Design Legends ("DL") had the distinct honour to interview legendary designer Raja Badr-El-Din ("RB") 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?

RB : Growing up on a farm meant that I was never shy of trying to fix and make things. Eventually, I attended Stanford University where I studied Mechanical Engineering: Product Design. This program was my first introduction into the study of design and design research.

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

RB : I view design as a toolkit to help us problem solve. Going through the design process always results in more thoughtful and crafted outcomes.

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

RB : Our primary focus is on furniture, home decor, and wooden surf gear. Carefully crafted furniture can bring us closer to people we love and the places we call home. While we have primarily focused on private spaces inside the home, I hope to spend a little more time thinking about the shared spaced and experiences out in the public realm.

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

RB : Good design should be timeliness. It should place emphasis on quality materials and values that are good for the planet and people who call it home. It is our job as designers to ensure that those values are held in the highest regard, and crafted in an accessible and affordable way.

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

RB : I spend a great deal of time thinking about overall home designs - watching videos about designs for all sized spaces. I hope to design and build our own home in the future.

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

RB : George Nakashima is a master furniture maker whom I hold in high regard. His pieces are wonderfully crafted and designed, but even more humbling is the respect and attention he showed each piece of wood. Trees are humbling in both life and death, and he designed his work with that spirit in mind.

DL: How could people improve themselves to be better designers, what did you do?

RB : I think everyone’s processes are different, but what works for us is setting aside a good chunk of time to work through our ideas. Thinking through sketching is also a great way to get the creativity flowing at the start of a project.

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

RB : Design is about taking a thoughtful approach to problem solving, using the tools and strategies at hand to work collaboratively and iteratively towards a solution.

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

RB : My wife Holly is my biggest supporter. It is helpful to have someone who understands when and how to push you.

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

RB : We have been cooking up a new collection of furniture and home decor pieces that feature two to three materials for added interest and function.

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

RB : When we deliver furniture to a client’s home, it is always a satisfying experience. Knowing that these pieces will be an heirloom in our clients' families for years to come is a humbling opportunity.

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

RB : Projects generally take one to two months from inception to installation.

DL: When you have a new design project, where do you start?

RB : For us, paper and pen are the best place to start any new design project. It is a fast and simple way to get lots of ideas out of your head and into the open. Choosing a design direction too early in the process is never a good idea, and sketches are less likely to trap you into that mistake.

DL: What is your life motto as a designer?

RB : “No JUNK”

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

RB : CAD software makes it very easy for us to communicate high fidelity renderings to our clients. While we don’t like to start on the computer, we always make sure that our clients can visualize the final piece well before beginning the actual fabrication.

DL: What kind of design software and equipment do you use in your work?

RB : JOHI is a full functioning wood shop with all the usual suspects of woodworking machinery, from the joiner to the bandsaw. The majority of our renderings are done through Fusion 360. As a small business, we put on many hats and rely on Adobe’s creative suite to help with branding and communications development.

DL: What do you wish people to ask about your design?

RB : I put a lot of emphasis on the use of traditional joinery techniques in our designs. This wisdom has been created and passed on for centuries and is what allows us to create pieces that last the test of time. Understanding how these joints are created allows a client to better appreciate the craftsmanship of their furniture and how to care for it.

DL: Please tell us anything you wish your fans to know about you, your design and anything else?

RB : We love chatting about creative ideas, partnerships, and collaborations. Should you have something in mind, feel free to reach out at holly@hellojohi.com. You can follow along with our adventures and new creations on Instagram @hellojohi, Facebook @JohiDesign, and Pinterest @JohiHome.


Pohihi Entry Console

Pohihi Entry Console by Raja Badr-El-Din

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