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Interview with Sara Hayat

Home > Designer Interviews > Sara Hayat

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

Interview with Sara Hayat at Wednesday 18th of May 2022
Sara Hayat
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?
SH: I grew up around design and seeing the intricacies and elements that make a design great. I have always been curious and interested in the concept of Aesthetic Force - its power to move, to dazzle and its ability to take our focus off from ourselves and instead, making us aware of our present moment. Iris Murdoch calls this Unselfing. This shift in perspective and what it does for us, is powerful as individuals and community as a whole. I can tell you the exact moment i realized I wanted to design; I was watching Chef Grant Achatz talk about on of his favorite dishes - a helium filled balloon dessert. He was talking about how he would see the guests at his restaurant come - and no matter what age they were, as soon as they'd inhale that helium and enjoy their dessert, their voice would change, the whole table would burst out laughing! Whether it was a grandmother or a child, you could see pure joy on their faces. They were present in that moment, connecting with their family and friends, and enjoying this outrageous dessert. For him, cooking was no longer about creating tasty, beautiful dishes, but about bringing people joy and helping them connect. That is what my designs are all about - fostering human connection and creativity and remind us of what we can be.

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
SH: My company is based on the two foundational elements of design; Form and function. With form, I picked these moments from my childhood. These intentional moments of connection, beauty and its impact on our behavior that influences my design. We are surrounded by furniture all the time and yet, we dont really pay attention to it. Its just there. I wanted to design furniture whose interaction leaves you feeling warm and relaxed. I wanted to create things of beauty that would inspire us to be all we can be. To remind us of our potential to elevate and rise above whatever may be going on. There is a coffee table that I designed, The Lattice table- the idea behind it was that the table should give the effect of honey pouring down from the top all the way down to the bottom. It is extravagant and is meant to draw attention. The legs are dome shaped with the top half made from wrought iron while the bottom half is made from warm colored mahogany wood. Five of these domes support a smooth square of calcutta marble. So we had to make sure the support is sufficient - that meant changing the honeycomb shape in the wrought iron mesh to triangles. It was a geometric nightmare. Since we couldn't accomplish that honey dripping down effect with the dome, we tinkered with a few more ideas which lead to us to incorporating Kintsugi - the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery, into the cold slab of marble by carving grooves for brass inlays in it. The juxtaposition of the brass with the marble, gave warmth and a break in texture. I wanted to create visually stimulating design that forces us to change perspective - to draw attention outward away from ourselves and to the present. When it came to function, I also wanted my designs to foster connection and creativity. Every small part of my pieces have been intentionally designed to accomplish that. The angle of the back of the chair, the depth of each seat - everything is designed with connection and comfort in mind. We even had the cushioning especially made for each of our pieces. My Mom, who tests and oversees the manufacturing of my pieces, called really excited about the cushioning we were trying to pick out for the Bevel Sofa, and to give context, i mustve made her try a dozen combination of cushioning! So she calls all excited and she says, the cushioning is extremely soft and comfortable, and just when you feel you're about to just sink down, its firm so you feel like you're being held! That was it! That feeling of being totally relaxed, feeling held, feeling warm in your posture, allowing us to connect with people we are with. Its combining form and function to not only serve as visual affirmations, nudging us to rise above but also fostering a sense of belonging, forging a connections with people we are with and discovering their magic.

FS: What is "design" for you?
SH: For me, design is a function of empathy. It is knowing intimate details about what it means to be human. It is knowing about human behavior and how we interact and move in the world. A design resonates and its function realized when it comes from a place of empathy, of connection.

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
SH: I love designing furniture. Like i said, it is the most interaction we have with an inanimate object. So furniture design that facilitates us in our daily lives and if for a moment, takes us out of ourselves by aesthetic force. It is its large presence in our lives that drew me towards furniture design.

