Designer Annika Frye was born in Vechta, Germany in 1985. From 2004 to 2010, she studied industrial and furniture design at the University of Kassel earning both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. In 2008, while still a student, she and other Kassel design students cofounded the design studio Teilchenbeschleuniger (Particle Accelerator). In 2009, Frye moved to Rotterdam to intern for Dutch designer Richard Hutten, working for clients such as Rabobank and TNT Post (now TNT Express and PostNL).
Frye went on to earn her PhD in Design Theory from HfG Offenbach (near Frankfurt) in 2015. Frye’s thesis was supervised by philosopher and art theoretician Dr. Juliane Rebentisch, design theorist Bernhard E. Bürdek, and designer and consultant Peter Eckart. Entitled Improvisation in the design process, the thesis focused on a collaborative—rather than author-centered—idea of design. Between 2012 and 2013, while still a student, Frye collaborated with her former Kassel professor, Oliver Vogt, on designs for the German tableware manufacturer WMF. In 2015, she moved to Berlin and worked as an in-house designer for the 3D-printing startup BigRep, where she explores the possibilities of post-industrial production.
According to Frye, “I am more a process designer than a product designer. In my work, the single artifact is less important that the process leading to its production. I am interested in the postmodernist design strategies of recombination, assemblage, and improvisation, which show where a product comes from and how it was made. Designing a process means using what is around, being part of a collective of machines and designers and makers.
She goes on: “I like to actually make things. My interest in craftsmanship stems more from the wish to analytically understand how something might be made. Even in the field of 3D printing, craftsmanship can't be fully [replaced] by digital production; since 3D-prints use specific materials, they require post production, so there is a sort of craftsmanship inherent there as well.”
As of this writing, standout projects include Frye’s Improvisation Machine (2012), a rotational-molding machine designed to serially create objects with a level of unpredictability; it is now included in the Museum of Applied Arts (MAK) in Vienna. Similarly, both Frye’s Claude Light (2013)—a pendant light made in that DIY-rotational molding machine—and Pre-Mould Lights (2014)—a collaboration with the Slovenian glass factory Steklarna Hrastnik that is now part of the Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO) in Ljublijana—continue her exploration of improvisation.
Frye’s work has been exhibited worldwide at respected events and institutions, such as the inaugural Istanbul Design Biennial, the New Museum in New York, Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam, and the MAK in Vienna.