LEGENDARY INTERVIEW

Design Legends ("DL") had the distinct honour to interview legendary designer Jiani Zeng ("JZ") for their original perspective and innovative approach to design as well as their creative lifestyle, we are very pleased to share our interview with our distinguished readers.

DL: Could you please tell us a bit about your design background and education?

JZ : I'm an industrial designer, engineer and researcher working in the intersection of consumer product design and technology. My work explores new design opportunities beyond the limit of current manufacturing and materials like soft robotics, multi-material 3D printing etc. My work has been recognized in top international design awards like Red Dot Design Concept, International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA), Golden A’ Design Award etc. My design has been featured in Milan Design Week, CHI, Artsthread, italianbark, LUXOS, and IDSA. I has consulted and designed for multiple companies, including Seymourpowell, Hilti, Furrytail, MIT Design Lab and MIT Media Lab, not only helping them successfully deliver products from initial concept to final product launch but also looking at future design trends and brand strategy. I hold a BEng in Product Design and Manufacture from the University of Nottingham and a Master of Science in Integrated Design and Management (IDM) from MIT. Currently, I am a Co-founder and Executive Director of Product Design at Butlr. Technologies and Radical Department Inc., my startup and studio is based in San Francisco.

DL: What motivates you to design in general, why did you become a designer?

JZ : I want to equip every industrial designer the ability to manipulate design from the material creation level and from bits and atoms, instead of being limited by conventional material selection and production. I hope every designer can see "object skin" as separate entities for creation, instead of a uniform material surface that can only be chosen from limited collections. I believe only when those "creators" of products think freely that the general users can experience differently from each product.

DL: Did you choose to become a designer, or you were forced to become one?

JZ : Let me be very honest...it was about 9 years ago, as a Chinese high school graduate, I have no idea what i was going to do and I din't know what is industrial design. that time I was really into photography, one day I saw a picture of a camera, Leica M6, the classic one with blue leather skin, I got hooked... it was the last day I had to decide my major, so i went through the list - i choose the one looks like it - product design. It was the best coincident and i feel it's destiny.

DL: What do you design, what type of designs do you wish to design more of?

JZ : I hope to blur the line between the digital and physical world, bringing "impossible" materials to real-world product design. With the newest fabrication technology and computational power such as multi-material printing, 4D printing, soft robotics, we can embed information into three-dimensional matter (voxel), expanding binary material presence to dynamic material experience in everyday products. Imagine a physical material can display dynamically by itself without electronics; Imagine the future of color creation is not based on layers of chemical paints, but a combination with optical 3D printed optical lenses and simple color blocks; imagine an invisible object that is informative, a hard object that feels soft.... I want to change the world by bringing these amazing digital experiences into the physical world we live in.

DL: What should young designers do to become a design legend like you?

JZ : I'm not a legend. don't be me.

DL: What is the value of good design? Why should everyone invest in good design?

JZ : Good design should be inspiring, it shows you what the future will be like, it leads your imagination.

DL: What would you design and who would you design for if you had the time?

JZ : My first step would be introducing my vision and research outcome "illusory material" ([https://www.illusorymaterial.com/](https://www.illusorymaterial.com/)) to the designers' world - I want to equip every industrial designer the ability to manipulate design from the material creation level and from bits and atoms, instead of being limited by conventional material selection and production. I hope every designer can see "object skin" as separate entities for creation, instead of a uniform material surface that can only be chosen from limited collections. I believe only when those "creators" of products think freely that the general users can experience differently from each product. Secondly, I hope to blur the line between the digital and physical world, bringing "impossible" materials to real-world product design. With the newest fabrication technology and computational power such as multi-material printing, 4D printing, soft robotics, we can embed information into three-dimensional matter (voxel), expanding binary material presence to dynamic material experience in everyday products. Imagine a physical material can display dynamically by itself without electronics; Imagine the future of color creation is not based on layers of chemical paints, but a combination with optical 3D printed optical lenses and simple color blocks; imagine an invisible object that is informative, a hard object that feels soft.... I want to change the world by bringing these amazing digital experiences into the physical world we live in.

DL: What is the dream project you haven’t yet had time to realize?

JZ : A portable multi-material 3D printer.

DL: What is your secret recipe of success in design, what is your secret ingredient?

JZ : Imagination.

DL: Who are some other design masters and legends you get inspired from?

JZ : Ross Lovegrove

DL: What are your favorite designs by other designers, why do you like them?

JZ : Tokujin Yoshioka, simple, smart, material magic.

DL: What is your greatest design, which aspects of that design makes you think it is great?

JZ : Illusory material. the vision is valuable to all users.

DL: If you hadn’t become a designer, what would you have done?

JZ : Musician or photographer.

DL: How do you define design, what is design for you?

JZ : I've been asked this question for many time, I can't find a good answer. subjectively, design is my life, I don't know what I can do besides design.

DL: Who helped you to reach these heights, who was your biggest supporter?

JZ : My instructors at MIT, Matt Kressy, Axel Kilian, Stefanie Mueller.

DL: What helped you to become a great designer?

JZ : My resources at MIT and my partner Honghao Deng.

DL: What were the obstacles you faced before becoming a design master?

JZ : I have to face my desperation when I'm stuck with a design.

DL: How do you think designers should present their work?

JZ : Awards, conferences, media etc.

DL: What’s your next design project, what should we expect from you in future?

JZ : Illusory material, stay tuned.

DL: What’s your ultimate goal as a designer?

JZ : become a designer people remember for centuries.

DL: How does design help create a better society?

JZ : Design leads imaginations, it helps users fulfill imaginations.

DL: Which design projects gave you the most satisfaction, why?

JZ : illusory material.

DL: What would you like to see changed in design industry in the coming years?

JZ : more and more designers walk out of the box of traditional manufacture and material. design freely.

DL: Where do you think the design field is headed next?

JZ : physical design will be abt material design instead of using existing material to design.

DL: How long does it take you to finalize a design project?

JZ : it depends

DL: Do you think design sets the trends or trends set the designs?

JZ : design sets the trends

DL: What is the role of technology when you design?

JZ : I design with the newest technology.

LEGENDARY DESIGNER


Glasses Plus Interchangeable Cover Frame

Glasses Plus Interchangeable Cover Frame by Jiani Zeng


Tag Tag Mark disposable cups

Tag Tag Mark disposable cups by Jiani Zeng


Dual Zero waste

Dual Zero waste by Jiani Zeng


Luna Sauce Dish

Luna Sauce Dish by Jiani Zeng


Unream Voxel Printed Lamp

Unream Voxel Printed Lamp by Jiani Zeng

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