First seen in MIX Magazine, issue 42, Tamsin Kingswell speaks to Yves Béhar, the designer determined to bring a holistic approach to Silicone Valley.
There isn’t always an easy synergy between design and tech; this is what makes Yves Béhar’s integrative approach, combining both form and function, all the more remarkable. “From a creative standpoint, I see technology the same way that fashion designers see fabric. It’s a material, that can be shaped and transformed into anything and our role as designers is crucial in what is created today,” he says.
Béhar has always had a fascination with tech; though Swiss born he is based in Silicone Valley. He explains the appeal: “There is no doubt that living in San Francisco and being involved with so many technologies has given me different tools and approaches to design. The amazing thing about this location is that people are keen to be early adopters of new technology; they are open-minded and supportive with their skills, opinions and finance. This enables designers to take risks, be creative and start to prototype and refine new concepts very quickly.”
However it hasn’t all been plain sailing. Béhar acknowledges that the tech world hasn’t been the speediest to embrace product design. “Back in the 90’s, designers were brought in at the end of a project to slap a coat of lipstick onto a product and make it pretty,” he says. At last though, things have slowly begun to shift as people realise that design is crucial. “In order for consumers to relate to new products and companies, design is needed to edit, simplify and engage with those users,” he explains.
Certainly the goal of his company and consultancy fuseproject is to design a fluid narrative for businesses, so that the core of a business is reflected through its naming and logo, its products, its website, its Apps, everything building into one cohesive story. “The notion of fusing different disciplines to create cohesive experiences and companies was the founding principle of fuseproject. Through this lens, design becomes something so much more than the form of a product; it becomes the foundation of the business itself,” he says.
Béhar is passionate about sustainability and socially responsible design. He says; “As an individual, I think it’s crucial that everyone does their best to live a sustainable life; as a designer, I think it’s even more crucial to help guide companies and products to be models of sustainability.” Béhar adds: “I think of social responsibility the same way I think of sustainability; as a designer, I have an obligation to give back, to make design accessible, to help people live better.”
Béhar cites projects he has worked on with support organisation One Laptop Per Child or VerBien. “With OLPC, we were able to give inexpensive computers to children around the world, in order to provide an educational resource that will help end the cycle of poverty. For Verbien, we created eyeglasses given for free; every year 500,000 Mexican kids are not learning because they are not seeing. For me, I do what I do every day because of opportunities like this; the chance to make a difference.”
Ultimately Béhar is optimistic about the future: “I do believe technology will have a positive influence through what I call the ‘Invisible Interface.’ Today’s technology is centered around screens; we are constantly on our phones, staring at televisions, distracted from the world around us. When technology can be a positive influence is when our lives can be improved without distraction. When technology can react to us rather than people reacting to technology. Then we will open the door for something magical and responsive to human needs, rather than something that takes away from our presence.”
Moving forward, Béhar sees his work developing in a number of ways; “I see us doing more with technology internationally, and I hope to work with more companies that embrace the cohesion between their products, digital experiences and brand touch points. For me personally, I’d love to do more work in the sustainability and social good sectors. Most importantly I believe that design is a tool for positive change, and that good design accelerates the adoption of new ideas,” he says.