Interview: Scott Wilson
by Gimena / October 16, 2006

You may have seen a Scott Wilson design lately, he's the designer behind Swingline staplers, Nike's Presto Digital Bracelet and Oregon Series Watches, iBelieve, Ooba - the list is long. His company of one was chosen this Summer to be Design Director for the Motorola Wearable Technology group and he's got furniture for "a cool Italian brand" due later later this year (this in addition to his ongoing projects, see above). Also due later this year, next month in fact, another baby girl to inspire him; "You realize when you have a child that they have no expectations and see things in such a simplistic and pure way.". Read more about the high school kid who was "drawn towards art as well as math and physics"... GP

OTTO collection for Moroso.

When did you decide to become a designer?
Pretty early on. My father was a schooled architect and a professional graphic designer, illustrator and photographer. He was enamored by industrial design and had industrial design magazines lying around since I was a kid. My first "big boy" book was Rapid Viz. In high school I was drawn towards art as well as math and physics. My school's guidance counselors told me to be an artist or an engineer. I guess they did not know about industrial design in 1987. Luckily, I did, and it seemed to be a good balance of art and engineering.

Where do you do most of your design work?
These days much of the design goes on in my head. And it is not always about designing the object but designing the idea or the connections between ideas, technologies, materials, brands, users, and needs. The object is much easier than the idea. When I get down to the physicality of the design it happens quickly between my collection of Moleskin pocket books and the computer.

Is design for you a hands on process or is it mostly conceptual and intellectual?
Definitely all of the above. I like to sort out the concept and bigger story first. The compelling reason to justify the product. After that I am very hands on, whether it is working with materials, prototypes and samples or creating the CAD data in the far too many 3D programs I try to stay on top of...

Nike Presto Digital Bracelet.

Where, or from what, do you get inspiration for your work?
I would have to say the user/consumer and the ever-growing globally connected world. Information and inspiration about people, ideas, design, materials, and technologies is so accessible today that I have to say that is the biggest influence.

For the baby company, Ooba, I founded with friends in January, my daughter is my biggest inspiration. Having Isabel was the most amazing experience of my life and continues to be so every day. You realize when you have a child that they have no expectations and see things in such a simplistic and pure way. It is inspiring. Modern design shares many of the same qualities. It is minimal, reductive in form, distilling things and objects down to their essence, and many times colorful. However the way in which these qualities are embodied in current juvenile design is not visually consistent with what the growing number of modern design consumers desire. There is no reason that the two cannot comfortably co-exist. My goal was to create objects that bring the juvenile and adult world closer.

What is your favorite part of the design process and why?
I enjoy the whole process of discovery and landing on the big "aha" but I have to say the first time you see the initial model it is still like Christmas as a kid.

Do you confront your ideas when you are in the process of designing? And in that case, who do you share your thoughts with, who do you ask for opinions and critics?
Design is an iterative process when done correctly and time allows. Discovery and building on the ideas and inputs of others is very important. I have to admit, my wife, who is not a designer, has become one of my most trusted sources for input on my work. I think she understands design better than most designers. Or maybe she just knows what consumers want and need. But I also have built up quite a special network of designer friends who always give honest feedback.

How would you label/categorize your work?
That's hard to answer. People have used these at times: sensually minimal, intelligently simple, disruptive, thoughtful, confident but modest, and honest. You chose.

Seating system for Quinze & Milan.

Do you have a signature style? If yes, what are the hallmarks of your style?
I am not sure I have a signature style compared to most designers although there is something consistent people tend to recognize in my work. Maybe that consistency is focus or maybe it is the execution... I hope. I try to balance the consumer and brand needs in my work without being to heavy with my personal preferences or agenda. I don't like repeating myself. I think this is one of the biggest challenges as a designer.

Who are your favorite designers and/or architects?
There are so many talented ones both known and unknown out there. I don't need to name the typical ones that are undeniable. In furniture, I am particularly impressed with Patricia Urquiola and the Bouroullecs lately. Not as much fluff and some real original, varied and thoughtful work. Less trendy and more enduring. Their consistency is remarkable compared to others. Fashion... Narciso Rodriguez, John Lindeberg, Yohji Yamamoto, Rogan Gregory, and my friends Coleman Horn of M3DIUM and Chris Gadway (formerly owned and designed Ant Industrial's Collection). I wear there stuff all the time. The have a great eye for unique details and execution without being trendy.

For architecture, I am inspired by the boldness of what is going on in China by architects like PTW Architects and their Water Cube, Herzog & De Meuron's 2008 Olympic Stadium, etc. At home in the US, I think Joshua Prince-Ramus, Rem's ex-partner, is an amazing talent. I had the fortunate opportunity to meet and collaborate briefly with him on the Seattle Central Library (also found out we actually played baseball together when we were in our early teens in Virginia). It is rare that architecture I feel excels at both the aesthetic and functional level equally. His master plans around his projects are quite impressive. It will be interesting to see how he does outside OMA.

What item (PC, pen, etc) can you not do without when you are designing?
I cannot live without my Pilot HI-TEC 0.3mm pens which I import from Japan. I also love my Moleskins which I have with me at all times. I especially love the Japanese Panoramic Z-fold ones. You can unfold them and get the whole overview of my current designscape at a glance. And unfortunately my computer is a Dell M70... an ugly beast but I love her for her portable power.

iBelieve replacement lanyard for iPod Shuffle.

What's next?
Another baby girl in November, tons of baby products already in the pipeline, some pretty high tech luxury adult toys, a premium watch collection on the shelves this fall, furniture for a cool Italian brand and some exciting designs in the wearable technology and wireless markets for Motorola... I accepted the opportunity to be their Design Director for the Motorola Wearable Technology group this summer. This is an emerging, highly-anticipated space that I was passionate about while at Nike but unable to make the progress I desired.


Full name: Scott Wilson
Location: Chicago, IL, USA
Size of team: 1 but my network of invaluable resources is large and scales with projects
In business since: 1991
Claim to fame projects: Swingline staplers, Nike Presto Digital Bracelet, Nike Oregon Series Watches, M2 Landscape Lounge, iBelieve, Ooba.
Spare time: Family time, drawing with my daughter Isabel, running, snowboarding, time with friends, observing & scheming.

Favorite website(s): Inhabitat, Mocoloco, Engadget, Coolhunting, etc
What music is on your iPod or radio? Everything... but I listen to iTunes radio the most.
Your favorite magazine(s): Business 2.0, Metropolis, Cookie, Axis, Flaunt, Dwell, Surface, Intramuros
Last or current book you are reading: Last: Bringing down the House. Next: Hoopla
Last movie you saw: Layercake... again. Or was it Napolean Dynamite? Actually probably Cars with my little girl Isabel.

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