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Interview with Henry Chebaane

Home > Designer Interviews > Henry Chebaane

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

Interview with Henry Chebaane at Thursday 27th of April 2017
Henry Chebaane
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?
HC: I believe story-telling is the base for all cultural foundations and human communications. I have always been an avid reader of stories about people on our planet, from classic mythology and history to philosophy and science fiction. As a child I felt compelled to physically tell stories using various crafts: writing poetry, charcoal sketching, watercolor, oil painting, clay modeling, wood-turning. This quest continues today using the means of modern technology, digital graphics, lighting, materials and interior architecture.

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
HC: I started Blue Sky Hospitality in 2002 with a single focus: to create extraordinary stories for ordinary people, through strong brand development and commercial interior design. The widest audience is found in retail and hospitality consumers, so I have specialised in this business area. We provide Creative Direction and Brand Strategy as a multi-disciplinary design studio specialised in the creation and development of hotel, retail, restaurants, bars, clubs and leisure branded concepts.

FS: What is "design" for you?
HC: I consider Design to be the act of creating the future, by analysing problems and imagining solutions that could become reality. Without making any claims of particular knowledge, as a personal point of view, I believe that the main aim of design for commercial spaces is to enable human connections, transactions, and interactions. This aim should be provided as a sustainable solution with consideration for all stakeholders in the future business for which we design—owner, management, staff, suppliers, the local community. This should inform not just ethical and environmental considerations, but also knowing how much to spend in relation to the marketplace, target audience, and local capabilities and opportunities. Spend too much on design and construction and returns will underperform. Spend too little and the business will never perform to its full potential.

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
HC: Hospitality projects. We try to take projects that have a broad range of creative deliverables from naming, branding, space-planning, interiors, lighting, tabletop, uniforms, art curation, and communications so that we can be fully in control of the overall product design and deliver a distinctive competitive advantage to market.

FS: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
HC: I don't have a favourite, having worked on every continent in an endless quest to learn and improve my understanding of our world and its inhabitants. Each project provides the opportunity to meet new people with their own ambitions, concerns and desires. My role is to assist each one of them to come closer to the future they seek, within given constraints. We use design as a tool box to provide solutions to clients balancing technical contribution, cultural awareness and artistic imagination. Each project is memorable for different reasons but each involves experiencing our planet and its local cultures

FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
HC: My first commercial project was the creation of the first London boutique (in Notting Hill) for Diptyque, the cult fragrance brand from Paris. Almost simultaneously I was also asked to design the interiors for two luxury penthouses for the marketing of a very prestigious residential development in London called "Kings Chelsea". Soon after I designed my first restaurants in Warsaw, Poland and Cologne, Germany (published by TeNeues in the book "Cool restaurants Cologne"...the first of many.

FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
HC: I believe every thing on the planet can be used to produce great design from sand and concrete to silk and laser.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
HC: Early mornings around 4 am

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
HC: I focus on what is the purpose? first, what is the meaning? second, what does it look like? last.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
HC: Excited

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
HC: Relieved

FS: What makes a design successful?
HC: That it serves the purpose for which it was intended..and more if possible.

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
HC: What purpose does it serve?

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
HC: Our world is precious and fragile, humans have taken control of earth future and resources, much to the detriment of other living beings and mankind cultural diversity. Designers can influence and rebalance the perception of our world by introducing genuine ecological message and cultural sensitivity in their work while also looking into the future. I don’t believe in zoos and museums: their time has passed. Our planet and its people can do so much better for preservation and communication of cultural legacy and the natural world. For example, food is the ultimate human connector and restaurants are the ultimate stage to articulate this, so it is conceivable that restaurants could take on part of the cultural and educational functions of current museums and galleries.

FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
HC: Design has become one of the most important resources of mankind. We live in an era of exponential change in fundamental fields of activities produced by humans such as artificial intelligence, big data processing, ecological destruction. This is affecting everyone's life now and in future. Design is the only tool we have as a society to produce tangible solutions that can be executed and utilised to make life safer and more enjoyable for all.

