Design Legends ("DL") had the distinct honour to interview legendary designer Evan Neumann ("EN") 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.
EN : I was a volatile teenager and did not graduate high school. In lieu of college, I lived around central and Eastern Europe, learning the languages and culture, always living with and among locals. This was a very important life stage for me and opened my eyes to the enormous diversity in cultures and peoples. I lived in Dresden when it was still East Germany, Munich, vor Arlberg, Austria, Prague, Moscow and Kiev.
EN : I am compelled to create things. Paid or unpaid, it is irrelevant.
EN : It was an evolution. I don't think anyone is forced to become a designer. Creativity can't be forced.
EN : I like designing fundamentally new concepts. Chemical self-assembling space stations, robotic avalanche control devices and internally lit handbags are my current favorites. Previously, I also designed hotel rooms and web applications.
EN : Allow yourself to become fanatical and obsessive about your ideas and ignore the haters.
EN : A great designer is in tune with the natural world. They use nature to solve man made problems.
EN : Great design usually solves a problem with a novel and simple solution. Coincidentally, the smoothest solutions will be beautiful.
EN : God and nature love beauty. Beauty brings us closer to God and brings us more at one with nature.
EN : I would like to design a smartphone for my kids.
EN : I have a design for a space station. The concept is to take a big blob of liquid plastic resin into space and deploy it on the shadowed side of the earth. A chip of ice in the center will sublimate, inflating the plastic resin as a bubble. In the microgravity of space, adhesion and surface tension will force the bubble into a sphere with homogeneous wall thickness. When the sphere orbits into the sunlight, the UV radiation cures the plastic resin and what is left is a 50 meter diameter transparent sphere that can be used as a space station. A 4 mil layer of gold on the exterior applied using sputter technology will make it appear from the exterior like a sometimes transparent rose-gold marble while protecting it from the sun's radiation. From the inside, it would be a giant window with no supports or walls. A sphere is also the strongest shape and holds the largest volume of air while using the least material.
EN : day-dreaming. I spend a lot of time just sitting and thinking, sometimes with ambient electronica or classical in the background, but more often just silent contemplation.
EN : Ferdinand Porsche, Nikola Tesla, Elon Musk, Faberge, Horten Brothers, Kelly Johnson and Werner von Braun.
EN : The Horten 229 is probably my favorite design. It was built on a shoestring budget and is elegant and beautiful beyond words. On top of that it used plant based fuels and was more efficient at it's purpose than any plane made before or after. Moreover, form followed function. When aluminum was scarce wartime commodity in an age of aluminum monococques, it was a wood frame stealth bomber and they used carbon dust in the laminate of the wood to scatter radar and thereby made the world's first stealth bomber. On top of that it was both the fastest jet plane built to date and the most maneuverable, it could out-dogfight the best fighter despite being a bomber. The pilot sat all the way in the front with the jet engine intakes a few feet away on either side and excellent forward and upward visibility. It must have been thrilling to pilot. I also like Victorian era clockwork devices like Jaquet Droz automata. The Antikytheria Device and the pyramids of Egypt are also mind-blowing because we have no idea how these things came to be.
EN : Honestly, the Luminare handbag is my best so far. I believe it has achieved what no digital fashion to date has achieved, namely a design that is beautiful with strong ties to the past and bringing the past into the future. It complies with my overall ideology of being a Luddite technologist.
EN : There was always a large gap between my dreams and what I brought to reality. Doing the little work in between has always been the hardest for me and the most necessary. Also, I had to learn about focusing on the details. I used to just throw any old button onto a device to control it. Understanding that the look and feel of the button was as important as it's function was a leap forward in my designs.
EN : I did it. I have had many careers. General Manager of a boutique hotel was fun. Hard science like satellites and robotic avalanche control are very fun too.
EN : Design is the aestheticization of function.
EN : May family. Some close friends have also helped with both engineering issues and financial support.
EN : Support from friends and family is a big element. Faith in ones own work. Being able to accept criticism and incorporate the parts that are valid is invaluable in the evolution of design. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. For design, I modify this to say: God, grant me the humility to accept constructive criticism, courage to reject jealousy disguised as criticism, and wisdom to know the difference.
