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Interview with James Cornetet

Home > Designer Interviews > James Cornetet

Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer James Cornetet (JC) for A’ Design Awards and Competition. You can access the full profile of James Cornetet by clicking here.

Interview with James Cornetet at Thursday 16th of June 2011

FS: Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
JC: Looking back, I realize that I was always a designer/architect, but never really knew what it meant to be a designer as a child. Early on in my life, I saw the value of art. At the age of five I began drawing portraits of my favorite cartoon characters and selling them to my classmates, which earned me a suspension. As long as I can remember I was designing.

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
JC: StudioJ is the name of my product design studio, and although a sole proprietorship, the studio is a design collaborative. It is not uncommon to have engineers, fabricators, sculptures, material representatives and clients huddled around my laptop and sketchbook as we work through the problem.

FS: What is "design" for you?
JC: Design is adding value to something. Whether it is a table or a building, you are attempting to maximize the solution, by creating a design that is of greatest aesthetic, functional and monetary value.

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
JC: I enjoy designing all types of objects, but prefer the most mundane projects, or typologies that have not been seen with a new set of eyes in quite some time. I would love to design a gas station, lingerie shop, and a picture frame. The picture frame is in the works.

FS: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
JC: To be honest, the get your feet off my coffee table. Every time I walk by it in my living room it brings a smile to my face. The table shows me new things every day, the shift in color and translucency, the varying composition of objects resting between the ribs, it is a fun piece. But other than that, I love my Eames bird, it may be one of the most beautiful objects I have ever owned.

FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
JC: The first thing that was truly mine, as a designer, was a cross for a chapel in a retirement community. The community only stressed one restriction, it must not favor a denomination. After carefully studying the style of crosses that existed, I had to come up with a design that did not contain remnants of any of these biased predecessors.

FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
JC: Corian, is by far my favorite material. I love its versatility in product design, its durability, and its weight. My favorite technology is new technology, I love learning about new technology, and always try to incorporate it.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
JC: When I'm not trying to be creative. I find that when you forget about the problem, that is when the solution comes. I firmly believe in letting ideas ferment. I'll think about a problem, nonstop for days, and then when I finally turn my brain off and sketch, that is when the idea comes.

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
JC: The details, and the function. Beauty is important, but there is nothing better than crafting a beautiful functional detail that adds integrity to the project.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
JC: Excitement. The best thing about design is the hunt, and then one day seeing what you draw on paper come to life.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
JC: Excitement. The best thing about design is the hunt, and then one day seeing what you draw on paper come to life.

FS: What makes a design successful?
JC: Successful designs, in product design, offer more that stylistic fancy. They are products that solve a real need, they are clever, but most importantly they have to be beautiful and affordable.

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
JC: It doesn't matter if it is my design or someone else, I ask my self two questions: What is the designer trying to accomplish? And how well has he/she done it? This is the only way to judge a work without being biased toward my own personal values. Good design has a purpose, and the designer must maximize that purpose. If a design tries to accomplish too many things, usually the designer fails, because the complexity of the solution clouds the clarity of the solution.

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
JC: Respond to society and respect the environment. To often I see people try to change the world through design by implementing their will. The best designers listen and their designs respond to societal needs, and in effect change the world.

FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
JC: Design in the future is going to become all about value, and that does not necessarily mean monetarily focused, but am I getting more out of a product/building than I am putting in. The days of meaningless decoration are over.

FS: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
JC: n/a

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
JC: I am a consumer of culture and information. I don't necessarily search for inspiration, but I love to watch people interact with their environments, because they are who we are designing for. The get your feet off my coffee table was inspired by watching people misuse furniture and then attempting to create a table that discouraged that behavior. I am always listening and watching, that sounds creepy, I know.

FS: How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
JC: I am very sensitive to the word style, and try to avoid its use all together when describing my work. When designing a product/building, I examine the essence of the problem, I look at what other people have designed before me, and then discount those to be truths. When first examining the problem of the coffee table, it became apparent that previous designers had assumed that a table must have a flat planar surface to rest objects on. I told myself that that truth was not an option. I then thought about the function of the table top and what it did not achieve. The table top as we believed it to be did not accurately respond to the needs of its users.

FS: Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
JC: I live in the United States. Orlando Florida, specifically. Orlando is not necessarily a hotbed for contemporary architecture, but because of Disney World there is a tremendous amount of talent in the various construction and fabrication trades. I think Orlando is perhaps one of the few cities in the United States that still has a large supply of craftsmen.

FS: How do you work with companies?
JC: I try to incorporate clients into the design process so that they can see the reason things are the way they are, specifically architectural clients. I find that when you open up your office and process to clients, you earn their trust, and they have a greater appreciation for the integrity of the design.

FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
JC: I would say that companies should try to align their selves with designers that share common values, and I think the same advice goes for designers. I have turned down several commissions because the client maintained different values than my self, and I think that the projects and my reputation have benefited from it.

FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
JC: Thesis, antithesis, synthesis. This model is the core of my creative process. Most people think of design as divine intervention through a napkin sketch, but design is an iterative process. It begins with an idea, then a force, whatever it may be counters that idea, design happens when the polemic force and the original idea are merged to create something new.

FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
JC: That is a tough question, because I don't own too many things, but My five favorite items in no particular order are: Ceramic Cheshire cat given to me by my mentor which reminds me to always know where I am trying to go, a Boba Fett action figure (quite possible the best designed character in cinema), Eames Bird, my white iPhone, and my Apple Computer.

FS: Can you describe a day in your life?
JC: My day is made up of hundreds of small tasks. I teach, write, practice, design, code, network and try to run

FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
JC: I was often told as a student that very few people get to have the privilege to design the buildings and objects they want. After practicing at a corporate firm for awhile, I noticed that very few people have the drive to position their selves to accomplish such a vision. If you have a strong vision for design, go for it! Because odds are you'll get it.

FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
JC: It is difficult sometimes to turn it off, it is a behavior, designers are trained to constantly look at problems and find a poetic solution.

FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
JC: If you add an element to solve a single problem, you have accomplished nothing, if you add an element to your project and have managed to solve many problems, you are a designer.

FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
JC: Speed. My students know that, because I tell them all the time that good designers can design a building or object in a week, great designers can do it in a weekend, the masters see the solution before they draw it. Speed is the most important skill to a designer. And having some kind of attention deficit disorder.

FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
JC: I love pencil and paper, although I like to test these concepts in the computer when it comes time to fabricate or sell the idea to the client. I am versed in many 3d modeling programs: Maxwell Render, FormZ, Rhino, Sketchup, 3d Studio MAX, Maya, Grasshopper, Revit, AutoCAD, Adobe Suite and many many more. Being able to have a skillfully use many tools enable more freedom as a designer. Some projects I use only one modeler, and others I use them all. The more tools you know, the more freedom you have, and with that mindset I love to learn new tools.

FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
JC: I have to be very efficient with my time, because as many designers and architects know, there is more to starting a design firm than being able to design. Time management is the major attribute in my opinion that separates successful design firms, from those that often struggle to run a business. I try to break up every tasks into five minute chunks of time, I find that if you can break problems down to a series of smaller tasks it is easier to maximize your time. Rarely to I get an hour to work on one thing uninterrupted. I remember one night I had to deal with issues on three different projects, write some scripts for our website, and when I sat down at 11pm, my wife asked what I was doing, and I told her I was finishing a chapter for a book I had been working on. She shook her head in disbelief, but the ability to start and stop and work on many things is an attribute that is integral to my success.

FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
JC: It varies, the process for the get your feet off my coffee table was approximately three months, but I am on my second year with the bus shelter. Design requires a lot of patience sometimes.

FS: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
JC: What type of architecture do I design? People have a hard time accepting that I do not have a specialty.

FS: What was your most important job experience?
JC: Working at LSM (lsm.com), I learned the art of detailing from the industrial designers there. The idea of hiring industrial designers for their understanding of detailing and design to work on buildings was very interesting. Ever since that point in my career I thought of architecture firms having graphic designers, industrial designers, artists and other professionals as members of the design team to create a dynamic collaborative environment.

FS: Who are some of your clients?
JC: Lighthouse (organization that assists the visually impaired), City of Winter Park, LYNX, Mills50

FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
JC: I love doing work for nonprofit organizations or projects that focus on accessibility issues, because I believe that design can change the world, and most of the time the people who need design the most cannot afford it.

FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
JC: I just started my own architecture firm, Process Architecture, and hope to continue designing products through my private studio. A dream of mine would be to team up with a distributor and make the get your feet off my coffee table available to a wider audience.

FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
JC: Collaboration. Although I am a designer, it is impossible for anyone to know everything. For instance, in the design of the coffee table, I sought out the best Corian fabricators in Orlando. We worked together on the fabrication/manufacturing process to create a beautiful and efficient assembly and fabrication process. That is the power of collaboration.

FS: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
JC: I have several projects that are in progress, unfortunately I can only talk about one. The project is title Lite Stop, and it embodies the essence of what good design should entail. The bus stop responds to social and cultural needs of the Orlando community. Prior to engaging the local metro authority, there was no standard for notifying visual impaired persons of transit stops. They were forced to memorize the locations of transit stops, until we created a set of standards that the metro authority adopted. Now public transportation is accessible to all in Orlando, and that is how I believe design can change the world and the lives of the people in it for the better.

FS: How can people contact you?
JC: I have several websites, but people can find all of my contact information on my website: http://www.studiojarch.com


FS: Thank you for providing us with this opportunity to interview you.

A’ Design Award and Competitions grants rights to press members and bloggers to use parts of this interview. This interview is provided as it is; DesignPRWire and A' Design Award and Competitions cannot be held responsible for the answers given by participating designers.


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