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Interview with William Volcoff

Home > Designer Interviews > William Volcoff

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

Interview with William Volcoff at Thursday 30th of April 2020
William Volcoff
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?
WV: I have first studied Product Design in ENSAAMA, Paris before moving for another BA degree in BIAD, Birmingham in the UK. Then I moved to Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland to get my Master in Strategic Design & International Business Design Management. I started my first design studio right in the middle of my studies (during my sophomore year in Paris) and kept on going like this for 6 years before opening a new office in Shanghai in 2011. I didn’t want to become a designer, it just happened to be the only job where people were happy I asked so many questions.

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
WV: WOLKOV is a boutique agency that focuses on high-quality products development and strategic partnerships to develop innovative design proposals. We cooperate with local SME’s and global players to develop innovative products, new brands and experience-centred retail spaces.

FS: What is "design" for you?
WV: Design is everything because everything is designed. Design is the result of a thinking process to go from a current situation to a more desirable situation. You can apply this thinking process to theorize services, create a new product or plan a new space layout.

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
WV: Simple product with tangible added value. Nothing cosmetic and superfluous. I really enjoy the project that connects product with brand and retail space. Developing a holistic design proposal is very rewarding intellectually for the designer as well as economically for the company.

FS: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
WV: A pair of chopstick made of bamboo. So simple yet so versatile. I just can’t imagine a way to improve this item. It has reached its climax form.

FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
WV: A pair of shoe sole for a skateboard shoemaker company based in Paris, France. It was fun because we designed a bit in the morning then went out skating all afternoon in the company warehouse.

FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
WV: I really like wood but have so few opportunities to work with it so far. My favourite platform to work is my 3D software… I’m not so much online actually. Too much influences inhibits creativity and it’s good to be selfish sometime. In terms of technology, I work a lot with 3D printing for all our prototypes.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
WV: At night, alone. Bainstorming sessions are nice but somehow, I need the whole day to prepare my brain. Usually, the idea comes at night and I need the daytime to implement it and refine it.

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
WV: Ideation and fine-tuning. I like the initial burst of ideas that defined the whole vision. Then I enjoy the last stage of finalization. The development phase is less interesting as we usually have to make a lot of concessions to match client’s constraints.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
WV: Responsible. It’s not really an emotion; it’s more like a state of mind. What we design will have an impact on earth and on us, human so let’s keep this in mind while we are creative. I have more emotions while being with my kid. Design is not a religion and I don’t feel my soul elevated while designing a bottle of shampoo... in some project, it’s actually the opposite.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
WV: Proud yet not as good as you might expect… I always feel the final product could be improved and I can’t stop noticing details that could have been improved, given I had more time or budget.

FS: What makes a design successful?
WV: Sales. It’s sad but a design that doesn’t sell well is a failed design. Design only works if human buy it or use it.

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
WV: Functional aspect first, then the emotional message suggested by the form and other surface treatment. Packaging and other communication are all rather meaningless if the product itself has flaws and is made of mediocre materials.

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
WV: Designers have very heavy responsibilities. Designers are the key to make all businesses more human-centered. We live on a close environment (our planet) with limited ressources. It’s about time we think globally about the entire production chain, from the idea till the second life of our products. Designers are responsible for this strategic thinking and should always push/educate their clients toward more eco-friendly products/services offering.

FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
WV: The design field is evolving at different speed depending on the market: the emerging country needs design for basic cosmetics skin on their products while "sleeping economies" like in Europe or U.S used design to leverage their brands in consumer’s mind. Somehow, mature markets are pulling designers toward more responsible purchasing behaviours. It’s noticeable with the tremendous growth of “bio-based products” and the development of short distribution networks.

FS: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
WV: I don’t do exhibition, I do design. Exhibitions are for artist who wish to make a statement. Designers works for companies, if they want to make a statement they ought to do it under their name, as an artist.

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
WV: Everything feeds me: movies, books (lot of sci-fi books), manga, softwares…etc. I always keep my mind open to suggestion so I can easily be inspired. I found a neat trick to get inspired: don’t look for inspiration. Keep the task in the background of your head for a couple of days and let your brain process it. Without realizing, you’ll start to find inspiration in very mundane things and soon you’ll make very creative connections.