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
HC: I am inspired by science, cultural and ecological diversity found on our planet: so many stories that have been told and can be re-edited for new generations of audiences. So many new stories that can be imagined from connecting random dots and patterns to create a meaningful narrative.

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?
HC: I don't have a specific style. In my point of view that would be arrogant or lazy. The fundamental reason for design is to accept an aspiration, a problem or set of constraints and resolve it at best you can using your mental resources to create a physical solution. The problem should drives the design or as was said by others before: form follows function.

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?
HC: I was born and grew up in Paris then moved to London almost 30 years ago. Without doubt the best decision I have ever made. The cultural diversity, creative energy and juxtaposition of heritage with avant-garde is very special to London and has been a major driver in allowing me to explore the depth and breadth of creative activities. Working from London as a launchpad has allowed me to meet clients from all over the world. I have done projects in over 30 countries and have visited as many more in the course of my work from Canada to Korea, from Iceland to Australia.

FS: How do you work with companies?
HC: We care deeply that our clients can make the optimum reputational and financial returns from our contribution. Yet, the design and branding of a space cannot exist in a vacuum: it is entirely reliant on how much the client will refrain from injecting personal taste and then how well the operating team will execute the everyday delivery, once open. we are dealing constantly with moving parts, differing agendas and cultural backgrounds, and varying levels of competence among the stakeholders that require constant polite, but firm, diplomacy. No matter how clever, innovative, and thorough the design is, a car performance is only as good as its driver. A balance between ambition and humility helps everyone keep a healthy sense of perspective.

FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
HC: Design for commercial purpose has a very specific goal: optimise return on investment. A designer can be the most important decision taken by a company to create, develop and project a brand image onto the market. So it is in the interest of the company to choose carefully a designer with whom they wish to work instead of just treating this appointment as a commodity like picking any other suppliers.

FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
HC: Be yourself, work hard and always put your client's aspirations first.

FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
HC: If anyone can make a living being a designer, that's positive enough to compensate for any other considerations.

FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
HC: Don't follow any rules

FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
HC: diplomacy

FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
HC: HB pencil and paper

FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
HC: The only way I manage is to be always thinking 24/7. Design is an all consuming activity, it involves a considerable amount of research, trials and exploration into the unknown before emerging at the end of a frustrating process, having resolved (hopefully) the constraints and obstacles along the way.

FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
HC: It can take a few minutes or hundred of hours..more the latter if dealing with complex spatial design issues.

FS: What was your most important job experience?
HC: Being a dishwasher in a restaurant. I learned about cultural diversity, the value of hard manual work, the value of imagination to make everyday life more enjoyable, and the importance of functionality in tools, layout and work processes.

FS: Who are some of your clients?
HC: I work for a number of international hospitality and retail operators, investors and developers to maximise tangible and commercial assets on a local, regional and global basis. Clients have included individual restaurants and large international hotel brands like Radisson, Hilton, Marriott, InterContinental, Four Seasons and Hyatt. Other kind of clients are owners of mixed-use residential and commercial development with a hospitality or retail component.

FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
HC: The type of work I enjoy most is where there is a clear sense of purpose to the design requirements. Aesthetics is a very subjective field of perception, so the only way one can assess the objective value of design is if its result create a tangible value that was not present before the design process took place. I use design as a tool box to provide solutions to clients balancing technical contribution, commercial potential, cultural awareness and artistic imagination.

FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
HC: I am very interested in cultural and ecological conservation, as well as promoting the importance of science in designing a better everyday life for all people, both physically and philosophically.

FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
HC: I always take responsibility for the entire detailed design process from ideation to conception, execution and implementation. Naturally, due to the large scale of many projects it is essential to have a good team who can identify with and support each idea that comes to mind.

FS: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
HC: We are currently working on the design of a very exciting project on the Gran Via, in Madrid. It's the launch of a new lifestyle hotel brand in Europe: Hyatt Centric. I have created much of the interior design and art content to express and share a rich narrative about Madrid and its culture past and present.

FS: How can people contact you?
HC: info@blueskyhospitality.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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