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Interview with Jon Santacoloma

Home > Designer Interviews > Jon Santacoloma

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

Interview with Jon Santacoloma at Wednesday 10th of May 2017

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?
JS: I’ve been in the design world for almost two decades of numerous changes and definitions in the way of doing and understanding design. I come from the world of business studies, and it was chance that turned me into a designer, cartoonist and entrepreneur. I believe they’re all complementary reinforcing the inherent transversality in the task of design.

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
JS: When I finished my product design studies in the UK, the panorama was very different. There were very few design schools with approved qualifications and almost no qualified professionals, so there was a possibility. I had somebody who believed in me and supported me. Ideilan (ideien lantegia in Basque or the factory of ideas in Spanish) was created in 2000, and we haven’t stopped since then, almost two decades later. Over this period we have tackled many highly varied projects, always aiming to provide the maximum and learn along the way.

FS: What is "design" for you?
JS: Design is a very simple word with many highly diverse implications. It’s thinking, reflecting, testing and forging; and all the foregoing to solve problems in the best possible manner with judgement, method while bearing in mind the world and its resources are finite. Moreover that economic growth can’t be solely a question of consuming products as its end, but rather it should go down the path of being, experience, enjoying and making use of time. Here design has and will have a lot to say.

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
JS: Every project’s interesting, including those which initially seem the most straightforward in the end have minor or major nuances that make them unique. Any challenge is interesting, however absurd it may seem. Providing a solution for any problem in any ambit is a good design project.

FS: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
JS: I reckon all those I’ve worked on. They’ve all got good and not such good things, innovation, creativity, etc. The design of systems is highlightable, since they’re what change the way things are done. For example, enable all the plumbing and drains so there can be a washing machine every home. So in the end it’s a question of evolutions as opposed to specific designs. A washing machine is great, mind you it wouldn’t have had so much acceptance had not it been for the manual ‘washers’ that homes used to have in the past. A good design includes some evolution.

FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
JS: That was ages ago. I remember the first spaceships designed using Lego when development was much less. I remember well my first project in the design world, a candelabra. For a company the launching was full on, with a range of furniture for living rooms and bedrooms. A challenge where I learnt how the furniture world works and how effective commercial relations should be established. Design as a project is something more than the result and I realised during the process, how effort, illusion and the desire to establish and determine the relation to be started up is essential. Afterwards came the lamps, cars, jewellery, children’s games and countless others.

FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
JS: I haven’t got a special one; I like them all and find them amazing. The mixture of different materials leads to amazing designs. Obviously, depending on the sector you’re designing for you prioritise some materials over others, there again occasionally taking a material out of context may even result in new business lines. Logically if you start with paper and pencil then you have more time to think and reflect. Once you know what you want to do, have a target set, then put forward ideas and make them tangible via CAD, 3D, to get photorealistic images, while at the same time experimenting with your hands, making, building, modelling and prototyping. It’s all a luxury and the entire process is a single thing.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
JS: To be honest I’m at my most creative first thing in the morning. I’m an early riser and the expectation of having the whole day before me to be lived is extremely motivating, and even more so if it’s a sunny day. Apart from this scenario, whenever I get in-depth knowledge of the problem to be solved via the design process, ideas start flowing even quicker. Just like real life, the most interesting ideas plop out at the last moment in the day, which is probably why creativity needs work.

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
JS: Depending on the client the product’s being designed for, its function is essential for me. The resulting product or service has to be used by somebody, so knowing his/her vision, expectations, wishes and motivations are essential for me, i.e. those of the client and his/her client. This world we live in is not for isolated individuals, so knowing the environment where the product/service is to move is essential. This includes aesthetics; however, when a design is really good it already contains timelessness, sustainability in other words aesthetics beyond fashion.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
JS: All of them, because you start every project with illusion, desire, interest, etc., and the more complicated the challenge the greater the interest, and occasionally a certain frustration, but also satisfaction when you see the projects advance. And this happens over and over again. It’s cyclical in projects and in time it seems to become controllable.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
JS: Design is never finished, you only stop at certain milestones or steps, just like life itself, it grows, evolves, changes yet never finishes.

FS: What makes a design successful?
JS: To correctly satisfy a function, the one it was designed for and be as timeless as possible, far away from fashion. Although it must come on the market at the right time, in the right place via the right channel. There are many variables in play, besides having a bit of luck. I’m certain great designs exist, which haven’t appeared because of that, yet they’ll be recovered and be as useful as the first day. That I think is part of being a good design.

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
JS: As always, the first thing is what you see; we either like or dislike the appearance followed by compliance with the work requirements, adaptation to the client, company and market (user/purchaser). And finally execution of the solution in terms of sustainability and contribution to improving the standard of living (in its widest sense).

