by Michelle Hespe
Michelle Hespe speaks to Richard Joseph, one of the brothers behind the Joseph Joseph brand, which beautifully fuses form, functionality and fun.
In 2003, twin brothers Richard and Antony Joseph launched their now hugely popular design brand, Joseph Joseph. Today, they have 125 employees and offices in the U.K., U.S., Japan, France and Germany. Both brothers are designers by trade, and even after 14 years in the business, they are still living and breathing their innovative brand and are always hands-on in their London office where they work in an open plan design with 70 people.
To the dynamic duo, Joseph Joseph has always been about having a clever, meticulously considered approach to design. Their products often take years to develop and perfect, but their firm’s focus on going far and beyond is what keeps them ahead of others.
The brothers are, without a doubt, perfectionists. They’re cool, too, and know what looks good in the home. And their products are unmistakable, with a signature deep lime green applied to many of them. All of the products that the brothers create fashionably fuse form, function and a great sense of fun – and they make people smile, they’re so bright and cheery.
The streamlined Joseph Joseph approach to design was established from the outset after the brothers created their first range, which included a chopping board, serving dish, mug and clock. Buyers had to purchase the items as a set. A kitchenware buyer approached them, explained that she loved their products and wanted to buy them but was only permitted to purchase pieces relevant to her department, and so could not sign up for the range if the mug and clock were included.
Rather than letting that buyer go, as many might do, the brothers arrived at a decision that would remain at the core of the Joseph Joseph ethos. “We decided that we’d concentrate on being great at one thing, or a few things, and do it better than our competitors,” Richard explains. So they dropped the mug and the clock, and sold the buyer the chopping board and serving dish, and that’s how Joseph Joseph cemented its place in a saturated kitchenware market.
Joseph Joseph is synonymous with fashion, the colorful pieces bringing bright splashes of color and innovative shapes to the home. However, Richard and Antony avoid trends. “If we followed trends, our approach wouldn’t work as we spend so long developing a product that the trend we might have been following would be gone by the time we made it to market,” explains Richard. “Instead, we focus on the useful. We look for problems that people face and we find a solution that is useful to them. Then the product has longevity.”
When it comes to gathering inspiration for new products, Richard says that you won’t find anyone on the team sitting at a desk Googling products and ideas. “We find inspiration everywhere—yes, in design, but also in fashion, architecture, exhibitions, shows and films. Everyone on our team is really into getting out there, learning and absorbing. Antony and I won’t go to a cook-shop for inspiration, however you might find us in a DIY store or at busy flea market, antique store, or in a design museum.”
Their heavy investment in research and development is one of the main ways that the brothers stay on top of their game. “Our big point of difference, in our design and in our approach, is researching particular categories and looking for problems to solve,” says Richard. “For instance, our new bin that will be released soon is a compaction bin and it takes 90 liters of waste. Nothing comes into contact with the waste, so it’s really hygienic. It took us three years to develop, and it’s very satisfying knowing that we got it right.”
As many Joseph Joseph products are simplistic in form, they’re an easy target for copycats. Thus the brothers have an ongoing issue with companies stealing their designs. “Copying is part and parcel of industry—it’s the ugly side of it,” says Richard. “We have zero tolerance for it—we go after them, and so unfortunately there’s usually a court case going on in the background. However, it’s the consumer that loses out because the copy is always the cheaper version, made with poor materials. The copy has had no money spent on the research and development, and so the consumer ends up buying a poorer product and then they are disappointed with their purchase.”
Richard says that the way retail was when they started out is barely recognizable in regard to what it is today. “The Internet has opened up growth channels for everyone,” he explains. “Once, we were just a wholesale business supplying products to retailers. Today, one of the challenges is how to be successful as an Omni-channel retailer. You need click and collect facilities and have top online capabilities.
“When we launch products, everything happens so much faster—there is still the same launch in-store, but then there’s social, website marketing, and all of that is much faster and there is so much more collateral. There’s video, social media teasers, and everything has to be themed consistently with the launch. There is huge expectation, but that’s also exciting, and through new technology, it’s so easy to communicate.”
So the question is, with so many Joseph Joseph products out there to love, does Richard have a favorite? “My all-time favorite is one of our first products—the folding chopping board,” he says. “It sums up what we do: it’s simple and highly functional. It does exactly what it’s supposed to do, and that’s the beauty of it.”
Richard and Antony are very grateful to be in an industry that inspires them, and in a business that improves people’s lives, product by product. “We love this business,” Richard says. “Happiness is coming up with a new idea, taking a risk in development and then having a customer loving the end product.”
For more information on Joseph Joseph, visit www.josephjoseph.com.