K8 Industridesign was founded in 1998 to find design solutions to social and environmental problems. The studio’s SunBell, a solar lamp designed for off-grid regions of the world, and the SunTurtle, a portable solar lamp designed to bring lighting to communities living without electricity in Africa, Asia and Latin America, will both be at 100% Norway as part of Tent London later this week. I am a big believer in the power of design to make the world a better place, so before I see the show, I was keen to talk to c-founder Marius Andresen to find out more…
What’s the most important thing to know about you?
I am an optimist. I believe anything is possible with hard work and a good team.
What inspires your work?
People and our needs, passion, dreams and actions, new technology and, of course, nature. Nothing beats nature. All the answers are already out there – just go and have a closer look.
Talk me through your design and making process.
I would say we don’t work the same way in every project, as they often have completely different needs. Imagine a commodity soft drink bottle and super-advanced electric wheelchair. The process in theory might step-wise look the same from the moon, but in practical operations they are very different. In general we enjoy making things at K8, building models, physical objects and using them as a catalyst to provoke, inspire and start discussions. We have two very different and advanced 3D printers and a laser-cutter we use all the time.
Get as much information as quickly as possible about the problem, the user, the needs, competition, relevant technology, distribution, manufacturing, environmental issues, retail prices, patents etc. We can never have too much information, but we can spend too much time on this process, so efficiency is key. We set up user-studies, workshops, do interviews, search the net, call people, study people etc. All this information is compressed and extracted. The results might be important so the process of doing this job is most valuable. We also draw up a set of design criteria and product specifications to work from in the next phases.
We might kick-start a process with simple models and sketches to get the process going. We like to be systematic about working our way through sketching concepts and scenarios, work our way through some technological principles, quantitative structures and build things. If we can, we try out ideas with real physical models instead of analysing and simulating ourselves to death in CAD-programmes. The time spent learning from field-trips and user-testing is never time wasted. We also like to study patents and what other smart people have done before us. Together with our client, we choose the best concept that matches our design criteria and product specifications and move on to refining.
This phase is about going deeper, constructing and making better prototypes, more testing (e.g. user-testing, environmental testing, mechanical stress testing) bug-fixing and in the end finalising the design and making it ready for manufacturing.
Handing over the 3D files and technical documentation to manufacturing partners for tooling of moulds, assembly planning, jigs to be made, packaging to be manufactured and logistics and distribution to be planned and prepared. We enjoy following up all kinds of manufacturing issues and keeping the dialogue with manufacturing partners to ensure a best possible result for our clients and users.
What’s your favourite part of the process?
Every phase has its charm (even quotations are okay when they are done and delivered!), but I get my kicks from making prototypes and testing new ideas that have popped up during the night and maybe solving a problem we have struggled with for a long time. My next kick might be seeing smoking hot plastic parts popping out of an injection-moulding machine, and finally the greatest kick is to experience the effect a finished product has when it is working the way it was intended, causing happiness and joy and improving quality of life.
What’s your favourite tool and why?
My red 8-tool Victorinox Swiss Army pocket-knife as it is such a smart, simple, practical, non-electronic, well designed and engineered piece of pocket equipment. I never leave home without it – except when I’m flying.
Tell me about a really good day and a really bad day in the life of Marius Andresen.
Really Good: Summer morning, waking up a couple of hours before the rest of the family in our off-grid cabin in Sweden, making coffee, building some models of ideas I had during the night, listening to the birds and Visa från Utanmyra (Jan Johansson, Jazz på Svenska), making breakfast for my girls (my wife and two daughters) and then we all go windsurfing and then later in the evening we team up with some local friends for dinner and stretch the evening until it is morning again and the sun rises. No e-mails, no phone calls, no planning. Just being!
Really Bad: November day, raining. Not hearing the alarm clock and the stress from getting up late propagates into everything else that day: kids are late for school, forgetting it was my turn to walk with the kids-walking-to-school group, getting a phone call at the school gate from a colleague saying a potential new client is waiting to meet me at work and has been there for 30 minutes already, then the dentist calls and asks if I intend to show up for my annual check up at 8:30 am, and then I have 153 unread e-mails in my inbox that I should have read yesterday. That is a bad day!
What defines good design?
A product in balance and harmony: good for business, answers user needs in a good way, improves people’s lives, good looking (very subjective), service-friendly (if service is needed) and should not cause unnecessary harm to people or nature. The last one is tricky and complex, because most products tend to cause some kind of damage indirectly or directly along the way in their life cycle (from mineral exploration, to end of life waste management).
What are you most proud of?
All in all: my daughters and wife who give me inspiration and both the room and time to do what I enjoy so much.
Project: K8-team who started the SunBell project in 2009 and being co-founder of Bright Products. It makes me super-proud and very humble to see how a simple lamp and mobile charger can change people’s lives.
What advice would you give to an aspiring designer?
Work hard, do more than expected, do not be afraid to fail, follow your dreams and come work for K8 as an intern!
What are you most looking forward to about exhibiting at 100% Norway as part of the London Design Festival?
Getting responses from people who see our products, listening to new ideas and input, and meeting with new people.
10. And finally, what’s your favourite colour?
Further reading for the especially geeky:
Having established confessions of a design geek in 2010, Katie Treggiden has gone on to a career in design journalism, writing for titles such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, Elle Decoration, Stylist, Design Milk and Ideal Home. In 2014, she launched Fiera, an independent magazine dedicated to discovering new talent at the world’s design fairs. Her second book, Makers of East London, was published in 2015.
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