In this interview Colin Redmond, designer of SKOOT (a hubless scooter) and DuoCycle (a hubless bike), from Interphase Design in Australia talks about why he started interphase design, role playing in design, fun in the office (and design) and what the future holds for SKOOT, Interphase and himself.
Enjoy, please leave your thoughts and feedback in the comments.
“How will we live in the future, how will we communicate in the future, how will we travel, how will we go about chores? From my experience, Industrial Design offers fun solutions, but at the same time ticking the boring corporate boxes of social, environment, economical, cultural, science, technology, political, education and most importantly foresight.”
“When it comes to fun in the end product, I’ve been known to add quirky features into a design so that it may resemble something phallic from a certain angle, or have a cheeky message moulded into a component. I try not to make it too designery abstract – after all we’re not all design aficionados.”
“I hope in some small way design is put on the map again in Melbourne – or vice versa.”
1. Colin, Welcome to Design Droplets. Thank you for taking the time to talk with us, could you please give us a quick introduction on yourself.
Thanks Raph, it’s great to be here – I love Melbourne this time of the year, Spring is about to pounce on us, the AFL finals – there’s a real buzz. Well about me, I started my industrial design career with a VW scholarship to study Car Design in Europe. After this I worked with Audi helping on the tail end of the original Audi TT project and designing for their premium models the A8 and yet to be made Q7. After my visa ended I came back to Australia to do a post grad in Industrial Design – I was still only 21 years old. When I finished, I actually didn’t want to go back to Europe, so I stayed in Brisbane thinking I could change the Brisbane Design scene working at a Plastics Manufacturer.
I later started an internal Industrial Design firm within the company and we started charging for our design time. Back then this was unheard off, as the ‘design service’ was considered just another overhead or cost centre. Similar to an accounting department or a marketing expense. We called the design office -Toast Factory and our clients were Airwalk, Coca-Cola, Coopers, Aunger, Arnott’s, Bacardi and Coffee Club. After this I was burnt out and actually took a break waiting tables, whilst I hatched new ideas. I was inspired by the sail boats that glided past the restaurant. Waiting tables was great, I met some amazing people that help fund future projects, it also helped ground my ego. So in about 2002 I started Square Spots, a gourmet design haus, I called it – I designed a Tea Light for relaxation and rejuvenation. This won a Queensland DIA, Best Use of Lighting award. It went on to sell all around the world. The light was made from Recycled PP – with the success of that I quit my waiting job and started consulting more.
I consulted in a variety of industries before being asked to start an R&D company for Poolrite Equipment. My task was to redesign the entire range of over 300 products and to advance the design on 3 fronts in order to increase the company’s bottom line. The new products had to be environmentally sensitive, sexy and technologically advanced. The later bothered me, but the we chose applicable technology, not just technology for technologies sake. During this 3 year tenor we won numerous awards, the highlight being a Germany Award for Environmental Design. The team consisted of 15 staff from marketing to engineering and we created a handover package for the production team to take up. Reaching my peak at Poolrite I decided to try something new.
So I started a prototype company called Plastic Ink, this aided my passion for advanced design concepts – through Plastic Ink I had the great fortune of meeting some extremely talented material and behavioural scientists. These interactions later led to the creation of InterphaseDesign an Industrial Design company making Advanced Concepts – because I like pushing the envelope.
2. You are part of interphase design, a group of Industrial Designers & Engineers located in Melbourne, can you tell us a bit about Interphase?
I started Interphase Design in 2009 as a vehicle to take advanced concepts to manufacture. A lot of the ideas are part of a system, not just a plastic stylised box – too many times Industrial Design is used for styling a housing of electrical bits – but we can offer so much more. So we choose to work with a lot of smart people and we give them the credit of the design, engineering, advertising etc. An Industrial Design process is very involved and you need a lot of people to bring an idea to customers. So the group fosters this shared mind-set. We operate from a very small office with a growing puppy called Ruby, she’s an Airedale Terrier. She helps bring some grounding to a design project my breaking the intensity when we get to the end of a project.
3. Skoot is your uni hub scooter design that you are currently working on getting out into the world, can you talk a bit about your Skoot journey?
