Interview with designer Rita Abou Arraj (RA), regarding views on design, and for the award-winning design Jig-Saw Multifunctional Kitchen Tiles.

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Interview with Rita Abou Arraj at Monday 27th of July 2015: DI: What is the main principle, idea and inspiration behind your design?
RA : The idea was born out of frustration of the ever growing need of Kitchen tools and the ever shrinking Kitchen spaces, and personal spaces in general, within the modern urban living units. The principle is to make use of dead space within the Kitchen in order to extend the array of used utensils, in a simple, customizable, functional and aesthetic way, which will result in a more practical and also more attractive Kitchen space. The inspiration behind the ingredients of this project in particular resides within the amalgam of 3 unpretentious and common things: First: ceramic tiles on old kitchen walls; Second: the fold-able colanders of the kitchen designers "joseph and joseph"; Third: magnetized notebooks on fridges.

DI: What has been your main focus in designing this work? Especially what did you want to achieve?
RA : As an interior architect, I deal everyday with space related problems, and find myself increasingly in need of saving space to accommodate the living necessities. In this urbanization time, space has become a rarity, a value to save, a luxury. I aimed to bring full functionality to small kitchens, Save volume where I can and maintain traditional functions, such as cupboards for more eccentric appliances. And I reached my target by attaching the basics of kitchen ware on the wall, while offering the user the possibility of customization, in use and appearance, in order to showcase a certain personality in opposite to the current, almost identical, mass marketed small kitchen spaces.

DI: What are your future plans for this award winning design?
RA : This system has many advantages: - It’s easy to install. - It can be fixed on most surfaces, old as well as new. - It’s highly modular. - It can adapt to any style and taste. -It has the potential to expand to many other uses, and offer many independent lines of production within the same principle, such as electrical outlets, lighting, appliances, etc. With those attributes this project can easily evolve, it can be adapted to optimize space in garages or working spaces, the possibilities are infinite. There is always an empty wall that can use some colors and functions. Aesthetically speaking we’ve only scratched the surface of its potential. The tiles can come in any shape, (circles, triangles, etc) as well as any texture or pattern imaginable (wooden, metallic, rubber, etc).

DI: How long did it take you to design this particular concept?
RA : Due to the multiplicity of the many component of this project, it took near 3 months to incorporate them properly to the system.

DI: Why did you design this particular concept? Was this design commissioned or did you decide to pursuit an inspiration?
RA : Not quite an inspiration but rather gluttony. The beginning of this project has a personal incentive, my mother being a great cook, had an enormous kitchen, with the whole assortment of utensils, cake pans, colanders, strainers, pots....the whole deal. When she had to move to a smaller house the new kitchen wouldn't fit all of her precious wares. Still the best cook, she mourns her wide array of pans, and the design of her many cake molds. Being the passionate object designer that I am, the eccentric interior architect, and a very hungry daughter, I solved my mother’s predicament.

DI: Is your design being produced or used by another company, or do you plan to sell or lease the production rights or do you intent to produce your work yourself?
RA : I plan to lease or sell the jig-saw system design.

DI: What made you design this particular type of work?
RA : I am passionate about the process of creating and problem solving, and further to realizing how this issue is affecting more and more modern and future shrinking kitchen spaces, and after facing it personally, I decided to tackle it.

DI: Where there any other designs and/or designers that helped the influence the design of your work?
RA : It’s a specific kitchen ware: the fold-able colanders of the kitchen designers "joseph and joseph"

DI: Who is the target customer for his design?
RA : This design can be installed on any urban kitchen (old or new) for it necessity; and any other kitchen for its aesthetic. So basically anyone with a Kitchen space, whether for its use for smaller kitchen or its appearance and customizability for any kitchen size.

DI: What sets this design apart from other similar or resembling concepts?
RA : There is no resembling or similar concept I’m aware of. Magnetic tiles aren’t a novelty, same goes for the space saving kitchen ware. However, the potential resulting from joining both characteristics in a complete space saving, design oriented, system, is the new thing I bring to the table, or to the wall, to be more precise .

DI: How did you come up with the name for this design? What does it mean?
RA : Jig-saw, as per Google’s definition, is “a puzzle consisting of a picture printed on cardboard or wood and cut into various pieces of different shapes that have to be fitted together.” During the development process, this customizable design struck me as funny and playful, reminding me of sliding tiles’ games and tile reordering grids, thus the puzzle “clein d’oeil “ .

DI: Which design tools did you use when you were working on this project?
RA : A sketchpad, few pencils, a graphic tablet, multiple design software, a coffee machine and many mugs.

DI: What is the most unique aspect of your design?
RA : Jig-saw combines perfectly function and aesthetics and deals with emerging issues that haven’t been tackled yet in the most essential, and indispensable space in our living spaces.

DI: Who did you collaborate with for this design? Did you work with people with technical / specialized skills?
RA : I relied on research and local manufacturers for occasional technical inquiries.

DI: What is the role of technology in this particular design?
RA : One of the solid features of this project is the simplicity of both the installation technique and the day to day easy use. Simple magnets, stainless steel sheets and tiling elements can be easily installed and maintained within any home and for any use. However, with the expansion in Production lines within the jig-saw concept, Technology can be incorporated within the individual tiles, as smart objects or equivalent, following the need of the future Kitchen user.

DI: Is your design influenced by data or analytical research in any way? What kind of research did you conduct for making this design?
RA : Every serious project relies on a solid research combined with full comprehension of all its components as it gets more complex during development. This particular research was long and fastidious. Every element of the kitchen needed to be studied, and assimilated. A long study on magnet properties and specifications needed to be conducted simultaneously with material research and properties and all molding techniques involving resins, plastics and polymers. On the other hand, the universal tendency of reducing living spaces accompanying the increase of populations worldwide, and the reoccurrence of this issue within almost all my Interior design projects, needs no statistical data in order to perceive the magnitude of the current and the upcoming space occupation problem.

DI: What are some of the challenges you faced during the design/realization of your concept?
RA : The challenge in this particular project was to incorporate the kitchen elements to the tile format. Some ceded easily like the tray, but others were more difficult to incorporate.

DI: How did you decide to submit your design to an international design competition?
RA : The international design competitions are gaining in popularity and attention with each edition, especially in this “smart era”, as audiences are becoming more interested in the innovation and the solutions they showcase. That said, the proposed design tackles an ever growing space problem in a simple easy to assimilate way, that might become a household necessity in the near future, thus the decision to participate. Besides, I like a challenge.

DI: What did you learn or how did you improve yourself during the designing of this work?
RA : I’m a better cook now.