September 17, 2008

Meet enPieza! and Some of Their Friends –

or, How to Help Daily Objects Forget Their Initial Destiny for Fun and Profit
by Ziggy Nixon

I have to be honest: I could (should) have released this interview a lot earlier. The good folks at studio enPieza! very kindly got back to me within just a few short days after we began our correspondence together. But since that time, it just seemed to me that our sunny friends from Spain (or is that our friends from sunny Spain?) – not just the studio but the whole darn country – had received enough publicity.

First, there was the not-entirely-unexpected victory of Rafael Nadal in Roland Garros. Or was that after Carlos Sastre of Spain won the Tour de France? Anyways, afterwards there was naturally the spectacular victory of the Spanish soccer side in the European Cup (which my friend Alberto can attest I even predicted! Well, kind of… I did say they had a good chance…). From there, of course, Senõr Nadal – arguably one of the most amazing athletes to break onto the global scene in ANY sport for many years – went on to win Wimbledon, much to the chagrin of the local Swiss faithful. So there I sat, wondering if the Spanish would continue to conquer all takers (it was about this time as well that via the AP Photo section I learned that Spanish people can in fact fly!).

But alas, a few short weeks ago, despite a very strong overall team showing in many different events, Spain shockingly “only” won the silver medal in men’s basketball at the Beijing Olympics. And so as the American press were quick to proclaim, order was restored to the USA-niverse and the Spanish had to deal with a little less global notoriety (yeah, sure). In addition, despite getting a bad break from the weather and a surprising loss to – of all people – a Scotsman, Brother Rafael in fact failed to win the US Open (for those that don’t remember, he only made it to the half-finals. Geez, what a loser!).

It’s just I mean, really! Even the Spanish Royal Family is comprised of very attractive people with good teeth, average-sized ears and no discernible traces of insanity or interest in dating ponies at all! What’s up with that? But alas, and with all kidding aside, it is indeed a pleasure to bring you these enjoyable few pearls of wisdom from this talented and fun-loving team from the magnificent city of Madrid:

Welcome amigos. Can you describe a little more about your "team", please?
For a long time after we started in 2005, it was just the two of us. Last year we started to work together with two other designers, who were more focused on graphics and also web design.

But since then our project team has grown: first, we have acquired a huge space for our studio which is about to officially open. We’ve also opened it up to new collaborators such as illustrators, industrial designers, architects, and more.

Today studio enPieza! is composed of 5 teams comprised of 2 persons each. We have 3 product or industrial design teams, 1 graphics and communication focused team and 1 then looking primarily at web-based projects.

Do you do all your own design and "modeling", as well as production of the first actual pieces after a design is completed?
We not only do the prototyping and/or modeling of every first piece, but so far all our products are handmade by us in our workshop, from the first piece to the last. Everything we do now is also produced in a limited quantity and numbered.

Because we do have our wonderful workshop, we can afford to labor on our dreams, give them shape and see them grow solid.

How do you balance the responsibilities, including management, for different projects? Is anyone the boss or even "specialist" for different projects?
As mentioned before, we have a very good team with many specialists and collaborators involved. So, somehow, each project finds the designer it needs.

The coordination of every project is the responsibility of the two enPieza! founders.

You offer different services including graphic design, photography, and illustrations, as well as of course your unique products, ranging from your catalogue works, different projects, furniture and jewelry just to name a few. What description do you think best fits your own vision of your work and your company?
Our philosophy is that creativity is a free bird! It’s not healthy to limit its flight. So we try not to limit anything with descriptions or titles.

What we do is what we want to do, what we like to do and what we enjoy doing. Business comes after that.

How does your business model work, that is, how do you generate sales and your income?
We are just people trying to make our ideas come true, executing projects and letting them – and us – live. When something gets into our minds or bites into our insides we just have to let it out. We make our creations real and come to life by working on them in our minds and with our hands, giving them form and identity.

To be honest, some of our most interesting projects and pieces do not bring us “big money”. But we find that “press” or exposure is assured, which helps our studio to grow.

We have produced some objects where we’ve worked with private clients to create unique pieces that fit their needs. Of course, along with these, our “common products” and also then contract graphic or web design projects help generate income.

Is there a particular balance in terms of how you go about designing for different types of projects?
Each component of the studio has its own particular balance and criteria for creating. What we try then is to mix up the best of each, using the best range of abilities and talents we have to best fit each particular project.

Can you describe how your design process has evolved over time?
The design process evolves for us every day. We are still growing and learning.

We find it very positive that we are able to always re-design our company’s methods and work patterns to keep things fresh, original and more.

Your designs are very artistic but there is still an obvious need for at least some know-how in terms of engineering, metal behavior, electronics, plastics, etc. How do you bring into your design process the needed "operational" details? Examples that spring to my mind include:
  • How you make sure that a lamp doesn't "shock" the customer or burn up a plant that you want to grow?
  • Or how can you ensure that a pair of cool sunglasses doesn't break when someone is fixing their skateboard wheels?
We have our professional set-up that provides us already with some of the needed know-how skills. Working with collaborators and also carrying out more research as required by a given project covers the rest.

