Designer Tal Mor Sinay was part of the development team of Hue Minimal’s first collection. We sat for coffee and conversation with him about his design philosophy and how it influenced his work for us.
“I am used to creating objects through a lens of problem solving. I guess it depends on the context, who is the client? Who is the user of the object I design?…”
Tell us a little bit about yourself, what is your background? How would you describe what you do?
I am an industrial design practitioner, researcher and have been a lecturer of industrial design at the Industrial Design department at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem, and in the past three years at RMIT Melbourne Australia, at the Bachelor of Industrial Design and Master of Design Innovation and Technology. In my studio work I engage with various clients on projects in the fields of consumer products, furniture and lighting, signage and wayfinding, fashion, spatial and exhibition design. I am also a PhD candidate at RMIT, in midst of the final stage in the process.
How do you know that an idea for a product that springs in your mind is a good one? How do you evaluate the potential success of your idea?
Well, I really don’t know whether an idea that pops up is good. I think that in order to answer such a question I should first define what does success mean? To set up the parameters to which I evaluate my ideas. This is closely related to my background and subsequently, the way I work as a designer that works with clients. Meaning that I am used to creating objects through a lens of problem solving. I guess it depends on the context, who is the client? Who is the user of the object I design? What is the environment in which the object sits within? When an idea comes up, I usually briefly set up (in my mind) the context in which it sits, and start looking for potential problems with it to get a hunch of the level of complexity I might face with it.
A few months back I heard an interview in the Smithsonian podcast series with the lead designer of American home video game company Atari that told about his way of solving tough problems (in coding). Every time he would encounter a hard nut to crack, he would go to sleep and hope to wake up with the solution. Most of the time it didn’t work but sometimes it would.
I usually let the ideas set in my mind for a few days before I let them mature and consolidate into design propositions though sometimes, I have an urge to dive in and explore an idea right away. That’s on the immediate level of things. Following is a research stage where I look more deeply into the context of the object.
What role does gut feelings have in the design process, if any?
Gut feelings have a big role in the design process. I think it’s common for people to think about design as a form of art that is essentially different from the science world in that it is emotional and involves internal processes which are ambiguous rather than concrete and that these processes are mostly based on gut feelings. I think it is a mistake to think in that way. Yes, many design processes incorporate gut feelings but that could be said about scientific research as well. A scientific research (or a design research) starts with a hypothesis which could be based on gut feelings, it’s what you do with those gut feelings and how you develop them, incorporate them into a project and evaluate them during the process that is important. Nowadays there are many approaches and methodologies that do these processes, one of the most common and the most researched is called Design Thinking.
Do you take inspiration from the art world? Which artists have influenced you?
I grew up in Rome until I was eight years old, visited the Vatican museum and saw a lot of classic as well as contemporary art as a child. In high school I studied art and so naturally I am influenced by the art world. I remember being amazed by Alexander Calder’s work, especially his Cirque Calder, the incorporation of mechanical compositions created with simple materials that seemed almost found ones and the movement that these created have been a great inspiration for me over the years. I really like the conceptual artists of the 70’s such as Richard Serra, James Turrell, Robert Morris and Donald Judd and of course there’s the Dada movement with Marcel Duchamp which is the equivalent of landing on the moon for the art and design world. There are also many contemporary artists that I take inspiration from such as Anish Kapoor, Lenka Clayton, Helmut Smits and many great Israeli artists, some are friends such as Eran Nave or Tamir Lichtenberg.
Is there a specific design trend that you find relevant to the kind of work you do for Hue Minimal?
I would say that Hue Minimal is much influenced by the modernist movement and also postminimalism. The brand focuses on clean and simple shapes which are in many cases a manifestation of the ‘form follows function’ theme. But they also try to insert something a bit different and new to the products they produce. It can be a clever functional but subtle detail that might go unnoticed and reveal itself by the user over time.
What do you like about your clients? What don’t you like about them?
I like meeting clients and engaging with them because I usually see their eyes light up whenever they are involved in the creation of a new product. Seeing their passion go into the process of development is truly admirable and draws me in that process with great joy. I especially like working with clients that are familiar with the design process and are aware of the importance of each of the stages that comprise it. This might answer the second question, there are some clients that present challenges in explaining the design process and of course there are some clients that still believe that design is visual centric, dealing mostly with aesthetics and form and are unaware of the true potential of design as a discipline that can influence life in deep manners, enhance people’s relationship with the world and at the same time achieve concrete business goals.
You are now in the process of completing your PhD research, tell us a little bit about it. Is the research guiding your design process in a new way?
The title of my PhD research is Not just a toothbrush- meaning making in informal commemorative practices. In a nutshell, it looks at informal memorials, which are the things people do and the objects they create to commemorate their loved ones and preserve their memory, all through the lens of industrial design. The research focused on possible forms and methods of contemporary memorials through the design of memorial objects. The outcome of the research is a suggested model for informal memorial design that employs a collaboratory design approach, essentially proposing a new way to design the way people commemorate and an approach that integrates aspects such as intimacy, modest generosity, agency and the use of quotidian objects.
I am proposing a new way of designing to other practitioners and people that are involved or that would like to be involved in memorial design, based on what I have learned during the course of the research so naturally my views on the design process had developed. I now look at everyday objects in a new way and believe in the potential of the mundane to mediate people’s needs and desires and to link those to object making.
You can reach out to Tal and see more of his work here: www.talmor-id.com