You might be forgiven for underestimating Jens Martin Skibsted if you bumped into him on the street. The t-shirt-wearing, bike-obsessed designer has come to play a leading role in the Danish design landscape.
Calling what he does "design philosophy", Skibsted designs bicycles for his company Biomega, is the founding partner of Skibsted Ideation and the cofounder of KiBiSi with Bjarke Ingels and Lars Larsen. He heads up the Danish Design Council and writes for Fast Company and Huffington Post. He is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and a member of its Global Agenda Council on Design.
On a Skype call to Copenhagen, we asked Skibsted about his creative process and what new transportation modes he is dreaming up.
What is your design mission?
I think humanity needs to focus on two things. One is to preserve their habitat and the other is to find new habitats. Finding new habitats is a little bit sci-fi, which I am not really involved in. I deal more with trying to preserve habitats, which specifically appeals to transport and making sure all the products I design are sustainable.
When did you realise that you wanted a career in design?
Just before the millennium I realised I wanted a career in design and founded Biomega.
Do you have a design muse?
No, not really. If it’s a muse in the original sense, I don’t really have one. But of course there are some creatives and designers that I look up to, such as Yves Béhar – I love what he does. I think his design approach, not necessarily the actual designs, are amazing.
Do you have a favourite design?
I think the Boston Bike might be my most successful design. I can’t really say that I have a favourite design because it depends on what angle you look at a design from. My Biomega bicycle designs are collected by museums too, which is really cool.
How do you go about your creative process?
It’s never the same process. I think the classic design principles such as inspiration, iteration, implementation and information play an important role for me when I design. I come up with a new concept that does not exist and then I work out how to fill in the spaces and answer questions it poses.
Describe your workspace.
It’s an ordinary office. We sit around tables we designed with KiBiSi. We have PCs, not Apple computers as many people expect.
What is the most rewarding part about being a designer?
You get away with a lot of things. I wear t-shirts to work. People can always find me because I am always the guy in a t-shirt and I get away with it because I am a designer. Creativity is an excuse for doing whatever you want to do, so I just do whatever I feel like doing.
If you could redesign anything in the world, what would it be and why?
I would like to redesign an aeroplane into something like a hybrid aeroplane that is solar electric.
What do you think the future of design holds?
Design often becomes very ideological. A big trend nowadays is for designers to be open and participatory. I think design will become more and more versatile and spread into many disciplines, especially engineering.
Please tell us about KiBiSi. How was the company formed and how did the collaboration come about?
I was working with Bjarke Ingels on a project. Bjarke was working with Lars Larsen on a different project and at the same time I was also working with Lars on a project. It just made sense to start working together. It was very pragmatic and we all have the same evolutionary approach to design. Today, KiBiSi is a virtual company, it only serves pre-existing customers, and we don’t take in any new customers.
What are you currently working on?
We are working on a lot of things for Biomega. We are also redesigning all parts of a bicycle so that an entire bicycle is made by us.