initial handprint is not diluted and continues on after the industrialization process.
Interiors from Spain: You worked for four years in Miguel Milá's studio. What did you learn from one of the great masters of Spanish design? How did it influence your design?
Manel Molina: It was a time of learning. I joined his studio fresh out of school and with training in interior designer. Alongside Miguel, I discovered my natural tendency towards objects.
In my view, in those years, our profession abounded in "gesticulation" and occurrence.... often the "new" came before the "good". In this context, Miguel's work was clearly different; rationality and common sense were the main priority. For me, that is its most distinctive feature. From logic and proportion, and the proper, moderate gesture came objects that were useful, beautiful, silent and elegant. As I said at the beginning, it was a time of important learning.
Interiors from Spain: In 1991 you founded Lievore Altherr Molina together with Alberto Lievore and Jeannette Altherr. What memories and experiences do you have from those years of intense and successful work?
Manel Molina: This was a period of expansion and growth. A time that was full of excitement, where we became a professional studio capable of dealing with a wide variety of projects in a global way. The three of us, with different and yet complementary personalities, coincided on a common project where the sum of our particularities translated into successful results. I cherish many fond memories and a lot of experiences from this time
Interiors from Spain: In 2016 you created your own design studio. What were your objectives? How has it evolved over the years?
Manel Molina: The main objective is to continue to enjoy the profession. I say continue because the studio is comprised of professionals such as Raimon Monsarro and Daniel Castro with whom I have been working for many years. The addition of Blanca Roigé completes the current team.
Our shared objectives are to continue developing an honest work that is empathetic work with our clients, along the path of good relationships that lead us to satisfactory results that meet the expectations of the market sector they are targeting.
Interiors from Spain: What methodology do you use when approaching a project?
Manel Molina: The first step is to pay close attention to the work order, in other words, to what is being asked of us by the brand (customer). Then, on our part, we adopt an approach that empathized with the brand, by understanding where its potential lies, and what its capabilities and needs are. We turn the work order into a matter of the studio itself, we acquire the concerns of the customer, with whom, later on, we will work on the solution. From this point on, the proposal phase begins.
Internally, in the office, we share the conclusions that each one of us reaches and we choose one, or several of them, to strip down everything that is not essential, with the goal of resolving the issue in the most simple way, in line with the customer’s individual particularities.
Interiors from Spain: What essential elements do you think a good design should have?
Manel Molina: It should essentially be necessary, and above all, useful. This quality should be met at the functional (use) level, as well as at the aesthetic (cultural) level. It must be useful in its manufacture, useful in its distribution, communication, and marketing. Of course, useful in the way it’s used by the end consumer, and useful at the time it is discarded, generating minimum residual waste. Thus, a useful object generates wealth, culture, and sustainability.
Interiors from Spain: And what should never be missing in the designer-brand relationship?
Manel Molina: Good communication and good harmony is vital in the relationship with the client or brand. Depending on how good these are, better or worse results will be achieved, and this is a fundamental aspect.
At the time the work order is received, we understand that the relationship is no longer that between a client (brand) and a supplier (studio), but for us it becomes a relationship between partners who share a common goal. We always convey this to our customers, as we must move forward hand in hand for mutual benefit.
Interiors from Spain: By the way, how do you view the design landscape in Spain?
Manel Molina: Good. It has improved over the years; the profession has been consolidating, which is reflected in different areas such as the emergence of schools where it is taught. The incorporation of our discipline and method in industrial processes in a serious and professional manner is growing. Public and private initiatives also help. All this is appreciated by the end consumer and the demand for this added value is increasing. I believe that the improvement in the last 25 years is apparent.
Interiors from Spain: We are finally getting closer to the end of this pandemic which has changed the way design studios work and their relationship with clients. What changes do you think are here to stay?
Manel Molina: Hopefully, not many. The pandemic has been disastrous. At our firm, on-site presence is vital when working both internally and together with our clients. We work with materials that need to be appreciated by the senses, that is to say, we work with sensations. A computer screen filters too much information and this greatly hinders communication.
Hopefully, "normality" will soon return and everything will go back to the way it used to be and we will overcome this situation on all levels.
Interiors from Spain: What projects are you involved in? Are there any involving international brands?
Manel Molina: Despite the situation, we are fortunate and continue to develop furniture and lighting projects for our regular clients such as Enea, Treku, Bover, Expormim, Vergés, Sellex, as well as new collaborations with national and international brands that you will soon hear about.