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
JS: That growth doesn’t come at the expense of making more and more products. Design must offer a new point of view closer to being rather than having.

FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
JS: Design is at a crossroads. Technology and the general situation make us all feel like designers, yet reflection and professionalism are lacking. The future is cooking now.

FS: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
JS: I haven’t held any design exhibitions. I think that part would be closer to the designer as an artist of unique pieces as opposed to the profile of solving real problems within the framework the market limits. It’s in this latter group where I see most of the work I’ve had to do. It’s the companies who I design for which show the products and are constantly moving around different competitions and international fairs.

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
JS: Inspiration is in knowing and studying the problem, once all that’s been done, anywhere’s good for solving; however, no place solves anything by itself. In most cases inspiration is found in the most unlikely of places.

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?
JS: As a designer it’s not a question of imposing a style but rather listening to the client and providing a response bearing in mind his/her interest, aims and available resources.

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?
JS: I live and work in the Basque Country, which I think is good because we know how to do things well. It’s a nation which has known how to grow in the face of adversity, making it unique in the world.

FS: How do you work with companies?
JS: They contact us or we contact them. We meet, get to know each other, talk and if there’s chemistry, projects pop up on their own.

FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
JS: The main thing is companies have a design culture and there’s a shortage. It’s not shape or function but everything. A good designer depends on what the company demands or wants how well he/she manages to provide a response.

FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
JS: It’s easy: know, study, analyse, create and conceptualise then develop with its rights and wrongs. The process isn’t very original but it’s got a specific vision.

FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
JS: The mop (its aspect of social change), washing machine (time-freeing), dining-room (its social component), armchair (a time for reading and reflection) and router (life’s difficult today without access to the information we have).

FS: Can you describe a day in your life?
JS: Well it would be a working day just like anybody else’s, nothing special. I get up early, help my daughters dress, give them breakfast and take them to the bus stop to catch the bus to school. It’s my first contact with the street and the short walk is welcome. It helps me plan the day a bit. Next I drive to the studio in the Technological Park, a journey among mountains to flee from traffic congestion. I arrive at the studio and we get up-to-date on the projects, targets to meet during the day, topics pending and those which are urgent; and of course a coffee to wake up. Next the individual work, contact with clients, collecting feedback and reflection. Once the day is over I get my notebook with a couple of ideas to mull over at home. Then a little bit of sport, dinner with the family and a little time to relax. In other words a lot of work and little free time, rather like other professions I suppose.

FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
JS: The more they know, they live, etc., the better designers they’ll be. It’s not a question of designing to impose but rather with commitment, reconciling interests and advancing.

FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
JS: Positive – you learn from many fields and the more you see the better you solve problems and greater creativity.

FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
JS: To know how to solve problem you must understand it well.

FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
JS: Transversality and management of multidiscipline teams.

FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
JS: Paper, pencil (biro so you don’t go backwards), Solid Works, Office, Rhino, Corel draw, Painter, … magazines, comics, etc., anything that might be useful for the project, which aren’t always the same, so a little bit from everywhere.

FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
JS: Badly. Almost always more time is spent on the project. It’s difficult but getting the balance and learning how to disconnect is good. Working to milestones helps. Making decisions to advance is difficult, but by doing so time management is easier.

FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
JS: Depends on the object or service, but hours, days, weeks, months and even years.

FS: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
JS: Where do you get your inspiration? What I see is that the designer is frequently confused with the inventor, which maybe the case but not necessarily all the time.

FS: What was your most important job experience?
JS: They’ve all been good insofar as I’ve learnt from the all, although perhaps most importantly the fact of creating ties with people beyond the professionals.

FS: Who are some of your clients?
JS: Small companies and large multinationals. CGGLOBAL, ZIV, THYSSENKRUPP, BLUX, SOLAC, URALDI, PROTEC, VITRINOR, MAGEFESA, ….

FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
JS: I like them all, but more for the team and people involved than for the product.

FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
JS: To continue with new projects, products, services, teaching, living and enjoying life.

FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
JS: I have an excellent team for developing projects, what more can I ask?

FS: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
JS: I like Triporg.org, it’s a great change. Its user-centred proposal, which contributes, helps and puts everyone in the same situation, democratising the capacity of providing anybody with a destination and it’s free for any destination. www.triporg.org Try it and tell us. It’s a system where anyone registered can introduce information about where they live, their town and places they like. I think it’s a very democratic tool which came about as result of a prospective design project from the last century and technology enabling it to be created in this century.

FS: How can people contact you?
JS: It’s easy to contact me via the studio web www.ideilan.com or calling.

FS: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
JS: Designing is no mean feat, it’s long and tedious, besides needing persistence and illusion. Moreover you must never lose the latter!!!


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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