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Benjamin Hubert is one to watch

26 January 2013

He may have been fêted by the design press a couple of years ago as the one to watch, and have picked up a raft of awards, but young British designer Benjamin Hubert is no James Dean. 

Refreshingly sanguine about such oh-so-early professional recognition, and possessing a business nous that counterbalances his creativity, he's determined not to live fast and die young. For, Hubert, it's about the long game.

 

'Creating things that people can use and want, that work in their lives and enhance them as well – that's what motivates me': British designer Benjamin Hubert

On the eve of the Milan Salone del Mobile, that behemoth of a design fair, whose vastness, both in terms of exhibited work and international visitorship, manages to excite and frustrate in equal measure – and where Hubert is going to be showing a number of products for such manufacturers as Casamania, Örsjö and Zero – we talked to the level-headed, London-based creative about where he's come from and where he's going.

 

'Maritime' timber chair by Benjamin Hubert for Casamania, launching at this year's Milan Salone del Mobile

On his latest products 

Even though it seems that I've been working on quite a lot of projects, the thing about fairs is that everybody decides whether they are going to get these ready for a particular fair or not. Some of the projects have been up to three years in development. It just so happens that a number of them have coincided for this year. Conversely, there were very few things last year. 

 

Some of the projects started two or three years ago will have been me approaching manufacturers with ideas or a direction I wanted to take, or simply just sitting down and seeing what the opportunities were from their side and then just pitching ideas at them. On the other hand, some of the work has been where I've been invited to do projects. These tend to have been shorter in length. A year or a year and a half.

On manufacturers 

One of the things I've learnt over the last few years is to really use the strength of the manufacturer. The type of factories and expertise that they have. That will guide the direction of a project, whatever material you're looking at. Whether they have a budget for tooling and so on. All of these things will push a project in a certain direction. We usually pitch a range of ideas for a project. Very rarely is there a single concept. At that point, if there a three, or even ten concepts on the table, it's a collaborative thing: the manufacturer and I talk about which is the best direction for all parties. From that point of view, the manufacturer's own personality is also injected into the project.

 

Hubert's new 'Paddle' lamp for Fabbian, which will be shown at Euroluce during the Milan Furniture Fair

On early recognition 

There was quite a lot of attention on the studio a couple of years ago. There were lots of awards and good articles, and people were picking up the phone and seeing if we were interested in doing things. But awards come and go. They're not a mark of good design, that's for sure. They are part of the machine and you have to play the game to get noticed. It's a fickle industry and you have to get involved in things that stand you out from the crowd.

 

Detail of Benjamin Hubert's 'Pod' chair for Devorm, which will be presented during the 2011 Salone in the Ventura Lambrate

On professional pressure 

I feel a certain amount of pressure, not because of any kind of professional recognition – whatever that is – but because of the point I'm at now where I have opportunities to shape my career. The decisions I make now and the people I work with now are going to be good or bad for the rest of my working life. If we are really trying to create innovative products, then I need to be working with the people who can deliver those products. The biggest brands with the best resources, who will really invest in development projects. The smaller steps I'm taking now will lead to bigger steps later. So I have to be careful with who I collaborate. Just try and do good, robust projects.

On consumption 

It's a difficult issue, as I'm part of the machine. I've got two points of view on this, however. We shouldn't be producing and consuming as much, clearly. Designers should be designing better things. It seems obvious, but when you're trying to build a studio and a career, it's difficult to turn down work at the start. So, from that point of view, maybe I, or designers, contribute to the problem of consumption. I'm in the fortunate position now, however, to start thinking a little deeper. Taking fewer projects but making them more robust and rigorous in the design process, and making sure that, if we are creating something new, there is something innovative about it.

Hubert's new 'Paddle' lamp for Fabbian, which will be shown at Euroluce during the Milan Furniture Fair

On early recognition 

There was quite a lot of attention on the studio a couple of years ago. There were lots of awards and good articles, and people were picking up the phone and seeing if we were interested in doing things. But awards come and go. They're not a mark of good design, that's for sure. They are part of the machine and you have to play the game to get noticed. It's a fickle industry and you have to get involved in things that stand you out from the crowd.

 

Detail of Benjamin Hubert's 'Pod' chair for Devorm, which will be presented during the 2011 Salone in the Ventura Lambrate

On professional pressure 

I feel a certain amount of pressure, not because of any kind of professional recognition – whatever that is – but because of the point I'm at now where I have opportunities to shape my career. The decisions I make now and the people I work with now are going to be good or bad for the rest of my working life. If we are really trying to create innovative products, then I need to be working with the people who can deliver those products. The biggest brands with the best resources, who will really invest in development projects. The smaller steps I'm taking now will lead to bigger steps later. So I have to be careful with who I collaborate. Just try and do good, robust projects.

On consumption 

It's a difficult issue, as I'm part of the machine. I've got two points of view on this, however. We shouldn't be producing and consuming as much, clearly. Designers should be designing better things. It seems obvious, but when you're trying to build a studio and a career, it's difficult to turn down work at the start. So, from that point of view, maybe I, or designers, contribute to the problem of consumption. I'm in the fortunate position now, however, to start thinking a little deeper. Taking fewer projects but making them more robust and rigorous in the design process, and making sure that, if we are creating something new, there is something innovative about it.