Five past Design Indaba speakers on how they perceive product design

Watch Design Indaba Alumni give their take on what it means to make quality functional products.

Massimo Vignelli, Tom Dixon, Yves Béhar, Ayse Birsel and Hella Jongerius. These names need no introduction. While these product designers all sit in the same field, they’ve each generated a different approach in what they do.

For San- Francisco based design , Yves Béhar it has always been about how his designs are perceived. The product designer is the founder of Fuseproject, a design and branding firm that specialises in a combination of tech and design.

“As a designer what drives me is not so much style or the way the product looks, it's about finding places in the world for design to express itself, for that idea to express itself in a lot of different mediums,” he explains.

The product designer has done collaborations with Puma, Samsung and Italian fashion house Prada.

Tom Dixon, on the other hand, is known as a self-taught product designer, who has always been about the creation of more than just a product. Currently based in London, Dixon is the creative director of the brand ‘Tom Dixon’ which specialises in accessories and furniture.

“I think the whole thing about design is improving stuff, certainly it's about functionality and its about solving problems,” says Dixon.

Dixon is one of the few speakers who has spoken more than once at the Conference. For his 2018 talk, Dixon delved deeper into the designs behind the products and the impact it has.

Like Dixon, Hella Jongerius has also spoken more than once. The Dutch designer is known for her contemporary product designs, which include lighting, furniture, ceramics and textiles.

She is also one not to shy away from combining traditional designs with that of contemporary ones. Jongerius also looks into giving each of her products character, instead of seeing it as just an object.

“What I’m focused on I’m designing the relation between an object and a human being, so when does an object still communicate to somebody and when do you wanna have it and also carry it and keep it for a longer time around you,” says Jongerius.

When she spoke at the 2015 Design Indaba Conference, Jongerius looked at her career as a professional designer and her love for unusual material combinations. 

Design problem-solving is Ayse Birsel's focus. The New York-based designer is the creative director of Birsel + Seck, which serves as a design studio.

“What speaks to me is design as problem-solving, how can you solve a problem or settle problems to transform people’s lives through design and improve their lives,” says Birsel.

During her 2017 Conference talk, Birsel presented an interactive presentation for our audience, where she spoke about the importance of designing a meaningful future for oneself.

All this information came from her book and coursework which teaches you to Design the Life You Love.

Lastly, when legendary product designer Massimo Vignelli passed away in 2014 the impact was felt throughout the design world. Vignelli who was the co-founder of Vignelli Associates worked alongside his wife Lella Vignelli.

“I’m not interested in styles, I’m interested in the notion of quality. You know good designs still sell year after year,” says Vignelli.

Over the years Vignelli’s work has evolved and has gone onto include package design, architectural graphics, interiors and furniture design.

Vignelli who spoke at the 2007 Design Indaba Conference, took the audience through his 50 years of famous designs each representing his signature styles of simplicity and timelessness.

Read up on announced speakers for Design Indaba 2019: 

Two must-see projects by Design Indaba 2019 speaker Gordon Reid

Architect Dong-Ping Wong to speak at Design Indaba 2019

Advertising maverick David Droga to speak at Design Indaba 2019

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