Giving Form to Function
TORSTEN VALEUR DESIGN DIRECTOR AT DAVID LEWIS DESIGNERS.
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”.