FS: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
SH: The Bevel Sofa is definitely one of my favorite pieces. Visually it is unique and at the same time has this welcoming quality to it. We were working on another piece - The Shahi Sofa, and the Bevel design just manifested. We went through several different iterations of cushioning before settling on the perfect mix of high density foam and gel foam to make it feel as warm and personable as it looks.

FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
SH: The Fleur set was the first thing I designed. It is a design that will always be close to me. We got some great feedback on that which was a real motivator to keep working hard and come up with designs no one had seen before. This is one of the many designs that we have copyrights for.

FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
SH: I love working with wood and brass. I am partial to wood because of my family and their history. In my opinion, well crafted wooden furniture is timeless and never goes out of style.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
SH: This might sound strange, but I feel most creative after listening to a good podcast. There is something about people sharing their vulnerabilities that gets my creative juices flowing. I think its going back to design being a function of empathy. All my designs are rooted in connecting with people and how furniture can facilitate that.

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
SH: When I would model my designs, the big question I would ask myself is, ‘does it pass the Aesthetic Force test?’ Dr. Sarah Lewis describes it as the power of art, or music, or a piece of writing that moves you, "to leave us changed - stunned, dazzled, knocked out. It can quicken the pulse and make us gasp in astonishment. Its importance is its animating trait - not what it is but what it does to those who behold it in all its forms." Visually, I wanted my designs to grab attention - to be able to anchor you in the present even if for a moment. Things that are whimsical and playful have a way of doing just that. If we take the T-4 modular, I wanted people to have fun and be playful in how they use it. For me, how we interact with furniture is so important. I thought about my kids when making this piece. It is made from soft cushioning covered in lush velvet so it can be used when pulled apart but also serve as a sleek, modern sofa when put together. I imagined my kids making forts with it one day and pretending it's the Millenium Falcon the next!

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
SH: Deep joy. It is one of those rare things that makes me lose track of time and excites me to wake up in the morning start working on my designs.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
SH: I feel blessed and content. To be able to first , find something that I love doing and secondly, have the means to do it. My designs make me feel motivated to keep working hard and give them the space and platform to share it with the world.

FS: What makes a design successful?
SH: A design that people feel a connection with. Whether its furniture or a tea kettle in your kitchen, you are drawn to designs that helps you connect. It is the deep understanding of human behavior and behavioral psychology as it relates to how we feel about ourselves that translates in a successful design.

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
SH: At the end of the day everything comes down to how you feel when you interact with a product. In furniture, bringing together art and function was a challenge. Keeping the aesthetic pieces as it relates to function was challenging and difficult. So in furniture design, off the bat, I consider how aesthetically pleasing it is. What seals the deal for me is how functional it is.

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
SH: In a fast paced, consumer centric world, a designer has the responsibility to make sure their pieces are created in a sustainable fashion. Even if we look at it from an economic perspective, it makes sense to produce and use raw material that is sustainable, recycled and widely available.

FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
SH: With everything going "Meta," we are able to model our designs before it goes into manufacturing. It is an exciting time as one doesnt have to consider the laws of physics till much later in the design process. I am looking forward to see what we come up with!

FS: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
SH: I started my company in December 2021 so I havent had the fortune of exhibiting my designs. I am planning an exhibition in my home country of Pakistan very soon.

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
SH: My inspiration comes from the things I interact with every day. But mostly they come from automobiles, watches and sneakers. I love how different materials are used in automobile production and the how each part of it so beautifully designed. From the head lights to the stitching on the leather seats, everything is so well thought out. When it comes to watches it is the time, the function is to tell time yet we've come up with thousands of iterations on how that can be done in the most timeless and aesthetic way. With sneakers, from the use of materials to the color combination, it is a huge source of inspiration for me.

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?
SH: My design style is definitely modern with some elements of art deco. It is a style that I was naturally drawn to. The way I design, I use mental models and with design I especially use first principles mental model. It is going to the root of the problem and finding a solution for it. So if I'm designing a chair, I'll say, "a chair is something you use to sit on." If its something to sit on, how do i create something unique through design that people will use to sit on. I then use things that inspire me to fill the rest of the key elements that go into making something that one would sit on .

