Rui Pereira is a Portuguese product designer. After completing his graduation in product design in Porto he moved to Milan to study interior and product design at SPD. He worked as a product designer at Patricia Urquiola’s studio for several years. He later joined Hay, one of the most interesting and dynamic companies on the international scene. He now lives and works in Copenhagen, Denmark. Beside his main activity, he continues to develop personal projects with other designers and galleries. 

With Lateira you appear to be putting some question marks of economical and political nature in a subtle way. two typical Portuguese production traditions, both seemingly in extinction, have been joined together, well beyond pure product design. Which was your intent here?

Lateira was born as a reflection about the Portuguese canned fish industry and its importance for Portuguese socio-economic heritage. I was interested in mixing a product coming from an industrial background with a handcrafted one, in a solid effort to destigmatize the consumption of canned sardines. The small production of handcrafted items is undoubtedly a process to be taken into account in our economic future. In a society that values more and more handmade and zero environmental impact products, the synergies created between designers and craftspeople are essential. The development of projects that merge these two realities is the key to create a parallel economy, able to satisfy new niche markets.

Imagine walking in the streets of Porto and you find yourself in a tourist souvenir shop selling the Lateira pieces. And imagine finding the same Lateira project in a gallery or design store: to what extent does the context determine the perception of a product and its intrinsic value? And in your specific case, where is the limit between so called “good-design” and “non-design”?

This project can be read at different levels. For me it’s important that the consumer gets involved with my work, whether in a souvenir shop or in a gallery. Using the can as a blank canvas, the object grows in shape and dimension. I wanted it to be visually clear. I even developed a specific typeface for it, but working with craftspeople that do the same type of job for 40 years can be tricky.

What is the profound character of Portuguese design? How do you recognize yourself a Portuguese designer?

In my opinion there is no specific anima in Portuguese design, we are working in really different directions. Since I’ve lived in Milan for four years and i’m now based in Copenhagen, my perception of Portuguese design is pretty much as an outsider. Still there are a few characteristics that unify it: the use of local materials, craftsmanship and the love for our heritage.