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?
WV: My design style is heavily influenced by my years spent in Finland. I like simple shapes that carry strong emotion. I'm always trying to remove things, button and decoration: simplify the design to amplify the message.

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?
WV: I live in Shanghai, China. This megalopolis is just a heaven for designer as it is a blend of very old traditions and excessively futuristic thinkings and styles. My European background gave me some stability to organize my life in this chaos but the best way to live there is just to follow the flow, don’t fight it.

FS: How do you work with companies?
WV: Usually long term relationship. Some companies are my clients for over 10 years already. I like to bound with the CEO or owner and discuss the vision. If we match each other vision, I’m much more inclined to follow a step-by-step process and to help the company reach slowly their strategic goal.

FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
WV: Select a profile that matches your company spirit and vision. Past experience in a similar field is not so important. Good designers are flexible and can adapt their thinking process to any new field.

FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
WV: I don’t have a defined design process. Each project is a different challenge with a different problem. I adapt my design process to the specificities of each client. Some clients require extensive research and few propositions based on the insights gained while other clients need something fast to convince their investors. As a designer, we are here to support the company we are working for, not to bend them to our design process no matter what issue they have.

FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
WV: There is not such a thing as a”design item”. Everything is design and design is everything. My favorite objects do not have design labeled on them: #1 - A pair of hopsticks. This is the most versatile and simple kitchen utensils you should always have. #2 - A pencil (2H works best for me). Simple and very reliable creative tool. #3 - A large wooden table. Working/Dinning on a wooden table feels just right. #4 - A precision knife, to make models and cut things. #5 - A paper clip, to keep things organized.

FS: Can you describe a day in your life?
WV: Wake-up at 6 am and eat a good breakfast Shower and get dress. Read news and other non-design-related topics. Check emails and start working. Sketch during a meeting or conference calls Sketch a bit more during renderings and team discussions Dinner with family, reading time with kid…etc. Nothing amazing.

FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
WV: Never stop learning software. They are like language: the more you learn the more you can express yourself under any circumstances. They are tools so train yourself to master them. Hard skills are very valuable. Anyone could have a great idea, how to make it real is all about hard work and hard skills.

FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
WV: We have to please the client so sometimes we have to make concessions that go against our true belief. On the bright side, we often meet people with power who entrust us to make big changes. Then, it is up to us, designer, to take the opportunity and work hard to make things happen the way we envisioned.

FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
WV: Never be please with your first idea. You can always do much better.

FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
WV: A nice mix of hard skills (sketch, prototyping, software mastery) and soft skills (empathy, extrovert).

FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
WV: Besides pencils and paper, I’m using Cinema4D software for all ideation phases. It’s like sketching in 3D. Then for refinement I would move on to Solidworks. Rendering are done on various softwares depending on the type of render needed: Vray, Keyshot or Octane. Of course, also in the toolbox is the Adobe Suit.

FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
WV: I’m rather proud of that. I’m never late and I don’t procrastinate. Good planning is key. Also, I make sure clients are involved, reactive and clear in their feedback. Good communication is key to save time during the design process.

FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
WV: Depends on so many aspects and situation. I developed design in a couple of hours that were produced the next day (remember I live in Shanghai so everything is fast). At the same time it tooks me 6 years to develop my first watch.

FS: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
WV: How much to do this design?

FS: What was your most important job experience?
WV: Designing my own product, sourcing my own suppliers and signing contracts for my own production.

FS: Who are some of your clients?
WV: Fissler, Cartier, Croissant de France, Keysheen, IchiMore, Monami, Volvo

FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
WV: Change is making me happy. Always doing the same type of design is quickly boring.

FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
WV: Keep serving our clients. Keep developing the watch brand and the watch model to enlarge the collection. I’m starting to set-up collaboration with artist on special limited edition of watch models.

FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
WV: Team work. Always.

FS: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
WV: We are designing a full range of fitness equipment for a newly established fitness brand. The work is very rewarding as we have full trust from the founder.

FS: How can people contact you?
WV: email > william@wolkov.cn or phone call > +86 135 8561 8347


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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