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?
SH: This might sound strange, but I feel most creative after listening to a good podcast. There is something about people sharing their vulnerabilities that gets my creative juices flowing. I think its going back to design being a function of empathy. All my designs are rooted in connecting with people and how furniture can facilitate that. My culture and upbringing has a huge bearing on my design. I am currently living in the USA but I grew up in Peshawar, Pakistan. The fleur chair and settee design was inspired by my home town. Peshawar is sometimes called the City of Flowers. It has gone through taliban occupation and many political turmoil, yet it still stands and the people are ever smiling and optimistic. It is these traits that inspired the Fleur set and also inspired me to use more bold colors in all my designs.

FS: How do you work with companies?
SH: We offer a trade program for interior designer and architects. We also work with showrooms so prospective clients can see my designs. On the manufacturing side, most of the companies we work with, we've had a relationship with them for decades. From procuring the best quality wood to making custom leather for our clients, we have trusted and known them for years.

FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
SH: Understanding the principles that guides their craft is very important. Someone who feels joy in their work will always go above and beyond expectations. For companies as well, it is important to understand the designer's principles, to then communicate their own needs/requirements and then give the designer the space to create magic.

FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
SH: We have a bunch of catalogs from the late 1800s and early 1900s that I would pour over. The designs are timeless and they helped me take note of the different joineries and details that go into furniture making. I also took my inspiration by looking at designs of Oscar Niemeyer, Edra, Joaquim Tenreiro. Their take on design was so unique and the materials they used told a story of their era, the things they were inspired by, and their culture. I wanted my designs to serve as a means of self expression as well. I love learning about how things work, and am particularly curious about human behavior and mental models. I am fascinated by how cars, watches, architecture and sneakers are designed. So just like ambient research in writing, I saved the designs I loved and made notes on why I loved them and how they made me feel. The first question I asked myself was, how do I incorporate all this in my designs? I wanted to ignore the designs I had seen but keep the feelings they evoked. To do this, I started with first principles thinking; What is a chair? It's basically something you sit on to rest or relax. The second question was, how does human behavior fit in furniture design? It’s well documented that our surroundings impact our behavior and mindset and we are surrounded by furniture all the time. I remember my mom would always style our house a certain way, and she'd say, "Your home should be a reminder of the state of mind or life you aspire to have. No matter what happens when you walk out that door, you should feel peace and happiness when you are home." So early on I was cognizant of the power of intentional design, its ability to uplift and reimagine what is possible. From designing the angle of the backrest to the width of the seat, it is intentionally done to make you feel relaxed and at peace. Finally, I would start sketching each piece by taking inspiration from what I had liked about a piece of architecture or part of a car. Most of my color schemes as well have been inspired by how Rolls Royce uses different materials and colors for their interiors and one of the sectionals that I'm making right now was inspired by the sharp and sleek edges of Lamborghini's tail lights. My Romanesque Writing table was inspired by Steve Aoki's kitchen Island. It has all these different surfaces and looks so futuristic. I thought that would make a great book shelf or writing table. My architect, whom I drove crazy trying to explain my concept, finally said, "You can either have a book shelf or a writing table but you can’t have both!" Choices were made and we came up with a writing table whose chair seamlessly combines with the table.

FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
SH: 1) Living room sectional 2) Storage containers 3) Tea Kettle 4) Lighting 5) Pictures

FS: Can you describe a day in your life?
SH: My day starts at 4:30 am. I have vendors around the globe so it helps to wake up a little early to talk to people during their work day. It is also good to be awake when you have no distractions. I am thankful I get to do what I love. It is also a good time to read or write a little before taking calls and starting your day. I've realized, taking some time first thing in the morning for myself allows me to deal with challenges better. Before this, I would wake up, check my phone and emails first and would immediately be annoyed at something that wasnt done correctly instead of realizing that this is just how it is. After that, I workout, and then drop my kids off to school. When I come back, I take time to brainstorm content and come up with ideas on how to give my brand and my pieces the attention they need. I usually try to get as much done as possible before I pick up my kids from school. Taking time to workout, listen to podcasts, reading and writing help me clarify my thoughts and help me discern what i want my designs to say.

FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
SH: When it comes to designing, bring in your unique vision. Dont think about what others might think. You need to love what youre doing and your designs first. When it comes to building a brand, do a personal inventory. Do what you are great at and get someone else to fill in where you are lacking. Thanks to technology, you can find someone across the globe that would help you do what you want in a set budget. Lastly, network. Being an introvert, this is something I have struggled with but I've learnt over the past weeks in fact, that the energy you bring when talking about your products, thats the energy people resonate with. IF you dont show people how much love and faith you have for your products, it is hard for other people to feel the same way. Reach out to people, connect. Despite how terrified i am of new social settings, the thought of not giving my all to make sure my designs are a success is unbearable.

FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
SH: If you have a family to support it is difficult. Especially if you are working on creating your own brand and identity. I was a day trader before I switched to designing. One of the biggest reasons was having a cushion for myself and my family so we could support building a new brand.

FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
SH: Combine the power of aesthetic force with function. It is in our DNA to appreciate beauty and mastery. Beauty has this effect on our nervous system and then combining that with function so when people interact with your product that they feel understood.

FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
SH: You're only a detail away from making something ordinary, extraordinary. Knowing how to discern where and how the details will be added or changed is very important.

FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
SH: For inspiration I use podcasts, books on interior, fashion, automobiles, sneakers, watches. I use reMarkable notepad for all my sketches. It keeps everything in one place and I can carry with me for when inspiration strikes. I also use Sketchup, 3DS Max to model and render my products. My inspiration also comes from daily life - I'll see a cool design and think if some of its elements can use in a table for example, or a chair. I also use Evernote to note down ideas for designs.

FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
SH: I have a dedicated time in the evening for sketching and I use Evernote quite religiously to make notes and add photos. Its like my digital mood board.

FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
SH: The initial sketch doesnt take that much time. Maybe an evening since I have my ideas and references in my Evernote. But making 3D models and then making iterations to that takes many hours depending on the design. Sometimes the sketch just doesn't translate well to real life, so making changes to those is quite time consuming. For example the Megalo sectional took months to get the design right whereas the Fleur and Bevel took a few hours.

FS: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
SH: How do you come up with ideas?

FS: What was your most important job experience?
SH: Being a day trader. It taught me how to make decisions and be in touch with my feelings. It also taught me how to be malleable and change with external outputs I'm receiving. All the skills I learned in trading I apply in design. It gave me the courage and confidence to become a designer.

FS: Who are some of your clients?
SH: Interior designers and architects mainly and private clients.

FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
SH: I love sketching and modeling furniture. Focusing on one item at a time and making the basic idea behind each design as beautiful and functional as possible is very fulfilling.

FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
SH: I want to continue establishing my brand and give value to my clients. I am still in the early stages of my company so i want to keep building my roster of clients.

FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
SH: I develop my designs myself. I work with an Architect - Shaheer Burji to make 3D models of these designs.

FS: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
SH: We have many designs in the pipeline and are working hard with our manufacturers to bring them to life. The one I'm most excited about and one that took the longest to conceptualize and make is the T4 Modular System. It is composed of different geometric shaped cushions that come together to make different shaped sofas. The pieces can be used individually and then can be attached together to make unique looking sofas. I am very excited about that one.

FS: How can people contact you?
SH: My email is sara@sara-hayat.com My Webite is www.sara-hayat.com And you can also DM me on instagram at @sarahayatdesign

FS: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
SH: Each piece was made with utmost attention to both form and function. The pieces are exclusive, and made-to-order with beauty and comfort in mind. I want my designs to bring joy, foster connection and facilitate meaningful interactions. I want my pieces to dazzle, anchor us in the moment and remind us of what we can be.


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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