Christoph Niemann: “I don’t need a big idea”
Mr. Niemann, you once illustrated a pie chart of your daily routine with four hours blocked off as “Creative.” How would we experience those four hours in your head?
I hope that there’s something special that would come out of it — but with that idea, you’re also suggesting that strolling around in my head is something dramatic, that something is happening that is as entertaining as what ends up on paper.
And that’s not the case?
Actually, I can say that the steps that lead to my finished drawings are very unspectacular. It’s more like with a sculpture, where I chip away piece by piece from a stone and slowly get closer to the final form — to hopefully have an elegant form where the reader is in any kind of way emotionally touched. But creating never happens in those big gestures that the final product suggests in the end. It’s a rather boring film that plays in my head.
Yves Béhar: “You can’t think selfishly about design”
Mr. Béhar, how often do design ideas of yours end up in a drawer?
I think part of being a designer is to fail every day, to try things that don’t work out. In a way, every project fails every day until it succeeds! That’s what the iterative process of design is about. The projects that don’t launch, this is sometimes due to the fact that they’re too early but that doesn’t mean they don’t come back a few years later as ideas integrated in different projects. Timing in many ways is key.
So it is more about nurturing a good idea rather than starting with a groundbreaking one?
Right, one of the keys to success is certainly the ability to time projects to have the right outcome at the right time. In many ways, the work of a designer is to make sure an experience is far enough ahead to be exciting, but not too far ahead to be an alien in our lives. And there’s so many projects that you would define as absolutely the right idea, but it takes them a long time to become an idea of its time. For example, we designed a smart bassinet that provides parents with a way to safely put their babies to bed and encourage them to sleep — that’s a project that took us five years to develop.