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Interview with Evan Neumann

Home > Designer Interviews > Evan Neumann

Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer Evan Neumann (EN) for A’ Design Award and Competition. You can access the full profile of Evan Neumann by clicking here.

Interview with Evan Neumann at Sunday 3rd of May 2020
Evan Neumann
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?
EN: I started in hotels and restaurants, working around central Europe and Northern California. My time in Europe was the most influential on my style. The classical beauty of European architecture and the anti-materialist sentiment of the populace was invigorating to the soul. Later I moved into tech and after a few years I moved towards aesthetic tech. I now consider myself to be a Luddite technologist. That is, I use technology to reinforce existing culture and move it forward in a way that stays firmly rooted in the past. Technology without historicity is degenerate.

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
EN: Aslaen Vaugn is an offshoot of one of my other businesses, Orbiting Eden. Orbiting Eden is my sandbox and occasionally I spin a business out of it. Previous businesses were a theoretical space station that is self=assembling in situ. Other projects from Orbiting Eden are a web-based space simulator and a robotic avalanche safety device. Aslaen Vaugn was spun off specifically to make couture that is enabled by electronics.

FS: What is "design" for you?
EN: Design is the aestheticization of function.

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
EN: I enjoy creating fundamentally new products. Something that has not been seen or even thought of before.

FS: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
EN: My favorite designs are in aircraft and architecture. In aircraft, the SR-71 blackbird and the Horten 229 are the pinnacle of design in my opinion. In both cases form followed function in a gorgeous way. They both have an organic feel that was derived from their function and they were respectively the best in their class for decades - perhaps even through today. In architecture Googie pieces like the LAX tower or some mid-century gas stations stand out. Of course, many of the classical churches are remarkable as well. Notre Dame, St. Chapelle, St. Peters Basicalla and Sagrada Familia are particularly noteworthy. The scale, ornamentation and detail makes these buildings so incredible. In modern times, the iPhone and Luminex comes to mind. It is unfortunate that no major fashion designers chose to work with that excellent material.

FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
EN: The first thing I ever designed for a company was a hotel remodel. Even thought that was in the mid 1990s, my inspiration was the same as it is now - to use modern technology to maintain the hotel's historical identity.

FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
EN: Light is my favorite medium. There are many ways to work with light and many illusions light can be used to create. My favorite technology right now is micro-controllers. They blend software and hardware so we can create radical new products that bring dreams to life.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
EN: I feel the most creative late at night. Late at night you can be alone with your own thoughts for several hours uninterrupted. These long stretches of uninterrupted time are essential to my creative process whether it is developing software, explosives, satellites or fashion.

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
EN: I try to keep everything as minimalist as possible to achieve the goals of the design. I also try to hide the technology from the user and use design to "trick" the user into doing the right thing. It is often very complicated to make something easy to use!

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
EN: Excitement, satisfaction, hope. Designing fulfills my soul. Even if I could not make money I would spend my free time designing new products. Having people willing to buy it and using it is a bonus.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
EN: Pride and fear. I am usually proud of my designs and if I am not, I don't release it to the public. Sadly, most of my designs end up in the garbage bin because I have high standards. There is always an element of fear of rejection. My designs are the essence of me and when they are loved, I feel loved. When they are rejected, I feel rejected. So, releasing a new product is always a little stressful.

FS: What makes a design successful?
EN: There are two things needed for a design to be successful. First it needs to be used by people. You can have the best design in the world, but if nobody uses it, it is not successful. The second thing needed is beauty and advancing society. Many things are wildly successful, like Pepsi Cola or McDonalds, but neither of these things is particularly beautiful and they degenerate society rather than advance it. They are used because they are less expensive and more convenient.

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
EN: The first thing I think of is beauty. Am I drawn to the design and does it speak to my soul. The second aspect, which is related to the first, is how well it does it's job. A handbag must be both attractive and carry your belongings. In our case, we add some additional utility like being able to charge phones that may have run out of power so late in the day.

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
EN: Designers have a huge responsibility to society and somewhat less to the environment. This is because design has a great impact on society, and somewhat less of an impact on the environment. Design guides society forward. If we design inexpensive hamburgers, we lead society towards homogeneous and unhealthy foods and degrade culture. Whereas if we design unique dishes that reflect the native culture (like escargots in France, wurst in Germany, Carbonara in Italy and sushi in Japan) we advance culture. While our primary focus is on our responsibility to society, we do not ignore our environmental duty. For instance, we reuse our packaging for shipping and source our components as close to point of manufacture as feasibly possible. Not only does this reduce our carbon footprint for shipping, but first world nations typically use more sustainable practices.

FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
EN: My hope is to see a return to beauty. It has become fashionable to use older styles ironically and so to poke fun at our history. It is my hope that designers move back to trying hard to produce classically beautiful objects.

FS: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
EN: My last exhibition was in February of 2020 at the Coterie show in NYC. Due to the plague that has descended upon us I am not sure what exhibitions will look like in the future. We were scheduled to be in a small runway show in Paris and Moscow in March and April, and when these start happening again, I hope our company can attend.

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
EN: I enjoy perusing old art. Mostly the classics, but some pieces up through mid-century modern also catch my fancy. Music can be very inspirational and I listen to a variety: classical, ambient electronica, dixieland, folk and some rock. Burning Man in the early 2000s was also very inspiring. The immense creativity involved was overwhelming. Since around 2006, it has become more of a party scene and is therefore less intriguing from an artistic standpoint.

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?
EN: My design style is to use technology to create experiences that seem magic or inexplicable. Technology should be used subtly in design. The technology should be a means to achieve an effect, not as an end unto itself.

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?
EN: My home is near San Francisco and it is a huge advantage when working with technology. When I go out for beers, I meet interesting new people and learn about their industry or art. That said, San Francisco regional design is quite limited and slickly modern. My time living in Europe had a large effect on my concept of style, culture and design. Europeans have an absolute aesthetic advantage over Americans in this way.

FS: How do you work with companies?
EN: I generally don't. At most, I sell products or businesses to larger companies. I have always had difficulty working for others.

FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
EN: Look for unconventional solutions to problems presented in the interview or in reviewing their previous work. This is indicative of an unconventional thinker.

FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
EN: I spend a lot of time dreaming / thinking, especially in the early stages of a design. The later stages are filled with a lot of less-fun work involving making money.

FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
EN: I really like my steel wheelbarrow. It's blue. It has the Miller bent steel tubing frame to hold on the front wheel instead of the bumper bracket that always plows into the ground when going up or down hills. I leave the wheel at low pressure so that it is easier to bounce over obstacles. It's die hard.

FS: Can you describe a day in your life?
EN: Wake up in time to get myself and the kids fed. Head downstairs and check emails / do busywork / make phone calls. After lunch I generally do household work, then it is dinner for the family and after the kids go to sleep is when my real design work starts.

FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
EN: Your design is your own. You can listen to other's suggestions, but never accept that there are professionals who know more about what the public wants than you do. If they knew, they would have made the widget you created.

FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
EN: KISS, keep it simple stupid.

FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
EN: There are a few different ways to say it: Thinking outside of the box Stepping back Questioning assumptions Most problems are better solved by taking a step back and questioning the underlying assumptions.

FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
EN: Software: Javascript, Java, C++, PHP, Python, Arduino, HTML, CSS, Fusion360, GIMP, EagleCAD, Excel Hardware: lot's of hammers, Hakko tools, lots of solder, 3D printer, glue

FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
EN: When I am not parenting I spend most of my time uninterrupted working for days at a stretch.

FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
EN: A few minutes to a few decades. It depends on the scope of the design. Luminare has taken over a decade of refinement, with several year gaps.

FS: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
EN: "How did you come up with that?" It's a strange question though. Most ideas are the result of a lifetime of experiences, so the design usually has innumerable, difficult to trace inspirations.

FS: What was your most important job experience?
EN: General Manager of Hotel La Rose in Santa Rosa, California. It taught me how to run a business and gave me the confidence to do it.

FS: Who are some of your clients?
EN: I have customers, not clients.

FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
EN: Explosives and robots. That said, I am terrified of robotic warfare. Didn't any of these military types see Terminator, Matirx or the Borg?

FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
EN: Building out the business around Luminare. The Plague has been a serious dampener though.

FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
EN: I work alone.

FS: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
EN: I hope to have the time in the next year or two to make a handbag that looks bigger on the inside than the outside, like the Dr. Who TARDIS. The woman will appear to be carrying around a hole in the universe with another galaxy inside of it. Sort of like the pendant on that cat's leash in Men in Black (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7ojSW5pODk).

FS: How can people contact you?
EN: evan@asalenvaugn.com is the best way to contact me.

FS: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
EN: My goal in design is to make things appear to be magical. That is, to use technology in such a way that a layperson does not understand technology is even being used.


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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