EN : Truly unique ideas usually face a lot of push back and hate from the existing industry. Finding people within your industry who support your concepts makes things easier. It can be especially hard to keep up your momentum in the presence of people who denounce your work.
EN : Proudly and publicly. You need to get your work in front of a large enough audience that the public judges your work before the critics with a vested interest in your failure have an opportunity to undermine it.
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 is inside of it. Sort of like the pendant on that cat's leash in Men in Black (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7ojSW5pODk).
EN : To build Xanadu, an enormous spherical space station with an interior volume about the size of the Empire State Building. It is self-assembling using chemistry and physics. It is completely transparent on all sides except for a small entry port. The sphere rotates to provide 1G of gravity at the outer rim, which consists of a sea used for water recycling and recreation. When swimmers look down, they see the universe spinning below them. As the levels get closer to the center, gravity is reduced and the middle 50% is open air, with 200 foot diameter windows looking out to space on either side and directly overhead is the other side of the ground. Gravity at this innermost level would be about 1/4 earth's gravity and it would be possible to run and jump to fly around. Running against the spin at about 15 mph would make you weightless. With some simple angel wings that are operated by flapping your arms, you should be able to fly around. In the middle is a large compartment with zero G used for Ender's Games and scientific experimentation. Also in the middle is a port to the outside for docking spaceships, solar panel arrays for power and heat dissipators for environmental control.
EN : Sci Fi and magic brought to life.
EN : Beauty. Designers should bring beauty by following the function and how nature best accomplishes the function on it's own.
EN : Due to the plague we have been forced to change our marketing strategy and I am excited about what we are putting together. Our website is my current project and the videos and photos needed for this is fun.
EN : The design projects that are best accepted by society are the most enjoyable for me. In that vein, the hotel remodel I did while General Manager of Hotel La Rose in Santa Rosa, California was very satisfying because it increased our occupancy, average daily rate and thereby the resale value of the hotel itself. The appraised value when I began was about $1 million. After 5 years the hotel sold for about $5 million. The renovations cost about $400,000. The other very satisfying design was a web application I built for managing hotels. After several years, it was purchased by Best Western and is currently being deployed to every Best Western throughout the world as their primary software for management and reservations distribution. These are not necessarily my best designs, but they are the most satisfying because they are the ones that society gave me the most credit for.
EN : I would like to see design become more serious with more genuine efforts at beauty and craftsmanship. So much of design recently has been geared towards efficiency and profitability at the cost of beauty and longevity. Luminare is extremely durable and intended to last a lifetime. Planned obsolescence is of the devil. Here is a link to a video of Aslaen and Vaugn trying to destroy a Luminare handbag. https://vimeo.com/410796771
EN : My hope is that due to the Plague design becomes more regional and differentiated. Ideally, this will bring some pride back to local manufacturers and planned obsolescence will be left in the dustbin of history.
EN : Designs intended for production take me years. Designs for personal use may take hours to weeks.
EN : Daydreaming. It takes a lot of daydreaming to come up with a new design. I then use hand tools and spare parts from around my workshop. I have several rooms filled with disassembled electronics and salvaged spare parts. I use files and hand tools to carefully craft my first versions without any drawings and then do the engineering after the basic design is built and I have an opportunity to discover the weak points of the design. Last is the drawings so that it can be mass produced.
EN : KISS Keep it simple stupid. I really like this. That said, Roccocco, Baroque and Art Nouveau (including similar designs like Gaudi) are some of my favorite styles.
EN : Ideally designs set trends, but too often trends dictate design.
EN : Technology is merely an enabler of designs. Too often designers try to highlight a technology. This is the case in those gaudy bags with blinking LEDs or the EL shirts. A good implementation of technology in fashion was Luminex. Luminex was understated and did not highlight the technology.
