I wanted to be a writer as a teen… so storytelling was my first love. In my late teens, design became an obsession as I realized that I could express myself through the medium. Much later, when I founded Fuseproject in 1999, our slogan became ‘design brings stories to life.’
What I learned from my years in Silicon Valley is that design can have a primary role in how a business is shaped, how a company can be design-driven. In my experience of large industry in Europe, that knowledge has been lost.
Design needs a new relationship with the world, one that is more focused on our planet’s needs.
I think every business, really, has a unique reason for being, unique assets, unique attributes, a unique history. And that can be turned into a very attractive design story, essentially, that consumers can relate to.
Every tech product on the body like Jawbone or in the home like August is different. But there are definitely principles that apply across the board for me, such as integration in everyday life and discretion.
I’ve been influenced by some of the greatest designers. Charles Eames. And Bruno Munari in the ’50s in Italy – when they had to retool the industry of war into an industry to help society. In a way, I’m influenced by designers that were there at a radical time of change.
Part of my life is spent designing in urban centers, and part of my life has been spent in factories. But the other part of my life is spent in nature.
The idea of designing something that is like something else is incredibly uninteresting and boring.
I know it’s a cliche, but I see myself as a citizen of the world. I was brought up in Switzerland by German and Turkish parents but I’ve very much grown up in San Francisco. I have a European sense of aesthetic, but I’m also deeply steeped in the notion of change and entrepreneurship that is associated with Silicon Valley.
I have been working with Hive, part of British Gas, on reinventing the thermostat. Now you can control your heating at the press of a button on your phone. As I say, design should permeate every part of society.
Keyless entry in a car is something that we’re used to. Somehow, the home has been very resistant to this. Some of it has to do with security, but today we know that technology, when things are invisible, is actually safer than physical artifacts.
I truly believe that we’re about to enter a second golden age of design. The first one was in the ’50s and ’60s, when designers like Raymond Loewy, Charles Eames, George Nelson and Dieter Rams were shepherds of the brands they were working with. They had influence over the products and how companies communicated and promoted themselves.
For each project I do, I try to surprise myself, do the unexpected, and change my own status quo. From the One Laptop Per Child, the Herman Miller Sayl, or the latest Movado watch collection, there is always an insecurity about being able to do something important. I think each of those projects makes me feel like we have progressed.
I am passionate about what design can do – how far it can support the new ideas and the new ways of living of this 21st Century. Good design accelerates this exciting future where manufacturing is local, materials and processes are cradle to cradle, business models are both socially and financially driven.
I truly believe that everything Sci-fi taught me as a child about an efficient and wondrous world will be happening in my lifetime.
Design is a tool that either allows us to create new markets or disrupt existing ones.
When clients come to my design agency and say ‘I want to be the Apple of this or that,’ we say ‘Okay, are you ready to be the Steve Jobs?’ Few are up to the task.
Juicero is the first company to make cold-pressed juice something that people can make themselves at home. The challenges to design and engineer a press that can deliver 8,000 pounds of force are tremendous.
Advertising is the price companies pay for being unoriginal.
My mantra is: ‘Good design accelerates the adoption of new ideas.’
An ideal day for me is a combination of a fun-exciting creative moment with work partners, some laughs and games with my kids, a good surf session, and great conversation with friends around a meal.
Kodak has always represented innovation that is approachable while delivering the craft of filmmaking.
I want to work on things that aren’t self-evident, to propose things that are radically different and game-changing.
The biggest challenge is that when people look at low price point products, they essentially invest less money in development, innovation, and new technology. And in order to innovate at a lower price point, and make sustainability attainable to the masses, you have to invest more. But that’s counterintuitive for a lot of businesses.
When I first came to the Bay area, I worked in Silicon Valley in the early to mid-’90s, and I think what mattered then was our ability as designers to create a vision around people’s ideas.
The Swiss can be very difficult.
For me, it’s not about being the best designer. I’m interested in being the best partner. The best collaborator.
I am always looking for ways to move technology away from being over-featured. Moving to Silicon Valley in the mid-1990s meant I grew up as a designer in an environment where technology is a tool and not a means to an end. I believe that design should be driven by ideas, not style.
It’s not about putting a speaker in a chair or putting a TV in a bed. That’s not how technology and the home intersect. For me, it’s about sensors, about the home knowing where you are.
Everything has yet to be invented. I never say ‘green’ – I say ‘greener.’ It’s greener simply because this is a continuum of change, improvement and discovery.
Having one foot in design and the other in sustainable and social projects, I hear this question quite often: ‘Why does the world need another chair?’ My answer is that the world needs another chair/bicycle/car or any new product for that matter, like the world needs another book.
Design accelerates the adoption of new ideas. And many of these ideas are important for designers to show that there is a way. When you see things through that lens, you realize it applies to any industry and any form of design.