Interview with Arman Emami

You have been a successful designer for many years now and always manage to capture people’s imagination with innovative design. Where do you get your ideas from?

One has to be inquisitive above all else to even be able to recognise the problems. After that, all that is left to do is to find a good solution to the problem. To achieve that, one needs a dose of creativity and a healthy mix of logical thinking and intuition. Intuition is responsible for providing creative approaches to solutions, while logic examines whether these solutions fulfil the criteria, such as whether the product can be manufactured or marketed. One continues to repeat this process until one has found the perfect solution. Only then does the design phase begin. This is merely a matter of giving the idea a beautiful and fitting form, and implementing it tastefully. The book explains these steps in a very entertaining way.

It is said that taste is a matter of opinion, as tastes vary so much. Nonetheless, your design concepts are well received by a large number of people. How do you explain your success?

One should not necessarily argue about taste, but one should discuss it, particularly as a designer. It is true that that tastes vary, but I believe that aesthetics are universal and even “superhuman”. Something akin to the “Golden Ratio” exists in nature and that has definitely not been invented by humans. I am therefore of the opinion that an objective definition of beauty exists, independent of our subjective and individual perception of aesthetics. I think that the more one approaches the objective values of aesthetics, the greater the probability that the perception of single individuals will align. But aesthetics alone are not enough to allow one to put one’s finger on the pulse of the majority. When it comes down to making something that appeals or doesn’t, the degree of innovation is also significant. The reason for that can be found in the solution to everyday problems. If a problem is solved through a product in an innovative way, it will appeal in its totality to the consumer, not just because of its aesthetics, but also because of the innovative solution it embodies. When people notice that a product makes their everyday like easier through innovation, they will like it and want to own it.

You are not only a successful product designer, but now also an author. That sounds like a lot of work. How do you relax in your spare time to regain strength for new innovations?

To be honest, I became a product designer, because I found the work extremely easy. I also enjoy product design tremendously, perhaps precisely for that reason. I do it because it’s my passion, so I don’t really think of it as “work” and separate it from my free time. I have fun designing in my spare time – at least in my head. As far as relaxation is concerned, there are many interesting options. At the moment, I am writing a screenplay…

In your new book “360° Industrial Design”, you explain the principles of analytic product design. Is it really possible to learn innovative design?

Only up to a point. Of course, one can learn or train oneself to do many things, but not everything. There are many “creativity techniques”, from brainstorming to headstand techniques. These methods can of course help to develop new ideas or possible solutions. However, that won’t suffice. Your genes have to do the rest. Talent alone is also not enough. To all intents and purposes, both have to come together. It’s the same in sport: if you don’t train enough you won’t succeed. However, if you are congenitally prone to slipped discs, it would be better not to attempt weight-lifting.

In your book, you describe functionality, aesthetics, materials, economics and marketing as the cornerstones of a good design concept. In your opinion, which of these aspects is the most important?

That is like asking parents which of their children they prefer! All these aspects are important. Unlike people, beauty alone is not enough when it comes to products. A beautiful gadget that doesn’t work is, loosely put, “rubbish” and noone will want to have it. But functionality alone no longer “works” either. Our world is evolving at an incredible pace and is becoming more complex with every second. Anyone who wants to improve the design of a product in the long-term has to view everything in its entirety – and take an interdisciplinary approach to optimisation.

Where do you see the limitations of product design?

In the short and medium term the limitations will be greater. Our everdecreasing resources and intense competition are forcing product design to undergo a multi-disciplinary development. If you think about how design influences production methods and therefore material consumption and the production’s carbon footprint, or how marketing considerations affect the success or failure of a product in the market, then you will realise that the times of decorative and arbitrary design will soon be over. Initially, that will lead to further constraints. In the long-term, the outlook is slightly more positive. Technological and scientific developments will offer increasing opportunities. The development of modern, environment-friendly materials and highly efficient production methods will push the limits of what is achievable. All that will remain are the limits of your imagination, as they say, human imagination knows no limits.

Your new book is intended as a practical manual for professional designers. Is it important for you to be able to pass on your experience and knowledge?

It is not really a question of needing to share things. Originally, I actually just wanted to order my own thoughts and experiences in a better way, so that all aspects would be clearly laid out and structured and thereby prevent me from getting lost in the detail. And that really worked. During the development process, many things became clearer to me and I gained a more focused view of the whole. In addition, I very much like telling stories. Naturally, I am also happy to share my experience with other designers, but if you consider how rapidly everything is evolving, then you can also easily imagine that everything that surrounds us will one day appear trivial and probably outdated. Nonetheless, I believe that people will take a different approach to product design once they have read this book.

And finally: what constitutes good design?

If you want to have a specific and detailed answer, you can find it in the book. But if you want a more general, sound-bite answer, like those that are so typical of politicians, then I would say: if a product brings joy into your life and makes life more beautiful and simpler – then it is good.

Thank you very much for the interview!

360° Industrial Design

Posted on 22.05.2017

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