Studio Visit 2

MSDS, Multi-Disciplinary

MSDS is a multi-disciplinary, multi-medium design practice based in Toronto. Jonathan Sabine and Jessica Nakanishi make and design concepts, objects and environments. Their work includes Common Good, Spin and ladder lights. At this year’s Interior Design Show, they designed a feature exhibit for See the Light. They will also have prototypes at the show’s Studio North. In 2013, they won best best Studio North collection.


JESSICA: We have two booths at the Interior Design Show. The feature exhibit, See the Light, is partnership with Foscarini, through YLighting as the distributor. We chose to work with the Mysterio pendant light.

JONATHAN: The pendant was our starting point and we worked around it. We ended up going with an Italian theme for our installation. We were interested in radical theoretical Italian architects from the ’60s who had this idea of the continuous monument. It was a critique of modernism and homogenous culture. They put parasitic structures in different landscapes. It compromises the landscape.

JESSICA: It was very controversial at the time. It was a commentary on the homogenous, global world. Everything was being built the same–high rises looked the same around the world. We think their commentary is interesting now, because of the internet. We see products, furniture and interiors designed with a global influence. It doesn’t matter where you are.

JONATHAN: Whether you’re in Stockholm or London, all hipsters dress the same.

JESSICA:  If you’re the same, there’s no insecurity in design. It’s easier because something is reviewed and all over the internet, so you can just copy it. The process we go through, at MSDS, is really anxious because we’re trying to fight that and instead do things based on our instincts.

JONATHAN: It’s a right-click culture. The whole issue of authorship is moot. You can download something, re-create it and that’s kind of ok. That’s what we talked about when we were conceptualizing our installation–so we right-clicked and referred to this architecture that already existed. We put mirrors on either side of the interior space and the pendent lights throughout. It’s a canopy of pendent fixtures.

JESSICA: The double mirrors create an infinity sight line, playing into the continuous monument theme.

JONATHAN: Hopefully when you’re inside of it, you’ll get the feeling that it’s continuous.

JESSICA: In terms of process, there’s a lot of dialogue behind the scenes. We also make prototypes or tinker with mock-ups.






JONATHAN: MSDS stands for: Make Shit, Do Shit. We wanted to distill it down to the basics. We wanted to approach our name in an non-ideological way. We just make stuff and design stuff. The stuff might change but it’s always rigorous and passionate. We try, as much as possible, to make things from scratch while acknowledging that we don’t work in a vacuum.

JESSICA: The concept is the hardest part and it could come from a random photo. I really like this photo of a construction site. It’s nice lighting and the colours…I don’t know. It’s unrelated to a finished interior but it’s a really nice shot. The shadows look really good and the light looks nice. There’s something in the photograph that I’d like to incorporate into an interior. Sometimes you see things on the street and you take a photo for your inspiration file. Going through that file helps when we’re coming up with concepts.

JONATHAN: If you walk in on us, in the early stage of a project, you would think we’re not working because we’re reading a book or doodling, but we’re working hard mentally.

JESSICA: To get a good idea, you have to relax, leave the office, get a drink and sketch.

JONATHAN: You have to pretend like you have all the time in the world.

JESSICA: It’s a stressful position to be like, ‘Be creative! Pump it out!’ and there’s no limit to what’s good and what’s bad.

JONATHAN: You can’t measure what’s successful. You have moments where you think you found it, but twenty minutes later, you realize it’s terrible and you have to start over. It never ends.

JESSICA: It’s hard to turn it on and off–that’s the tricky thing. You have to sketch as much as you can. It doesn’t have to look good. That’s what prevents people from sketching.

JONATHAN: Well, if the page reads failure to you, it’s just going to drain your enthusiasm. I think you have to sketch to the point where it looks good to you and brings you pleasure–

JESSICA: –But you can’t let that stop you.

–MSDS, as told to Studio Beat

photos by Courtney Vokey

Check out more MSDS at the Interior Design Show (Jan. 23-26) and cruise their website here.

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