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Interview with Petur Hannes Olafsson

Home > Designer Interviews > Petur Hannes Olafsson

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

Interview with Petur Hannes Olafsson at Tuesday 26th of April 2016

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?
PO: I am a self-made designer, I didn't find my calling for design until later in my career. I'm happy I did because now I have more experience to be able to contribute towards design.

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
PO: We are all about merging creativity and practicality in our design. We like to offer people simple accessories and gadgets to enhance and improve so they can get the best use out of their devices. We focus on delivering functional and stylish solutions that fit with active urban lifestyles, busy families, and those constantly on the go.

FS: What is "design" for you?
PO: For me good design is something that is tailored for the function it holds. The function can be various things, like usability or provocation of thinking and getting people to see things in an entirely new way.

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
PO: After having gotten to know the market for children's products and the quality, or lack thereof, driven by licensing rather than function, quality and safety for kids, it has become the field of design I find most inspiring to work in. It's where I feel I can bring true value.

FS: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
PO: The Egg Chair by Arne Jacobsen. I know it sounds like bit of cliche answer but it's design is just amazing in every aspect. Everything from the modernity of it and that it was made in 1958. It's just such a classical design and it speaks to me.

FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
PO: I did a super portable speaker way back in the beginning when people were starting to make ultra thin speakers that fit the lifestyle of people that are always on the go and needed something to complement that active lifestyle.

FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
PO: My favourite would be the NXT technology, that is a key component in our speaker development, it allows use different surfaces as a speaker. I'm very excited about NXT.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
PO: I feel most creative when I'm running, I love running. I like to do long distance runs with good music playing in my ears and let my mind wander in search of solutions and ideas.

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
PO: Simplicity towards users interface, if the user cannot figure how to use the product in an intuitive way, it makes for bad experience and normally frustration follows. I want users to be able to use my designs with comfort and ease. The focus of my designs are making basics work better, simplify and enhance and leave the user happy and at ease.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
PO: The design process can bring a whole rainbow of feelings. Everything from frustration when things are not going well to elated thrill when things work out the way you want them to. When I design I feel very focused and creative, I think those two feelings I get are some of my best qualities.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
PO: At first, it's almost emptiness as I feel I have put all my passion and energy towards it, so I feel I need to distance myself from it until I can revisit it again with same passion or start a new project. But handing in a finished design is a great source of happiness and achievement. I think it must be for all designers.

FS: What makes a design successful?
PO: Trial and error, we are human and doomed to make mistakes and seldom things happen correctly in the first go. The key is to keep at it, don't give up. Use your errors to learn and improve, and eventually you'll get to where you want be.

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
PO: I always consider if the design serves the initial purpose. In my opinion, form always needs to meet and merge with function for it to be a truly good design.

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
PO: I believe designers and people working in creative industries have a social responsibility to make things better. Improve, progress and evolve. Design touches and influences how we live and how we use things and how we get things to work for us. It can make your life easier and more beautiful. Designers need to carry on the torch of betterment of all things, and that is a lot of responsibility.

FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
PO: The world of design is opening up, more people are getting involved, educational level is rising, which is good and can only bring great things. I believe design and technology are increasingly aligning, complementing one another to bring us forward to the future. I see lines between different types of design, industrial, digital, interface and technology blurring, resulting in cross-platform experiences in the future. At least, it's what I hope for.

FS: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
PO: 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?
PO: Creativity and art runs in my family. I think I get my eye and appreciation for forms and function from my mother, who is a sculptor. Being of the Apple generation, I also have to give some credit to Apple designs for inspiration. I like to feed my creativity with everything, everywhere. Nature, architecture, exercise. People-watching is also a big feed to my creativity, watching a tired mother usher her family through a busy airport makes me think how I could design something to make their life easier.

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?
PO: My design style is very straightforward. It's characteristics are simplicity and modishness. It's very form-meets-function. If your product looks nice but doesn't work well, it's worthless. It needs to perform just as it will look pleasing to the eye resting on your coffee table.

