Design Indaba 2013: Oscar Diaz on our innate understanding of objects

Date posted: February 27, 2013

Oscar Diaz ?>

By Herman Manson (@marklives) Design Indaba 2013 London based product designer Oscar Diaz (@OscarDiazStudio) has made a name for himself thanks to his innovative and creative work in on a  broad range of products and services including furniture, shop window installations (see Alphabet shoes for Terra Plana below) and limited edition objects like his widely lauded RGB vases.

Diaz studied design at the Ecole des Beaux Arts of Bordeaux in France and took an MA in product design at the Royal College of Art in London. Oscar DiazDiaz has worked in Japan and the UK.

This week Diaz is in Cape Town to give a talk at the annual Design Indaba Conference (running from Feb 27 – March 1). We tracked him down before his arrival to ask him what draws him to product design.

MarkLives: You started studying fine art but ended up with a Master’s in Product Design at the Royal College of Art in London. What about product design grabbed you?

Diaz: I discovered that people have an innate understanding of objects that they don’t necessarily have when it comes to art. Art is much more hermetic and needs a bit of knowledge to be appreciated.

It was the accessibility of design, which made me want to change field.

MarkLives: Tell us more about your approach to finding design solutions?

Diaz: I usually start by clearly defining the context of the project, and then try to see how can add value on both the cultural and commercial side of the project. I don’t believe in style, and so the first thing for me is to identify why is the project worth doing it.

MarkLives: Collaboration is increasingly a feature in all sorts of design initiatives. Is it something you believe in and actively pursue or do you prefer a more individualist approach to design work?

Diaz: I have collaborated with other designers in the past, especially when I have found their work and expertise could be complementary, but is not something that I pursue actively. It just happens sometimes when things align.

I nevertheless collaborate all the time with people from other fields, engineers, copywriters, craftsmen, wood turners etc.… each one contributing to the end result with their skills.

MarkLives: I read somewhere you still prefer a pen and paper when you formulate your initial design ideas. Is this

Alphabet shoes for Terra Plana

Alphabet shoes for Terra Plana

significant – I mean does it offer you some advantage going straight onto a computer does not?

Diaz: I like paper because it is immediate, and don’t need to rely on electricity. If I am thinking of an idea it is much quicker to grab a pen and a piece of paper that to open the computer. A drawing on paper encloses also a certain degree of emotion, the thickness of the line and the pressure on the paper can help me record my state of mind, or emphasize a particular feature.  The computer lacks that tone of voice.

MarkLives: Who are your design heroes and why?

Diaz: I especially like the work of Bruno Munari, Achille Castiglioni, and Enzo Mari. They all seems to have a sort of “beginner’s mind” approach, which makes their projects obvious yet unexpected. It is like if they knew exactly how to give ideas the space to grow in the right direction.

MarkLives: What is the essence of the talk you are giving at the Design Indaba 2013?

Diaz: I will be mainly taking about my design process. Taking people from the stories behind the initial ideas, to the challenges encountered while making them happen.

For more Design Indaba 2013 coverage click here
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