Giv­ing Form to Func­tion


HWM (Singapore) - - Q&A - by Mar­cusWong

You talked about be­ing led to an empty desk and told to de­sign a phone on your very first day of work. What do you think you gained out of that ex­pe­ri­ence?

Well, three things: The first is the great joy of mak­ing a prod­uct and the feel­ing of see­ing it in the shop for the first time. Get­ting this feel­ing – “Woo”. Just the feel­ing that, even now – more than 16 years later – (that) the de­sign’s ok.

The sec­ond les­son was how im­por­tant it is to be in close dialog with the en­gi­neers. This trains you to chal­lenge ev­ery­thing so that we can make some­thing that seems im­pos­si­ble real.

The third was that the prod­uct has to have a long life span. It has to be plea­sur­able to own and use for many years. It must be very iconic and have its own logic so that it stays fresh even af­ter 50 years.

How does the part­ner­ship be­tween David Lewis De­sign­ers and Bang & Olufsen work?

With Bang & Olufsen we’re al­lowed to start projects and dic­tate how it goes all the way to pro­duc­tion. So it starts with a dis­cus­sion; about what type of prod­ucts or tech­nol­ogy they’re cur­rently work­ing on, and if there’s a way to do some­thing new with it.

We al­ways start with a story, then we ex­per­i­ment, sketch, cre­ate full scale mock-ups. That gives us an idea of the pos­si­bil­i­ties. Then, we get into dis­cus­sions with a spe­cial­ist group of en­gi­neers at Bang & Olufsen to work out a list of ob­sta­cles and pos­si­bil­i­ties to present to man­age­ment.

What do you think about brands let­ting peo­ple dic­tate more of the de­sign of their prod­ucts by mak­ing them more mod­u­lar?

I think we ac­tu­ally pro­vide some relief to our cus­tomers be­cause they don’t have to de­sign en­tire prod­ucts them­selves, but rather se­lect from op­tions to cus­tomise it to their lik­ing. What we try to do is to dis­cover the la­tent needs of our users by get­ting into their heads. Like how an ac­tor gets into the role of his char­ac­ter. So you can say we get the so­lu­tions to our users’ prob­lems by learn­ing to be users our­selves.

How do you marry form and func­tion (de­sign and tech­nol­ogy)? What would you say the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two is like, and which leads the way?

I be­lieve form fol­lows func­tion. But when you have a func­tion, there are many forms it can em­body so there a lot of pal­ettes. It’s im­por­tant to stay faith­ful to the func­tional el­e­ment though - when peo­ple buy some­thing, they’re mostly us­ing their heart, but if you don’t give five to ten per­cent to the brain then it will in­ter­vene and say “don’t buy it”.


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