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?
PO: I'm a permanent resident in Hong Kong, but am originally from Iceland. I draw lots of inspiration for the brand’s design from my Nordic heritage but the vibrant Hong Kong lifestyle has also left its mark on my designs. It's a melting pot of different cultures, and I feel has brought more value to my design in their own unique ways.

FS: How do you work with companies?
PO: Quite well I believe. Collaborations are always a give and take kind of situations. What is important is to be patient and respectful, do you work well and the rest will follow.

FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
PO: Do a little background check, what has that designer worked on before, does he or she follow his or her convictions, what are his or her goals, where do you see the designer in a few years time. Choose someone who is passionate about what they do.

FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
PO: My design process is very organic. I swear by the power of pencil and paper for getting the design process underway. I like my ideas and design to flow together. If I have already put solutions into place, if I am working on another aspect of the design and suddenly feel like I need to revisit those that I thought done, then I must. I tend to go back and forth until I'm happy with the result. This allows me to methodically craft my designs without letting any little things slip through the cracks.

FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
PO: My Alessi lemon squeezer, designed by Philip Starck. My Joseph Joseph chop2pot chopping board. My chef knives from Victorinox. My Hang It All in walnut by Charles Eames. And, of course, Sound Cover from onanoff.

FS: Can you describe a day in your life?
PO: I try to squeeze in an early morning run, it's a great start to the day. Head to the office and spend the morning answering emails, after which I will see my team for a meeting to go over marketing and sales. Finally I like to spend the rest of my day working on new designs and upcoming projects. In the evenings I'll walk my dog Snowy, cook a hearty meal at home while listening to music.

FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
PO: Don't give up. If design is something you are truly passionate about and if you feel you can bring something valuable to the field, keep at it. Everyone will stumble and fall at some point. It's those who rise again and keep going that will get to where they want to be.

FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
PO: The world of design is an exciting one. There are new discoveries to be made around every bend. It's a changing and evolving field and to be taking part in shaping that world and the way we live in it is pretty exciting too. It's one of the positive things that I love about being a designer. The negatives aspects is that there is a lot of competition in this field, you need to be constantly on your toes to stay ahead of the game, which can be draining. However, if you believe in yourself and find fulfilment in what you do, it is easy to overcome.

FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
PO: Staying true to your goals, your vision and your designs.

FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
PO: Focus, determination and being detail oriented. I can't stress that last bit enough, it's all in the details.

FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
PO: Spliff, donk og gengja. PÉTUR!!!

FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
PO: Staying organised is of vital importance. Plan your days and weeks well ahead and stick to your plan. Work hard, but be careful to set some time aside to enjoy with friends and family too. A designer's happiness will be reflected in his work, making it all that much better.

FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
PO: It can be everything from months to years, depending on the project really.

FS: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
PO: What inspires me to create my products.

FS: What was your most important job experience?
PO: I started my career in this industry as part time job with university in Iceland, on the floor in electronic store as salesman, then have transferred from international sales into purchasing, manufacturing in Asia and finally to my own company and designs, I want to think that all the parts have helped me equally to make me the designer I am today.

FS: Who are some of your clients?
PO: We are working with number of international clients like SoftBank, Toys'R'us, RadioShack, HMV, Virgin Megastore to name a few.

FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
PO: I enjoy designing products for kids. Especially during a testing phase of a product. They are my hardest critics and will always give it to you straight. When I've designed something that they enjoy using and makes them happy, it makes me happy. I also get pretty stoked when parents express their gratitude for my products.

FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
PO: My future plans is keep building and expanding onanoff. Adding new product ranges as well as improving our existing one. One can always do better and I'm excited to see where the future takes me.

FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
PO: I develop the designs myself but I could never do what I do without my amazing team. Their ideas, input and constructive criticism means the world to me and having their support, be it in design, marketing or sales is what helps our company grow strong.

FS: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
PO: We are working on pushing the boundaries of ultra thin speaker technologies that is super portable and designed for global business people on the 'go'.

FS: How can people contact you?
PO: People can get in touch through our website onanoff.com, by email agnes@onanoff.com or by telephone: +852 2393 0306. To get through to me personally, feel free to email me at petur@onanoff.com.

FS: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
PO: I think we've covered it all. Thank you!


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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