‘A Ferrari is the only real luxury nowadays,’ jokes Spanish designer Xavier Bas when asked about his work for wineries, exclusive design firms or paper manufacturers. ‘New printing processes have taken luxury finishes to a greater range of premium brands, so it is down to the quality of the product and the quality of the design,’ he says. And Bas’s designs have demonstrated such qualities from the beginning.
After graduating from ELISAVA (Barcelona School of Engineering and Design) in 1983, Bas began his career by working on projects for museums with Catalan designer Enric Franch. In 1992, he joined Summa Comunicació, a multidisciplinary agency (inspired by Pentagram), which would become one of the cornerstones of the design boom that coincided with the Barcelona Olympic Games.
Working closely with celebrated designers such as Mario Eskenazi and Josep María Mir, Bas developed distinctive projects like the image for the new port of the city ‘Port Vell’. However he disdains the word ‘boom’ to describe that time. ‘The Olympics were important because they gave us visibility, but it wasn’t an overnight success,’ says Bas. ‘Catalonia had a strong industrial tradition forged in the nineteenth century, plenty of designers to serve it, and of course design schools. The difference was that the world was suddenly looking at us.’
Bas opened his own studio, Xavier Bas Disseny, in 1998 with just one big client: the printer manufacturer Hewlett Packard. ‘This contract allowed me to take some other low-fee projects,’ he says. One client was carpet-maker and designer Nani Marquina. Though today her rugs can be seen at MoMA in New York, and on the floors of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the work was then little known. Bas turned her name into a logotype – Nanimarquina – and made a 2002 catalogue that showed and explained the production process for her work.
‘We used coated paper for that catalogue, because at that time the quality of the pictures was more important than the feel of the paper,’ he says. However that was all about to change: ‘Paper itself was about to become a powerful communication tool. Catalogues printed on cotton or recycled papers became associated with values such as “natural”, “warm” or “quality”.’ This is something that Bas has incorporated into subsequent projects.
His interest in and expertise with paper has meant that he was selected as one of the jurors for Fedrigoni’s TOP Awards jury, alongside Ginette Caron (Milan), Joost Grootens (Amsterdam), Pulp’s Simon Esterson (London) and Massimo Acanfora (Conran, London).