“At my core is a belief in the ultimate potential of all humans to play a significant role in the sustenance of the universal system. To share a unified vision of reality, yet respect our inner, more spiritual selves and recognize that we are all infinitely powerful in our own particular way.”
As one of the most prominent figures in contemporary design, Ini Archibong is just as much a designer as he is an artist and storyteller. Ever since he first stepped onto the design scene in the early 2010s, Archibong’s distinctive portfolio ranging from gallery work to immersive environments and high-profile collaborations has cemented his place as a true design changemaker.
“Being a creator has always been a process of distilling my perception of the world around me into creations that can be understood by as many people as possible regardless of their background, point of view or position in life.” – Ini Archibong
The son of Nigerian immigrants, Archibong was raised in Pasadena, California, and studied environmental design at ArtCenter College of Design. His trajectory of completing a master’s in architecture and entering what he calls, “the realm of the lifetime architect” was interrupted after he designed the Serif table for Bernhardt Design in 2010. After a period living and working in Singapore, and traveling widely, he relocated to Switzerland (where he currently resides) to pursue further studies – earning a master’s degree in luxury design and craftsmanship from the prestigious École cantonale d’art de Lausanne (ECAL). No stranger to luxury collaborations, Archibong has since worked with Hermès, Sé and Knoll.
“From the beginning, I’ve seen what I do as art, and design as the medium. Just like some artists use paint, I use design.” This approach has allowed Archibong to explore the impact of design beyond just the mere function of it, and to ensure that each piece he creates tells a story, or makes space for diverse stories to be heard.
Drawing on his own heritage and appreciation for the world’s cultures, Archibong’s work is both deeply personal and universal. He has never shied away from leveraging his creations as a way to comment on social issues. In 2020, he altered the design of his Theoracle installation at the Dallas Art Museum and crossed out its title in response to issues of racial injustice and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “At the current moment, it feels important to be both vocal and creatively productive. It is a privileged position to be in to have my voice heard and to have interest in my creative expressions. I intend to make the most of it in service of something larger than myself.”
As part of this journey to highlight the stories of those who have been traditionally overlooked within mainstream design, Archibong designed the first Pavilion of the African Diaspora in 2021, a project specifically dedicated to the perspectives and experiences of communities that derive from it. Comprising three architectural follies, Sail, Wave Gate and Shell, the triptych was inspired by the mythology of the conch and cowrie shells emerging from the sand. “I saw the project, a platform for reflection on the past, present and future of the historical dispersion of Africans, as an opportunity to continue my storytelling in a potentially more powerful way: by asking questions.”
Since launching at the London Design Biennale, the project has not only offered a space for Black creators to connect, exchange and mobilize, but has also sparked critical dialogue about the lack of African representation and recognition within art and design – an issue that Archibong intends to continue to bring attention to through his work.
While diverse in scope and scale, many of Archibong’s projects can be seen as evidence of design’s subtle yet clear impact on society. Whether it’s furniture or an art installation, his creations inspire and challenge his audience – and other designers alike – to think critically about the type of stories we want to tell, and the kind of future we want to build.