What inspired your career choices?
Learning. For me, design is a tool I use to really learn the world around me. I lived in all different countries because of design. If I want to learn about specific cultures, I’ll design for them.
What do you consider to be your greatest professional achievement?
It’s a global thing; it’s the body of work—meaning not the results, but for me, living in all these places (New York to Copenhagen to Milan to Paris to London and back to New York), has given me the chance to show up with nothing and get going, get an education—to learn, expose, all through design. That’s what I’m most proud of. It’s not about the work; it’s about the process.
What is the most fulfilling part of your job?
Collaborating. Working with people, learning their skills, their world, and sharing. That’s absolutely the most fulfilling.
What is your favorite recent discovery?
Interactive design. It’s amazing. It’s really opening my mind. I’m realizing designing is no longer static. It’s no longer about material. Now the tools are appearing for me that can let me communicate—but not only through wood, glass, and stone. A whole other library has opened up that actually lets me express how I want to express.
What are the biggest challenges facing product designers today?
Product designers think they’re just designers, but design is maybe 10 to 15 percent of it. The rest is thinking like a business person and helping companies grow and move forward. The greatest challenge for designers is realizing that they have that role and that responsibility—not just doing nice drawings.
What is the best thing you’ve learned in the past 10 years?
There are no boundaries. Literally, physically, you can go where you want, do what you want, learn what you want. There’s no need to wait. I remember being in school and being frustrated that I wasn’t learning something. Then it dawned on me that I could go out and learn it for myself. It took me until I was 23 years old to realize that… In the last 10 years, realizing that you can educate yourself, I think, is the best thing.
What product/product type have you not worked on designing yet, but would like to attempt in the future?
Consumer electronics. There’s an opportunity to bring this emotional design quality to it and do things that are less about turnover and less about the disposability of it, and more about the use and this intimate experience we have with these objects.
If you could have selected another career, what might you have been?
Some sort of scientist…probably a physicist. I want to be around people sharing ideas that actually are meaningful in our world. I’m interested in what makes things tick really.
What advice would you give to design students or those just starting out in the field?
When I was in school, it was about working for Nike or designing for an electronic company. When I moved to Europe, it was about finding your individuality: you should have your own company; you should learn to grow for yourself. It’s two schools of thought. I’m in the European school. The universal, common overlap is: Do what makes you feel good. My advice is do what you believe in. And do what’s uniquely you.
What is your design philosophy?
Irreducible complexity. It’s like the mouse trap: You have the board, the spring, the catch, and you can’t take away any of those elements, or it won’t work. Everything that we design is like that. How can you reduce it completely so that it’s no longer reducible? If you reduce it any further, it would no longer work. We go as far as we possibly can without it falling apart—that’s also conceptually, not just physically.