The Values of Design: Creating Objects with Stories

Yves Béhar is a Swiss designer and entrepreneur. He is the founder and principal designer of Fuseproject, an award-winning industrial design and brand development firm. 

I came across one of his TED Talks a while ago, "Designing Objects with Stories", and his speech from 2008 is still current and definitely food for thought.

 

From his vision of work and design I can extract major takeaways:

 

Design is an integrated process  it's creating from the inside out:

You cannot just focus on designing one element and ignoring everything else. Design can't be only superficial. Design is how it looks, but also how it works, how it feels, how it is built.

Everything has to form part of a cohesive process.

We can see this in various of his projects, like the Leaf lamp for Herman Miller. The design team takes advantage of designing both the lamp and the lamp bomb to create a new experience of light. 

Design is not about slapping skins, it’s about designing the whole experience from the inside out. 
— Béhar, Y. (2008)
 Sketches for the Leaf Lamp project by Fuseproject.

Sketches for the Leaf Lamp project by Fuseproject.

 

Design doesn't have to end in one deliverable:

Sometimes a work structure where the client and the design team become a partnership can be the most beneficial for everyone.  As Béhar explained, in its most holistic sense, design is never done. We continue to touch the user in many ways: the packaging, the website, the marketing approach, and so forth.

Designers are the glue that brings things together.
— Béhar, Y. (2008)

Working in a partnership allows you to continue dedicating time and efforts to the project, enriching the user experience from beginning to end, while both client and design team share the rewards.

Everyone wins.

 Jawbone Bluetooth headset produced in partnership with Jawbone wearable technology company.

Jawbone Bluetooth headset produced in partnership with Jawbone wearable technology company.

 

Design has the potential to break the ice:

Creative work can be provocative too. It has the capacity to permeate society and change stigmas, by showing a different perspective.

Yves shows the example of the challenge set by the Department of Health in New York, where Fuseproject designed both the dispensers and the condoms, to distribute 36 million condoms for free to the citizens of New York.

Design sets a table for conversation.
 

 NYC Condoms - Fusproject.

NYC Condoms - Fusproject.

 

Design doesn't have to be expensive:

Good design is usually related to substantial amounts of money.

The One Laptop per Child project challenges the idea that design has to be expensive, creating a laptop that merges education, technology and design at an affordable place (100$). 

They used quality materials, gave it functionality (WiFi/reading in the sunlight), with a vibrant and attractive look for its users.

Béhar mentions an important reality: they had to work with passion and fight suppliers and manufacturers when needed, for the project to remain the way it is, within the budget.

As designers and project coordinators we have to stand up to what is best for the project until the very end, avoiding the process from destroying the original concept, and ensuring quality by all means.

 One Laptop per Child (OLPC) - Fuseproject.

One Laptop per Child (OLPC) - Fuseproject.

 OLPC Laptops in a classroom in Gaza, Palestine.

OLPC Laptops in a classroom in Gaza, Palestine.

 

Design is about creating value:

Let's not forget that design is a service to people, and in this process, value is created.

We bring value to the business, to the community, to the environment, and to the users, and all the detail and thought we put into each project are what give value to the broader spectrum: the micro enriches the macro.

We have to keep in mind the values of the work we do, what is it that we are really offering?

 

 Y-shaped bottle for the Y Water™ project, a low-calorie organic kids drink.

Y-shaped bottle for the Y Water™ project, a low-calorie organic kids drink.

 Symmetrical multi-directional Y bottle made with and extrusion of blow molded from Eastman's Eastar™ copolyester.

Symmetrical multi-directional Y bottle made with and extrusion of blow molded from Eastman's Eastar™ copolyester.

 The concept shapes the name, the marketing strategy and facilitates a tool for play.

The concept shapes the name, the marketing strategy and facilitates a tool for play.

We can change the values, change the companies we work with, and eventually together maybe we can change the world. 
— Béhar, Y. (2008)

References

(1) Yves Béhar. (n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved November 10, 2017, from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yves_Béhar

(2) Béhar, J. (2008) Designing Objects That Tell Stories. Official TED Conference 2008. Retrieved October 30, 2017 from: https://www.ted.com/talks/yves_behar_on_designing_objects_that_tell_stories

(3) Eastman Innovation Lab. (n.d.) Y Water ™. Retrieved November 10, 2017 from: http://www.innovationlab.eastman.com/projects/y-water-inspiration