EN : Materials often dictate the level of luxury. Exotic leathers are best for luxury designs, cow leather is best for upscale and silk or other cloths are best for mid scale. I am not particularly a fan of plastics unless they are needed for some specific function. For instance, the internals of the Luminare are a specific type of plastic that is flexible enough to be used in a bag, but rigid enough to safely hold the electronic components. Metal, fiberglass and carbon fiber can be used for any level of luxury. Color has multiple uses. First, it allows the purchaser some control over the look and gives some choices. Second, it can convey a feeling, dark with gold is luxurious, while bright colors are fun and casual. Lastly, color must be coordinated within the product. Palettes are key to this, though I am not a fan of the seasonal updates of color palettes. It seems to me a form of planned obsolescence. Ambient is probably the most important component of the three. Subtlety in design is a prerequisite for broad acceptance of a design. Some prototypes can be loud, but should be toned down when brought to market. A notable exception is something like the Tesla Cybertruck which is a bold design by an eccentric entrepreneur.
EN : How does it work. I really like designing things where it is not obvious how it works. People should always have a sense of wonder when looking at one of my designs and I like the aha moment when they learn the details.
EN : How does it work. I want to know the underlying technology. There are some designs though that are not rooted in high technology, like the Belgian Waffle at 2006 Burning Man. It was a huge organic shape that served as a music hall. It was built using hundreds of thousands 1 inch by 1 inch by 4 foot pieces of wood nailed together in a haphazard way. It was truly unique and made all the better because it only survived for one week before it was intentionally destroyed by fire. Brilliant.
EN : My mind doesn't work very well with others. Despite this, I have had a few friends I have worked with to refine designs - mostly because they had expertise that I did not. So, the ideal design partner has strengths where I have weaknesses. Giovanni Bevini was an ideal partner for Luminare because he is excellent at designing and manufacturing leather handbags, something I have no experience nor talent with.
EN : Giovanni and Matteo Bevini had the most influence on Luminare. It really could not have been brought to market at this level without their contributions. Greg Staples and Matthew Thompson also helped with some more technical aspects of the internal plastic case and microcontroller programming. My family, my ex included, helped a lot with moral support. Artists tend to be have big emotional swings and when I am feeling the most negative I rely on family and friends to raise my spirits and give me renewed faith in my concepts.
EN : I really like books that have cutaways of cars, planes, ships and motorcycles. Biographies about Nikola Tesla have also been inspirational. Sci Fi in general is very inspiring: Asimov, Dune, Ender's Game, Necronomicon. Astrophysics non-fiction is also inspiring. Day dreaming about how the universe looks from different perspectives is enormously influential in my designs. I really enjoy trying to make seemingly impossible things possible.
EN : It has been a lifetime evolution. I tend to just follow my interests in hobbies and when I come across something that many people like I try to bring it to market.
EN : Several Greeks like Plato, Socrates and Aristotle. Sargon of Akkad, Amenhotep, Genghis Khan, Jesus Christ, Buddha, Confucius, Van Gogh, da Vinci, Hugo Boss, the Horten Brothers, Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, Queen Victoria, Nikola Tesla, Werner von Braun, Elon Musk and Kelly Johnson.
EN : I don't consider myself to be famous, though the awards have been welcome and affirming.
EN : I like the richness of purple, but my favorite color is green because it is so emblematic of a healthy environment.
EN : Most of my enjoyment of designing comes from the process itself. It is also nice to see a completed, functioning design, but the motivation to complete a design comes mostly from the idea of providing for my family. Strangely, it is also motivating to watch old TV series like Dukes of Hazzard, Beverly Hillbillies and Star Trek.
EN : No, more than anything when I was little I enjoyed taking things apart or building things like bombs and flamethrowers.
EN : Right now I am pretty pessimistic about the future. There are many modern values that are dysgenic. We should praise our ancestors and focus on creating a better world for our descendants. So many people today focus on the immediate future and their personal wealth and hedonism. In early adulthood I never liked JFKs, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." Now that I have had some life experience, I appreciate this more and more. We work better in nation-state societies. It fosters welfare within the group and diversity and competition between groups. In my younger years I tried to live by John Lennon's, "Imagine all the people living for today." Today I understand better why this generation was referred to as the "me" generation. Self absorption and living for the moment leaves nothing for our children. I understand my ideals are not yet widely accepted, but without a change in our ideals, American food will be McDonalds, Mexican food will be Taco Bell, Italian food will be Olive Garden and Chinese food will be Panda Express. Shopping will all be through international conglomerates and the middle class, where culture lies, will be annihilated.
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