SKOOT was an idea I formed during my time with Audi in Germany. I loved cars, I loved cycling, I loved design – but I was frustrated that there wasn’t a solution to the environmental issues associated with cars and the congestion issues associated with travel. There had to be a better way to move over mid range distances using existing infrastructure. I’ve been searching for the right wheel system since 1998. In 2006, I finally found a way to make the idea suitable for use. Then in 2008 I redesigned it further to make it a mass-produced reality. The journey has just begun – watch this space…..
4. What other exciting products have you got coming up/in the works?
The next couple years we have booked up with simple ideas made effective with complex electronics. They have serious implications – but do it in a fun way. Like the Richard Hoare ‘a bit more’ button on a Breville toaster, no one likes burnt toast!! Our products are based around our core interests of travel, style and robots. We love robots but don’t understand exactly how they work, like most things in life I guess. Our main release for 2010 will be a commuter hubless bike, this can been seen on my twitter page.
5. Can you talk about your personal design philosophy?
I’m really big on Role Playing – not the Jap Anime Dungeon and Dragons way – but scenarios. How will we live in the future, how will we communicate in the future, how will we travel, how will we go about chores? From my experience, Industrial Design offers fun solutions, but at the same time ticking the boring corporate boxes of social, environment, economical, cultural, science, technology, political, education and most importantly foresight. The holistic solution an experienced industrial designer offerers pays off positively over longer terms in more aspects of life. So for me it’s important to travel as much as possible, meet different people and to have fun doing it – after all we’re designing for others. For the actual design of a product, I really try to capture a style that is pushing the boundary, but is still acceptable. In this way I find the product can have the longest life-cycle and therefore reduce the environmental waste associated with consumerism. This might be done by changing material, process or configuration. Inspiration will come from the weirdest of places. Alot of the time it might jut be words from an article or chatting with friends.
6. Can you tell us a bit about the process your go through to come up with new designs/products?
Oops – I think I answered this above. But we like to immerse ourselves in the ‘end users’ experience. We relax and throw around ideas to improve the status-quo. We start the very long and detailed process of design on a level keel, knowing we’ve moved in the right direction. As for coming up with new ideas, they generally happen when you least expect it, often it’s from meeting people at different events/conferences etc. I’m constantly amazed by the highly intelligent and interesting people out there – but their ideas aren’t getting made, released, marketed etc etc. I try not to design for myself, because I think design is more about them/others/those – it’s ultimately someone else’s life you’re trying to add value to.
7. It seems that you like to infuse fun into your design, how important do you think fun is in design?
I try to keep fun in the office as much as possible, it’s not always easy with time and budget restraints and pressure and Ruby dog. Changing the routine helps revitalise engines. When it comes to fun in the end product, I’ve been known to add quirky features into a design so that it may resemble something phallic from a certain angle, or have a cheeky message moulded into a component. I try not to make it too designery abstract – after all we’re not all design aficionados. For instance we designed a pool chlorinator chamber that looked like a hand grenade, because these things, if not designed, installed and operated correctly can explode. People in the pool industry referred to it as the grenade – a bit of fun for everyone and orders actually increased as the nickname was easier to remember than the catalogue serial number. This particular design became officially known as the most chlorine efficient producing chlorinator on the market by US Swimming Pool Association.
8. What do you think is missing from the design scene in Australia? If anything?
There are a lot of things missing in the Australian Design scene, and it’s not the designer – it’s the public awareness, appreciation and integration of Design thinking into everyday life. If you go to Lyon, you see these magnificent designs for public transport, they aren’t to everyone’s taste – but they were designed on design principles and people love them. They weren’t engineered, they weren’t economised, they were designed with people in mind first. As a result they are appreciated, the upkeep is reduced and the longevity extended.
9. What does the future hold for you, Skoot and Interphase Design?
At the moment I see a large Andrew’s Hamburger with the lot and a chilled White Rabbit ale from Healesville. SKOOT is getting the final runs of the very expensive world wide patent process, license deals are progressing and it’s getting ready for production, it’s expanding the model range, creating accessories and I hope people can enjoy it. I hope it gives people a smile. I hope it brings more people together. I hope in some small way design is put on the map again in Melbourne – or vice versa. As for InterphaseDesign, I plan to keep it intimate and sitting on the edge of design circles.
10. Colin, thanks for taking the time to talk with us here at Design Droplets. Do you have any final thoughts or advice for Design Droplets readers?
The best lesson I’ve learnt, after being yourself, is – When you’re right, you’re not always right.
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