Based in London, black+blum is an Anglo-Swiss design partnership who joined forces in 1998. The black+blum designs have won numerous awards, including a gia Global Honoree award for the best product design in 2011, and are sold through selected stores all over the world.
IHA: Where do you find inspiration when designing new products?
DB: We get inspired by everything and can be influenced by completely unrelated areas and materials, even antiques. I believe it is our job to be sensitive and try to absorb as much as possible from the world around us. This is part of the joy of being a designer – finding that unpredictable connection, something that other people might not notice. We also love products and have a natural curiosity. This doesn’t mean we are materialistic—but we definitely enjoy looking, touching and absorbing the world around us.
IHA: Are there any specific designers, places or eras that influence you?
DB: There are many, and they might differ for each design. It’s amazing to see the unique aesthetics of different countries. Although these do still exist, it does feel as though the world is becoming a smaller place and that previously recognizable national styles are blurring. It is important that we do not launch designs that will appear out of date or lose their value after a short time. Much of this is has to do with materials and function. We always love designs that we think will become antiques – future design classics.
IHA: Is there an approach or look that joins the functionality, form or emotional appeal of
your product line?
DB: I think it will vary for every item. Some designs are led by the function, and this gives physicality to the form, but sometimes there is an overriding feel or aesthetic that molds the function. We have done designs with humor, with sculptural beauty and even designs with a retro/engineering feel. I think the key is to take each design or range individually and work out what is best for it.
IHA: How do new technologies influence your product design? Do you use 3-D printing, Kickstarter or other platforms to develop or launch products?
DB: We definitely use 3D software to help develop new designs. We always start with pencil and paper and make many models, but now with 3D software and rendering packages, an idea can quickly turn into a very realistic looking image. We haven’t used Kickstarter yet, but might consider it in the future, if the design was right for this kind of platform.
IHA: Where are your products manufactured?
DB: We manufacture our designs all over the world. Some items are made in Asia and some still in the UK.
IHA: How do you see design’s importance in our industry as it moves forward?
DB: When I first studied product design more than 20 years ago, it was a relatively new field – or certainly a new recognition of the skills and approach involved. Design has always existed, and industry recognized the value of design, but before product designers, engineers did product development and they have a very different skill set. Obviously Apple is the best example of how a company champions design as a key factor in growth and success, but other consumer industries, such as fashion and automobiles, have always recognized and understood the importance of design. As I said before, our market is very competitive. We hope that design is how we stand out from the competition. Design is ever more important.
To learn more about black+blum, see www.black-blum.com.
The complete interview with Dan Black as well as more interviews with interesting designers and housewares innovators, will be published in the Inside Discover Design blog.