Obviously, some experimental projects, like the Lamplanta or the (which shows how common objects can lead “secret lives”!) require a period of testing to make sure they meet their designed function. Once this is completed and we are sure the product works, then it is ready for the world.

A little further into this topic, your team is well known indeed for the playful Volivik lamps made out of BIC pens (10 out of 10, I love it!). Can you describe the design process used for creating these pieces and why you chose of all things these pens as your "media"?
These were created using a very straightforward concept: you see, classic chandeliers have always had something “hanging” down from a central support. The overall universally known shape of such lamps has changed along the years, but most of them always had specifically something clear and shiny dangling down, typically what we call “crystals”.

We have respected this pattern, but changed the main character of the lamp, its soul.

The way it happened is that we realized the following “coincidence”: With classic chandeliers, the crystal pieces are typically long, slim, multi-faceted, transparent prisms. We translated this to the Bic pens which are by design also long, slim, multi-faceted, transparent prisms, even if made with simple plastics and meant to be discarded after use.

For us this is not just about re-styling; it also changes (re-cycles) the use of something that everybody knows very well, in this case, the Bic ball-point pen. This is an obviously massively popular everyday object, and really an icon of 20th Century design that most people just take for granted.

As we mention before, this piece was one that did bring lots of exposure, with mention even in such magazines as
Newsweek and many others around the world.

The use of light seems to play an important role in many of your works. Is this intentional?
It just happened this way. Maybe light seduces us in some special way.

But a lot of our most recent and also current projects do not have a light theme.

Obviously, in terms of "objects" per se, you use a lot of different materials, ranging from plastic, wood, metal, etc. Do you have a favorite media or material with which you work?
We are focused on making objects of a special sort, with our unique pieces being developed through any number of trials, experiments, transformations or even recycling processes.

We use then whatever arts and craft techniques that might seem suitable, combining then any “prime” or manufactured materials. We may also start from scratch, or even use objects from the trash or even start with established market products. In terms of special skills, we are professionals with metal works; also wood is a good friend.

Working with man-made materials is also interesting, and when their properties are ideal for a piece, we do not hesitate to learn as much as we can about them and how to use them. I would say that common plastics, resins and silicones are now also good friends to our team.

Materials based on newer technologies are interesting, too, but often are not very accessible.

Do you have any media or combinations of media that you haven't tried yet but with which you would like to experiment (more)?
It is important to us that we do whatever is necessary in order to realize the sort of work process that can unify the project and its manufacture, as well as the concept phase and the resulting object. We seek to create a unique and untouchable link between designer and creation, one that will remain no matter what happens to the latter in the future.

Our curiosity never gets tired, so we would be open to any idea. Again if a design needs something, we will use it.

Maybe we suffer a bit from
Diogenes syndrome because it seems we never throw something away. If that’s the case, no problem! We think there’s always a value to everything. At enPieza!, daily objects have to often forget their initial destiny.

I really like your
Graphic Design selections, your use of skateboards and even a "depressed" hanging lamp-man (my favorite in a very morbid way) and find them all to be quite enjoyable and funny in addition to being interesting designs!! What motivated you to produce such “playful” items?
We really don’t care or let’s say worry about whatever it is that moves our creativity – it could be fun, or for pleasure or even based on market forces.

The feeling we get when we’re able to finally sort out any challenges a project or design gives us, when we can make what we set out to do and our ideas become tangible, well, this gives us the greatest kick of all. I guess you could say this is our dope.

Every piece we make is a new friend. It has personality and presence – so we like it.

Have you ever had a project that you thought just didn't work out – for any reason, including lack of ideas, problems with the customer or just general bad "feelings" – and if yes, what did you learn from that experience?
Every studio has a project that at some point does not work out. Even in every project there are always times we something isn’t working. So at that point, we need to learn how to solve it. For us this is always good for learning new skills and gaining valuable experience.

Our attitude is that if some conceptual project is not possible in terms of being able to be realized today, it probably will be someday.

This comes in large part from our origins. You see, enPieza! began as a hobby project. We had kind of a “need to do” feeling that made us join together and start creating just for the need of self realization.

Then the requirements that came as the studio developed pushed us to make our first catalogue and web site without having studied for it. So we improved our skills to make them possible.

Especially for the web, we had to learn quite a lot from scratch to make it happen: how to set up domains and work within web “space”, how to program basic html, etc. Fortunately, the Internet has always been a good friend to us to help get the information we need.

Do you see any particular design trends in your field(s) in the coming years?
For us this is very much alive. We will just have to wait and see as today no one can know for sure.

For design in general, well, this is conditioned by market forces. Again, we don’t let this worry us. Our influences include anything we find nice, funny, useful, interesting, you name it.

How do you see your own business evolving?
When we first started, we tried to keep our design and manufacturing process, at least in the first stages, far from industrial, commercial or other limiting considerations. Now we do have an interest in finding a manufacturer to produce a specific line of products on a larger scale than what we can do ourselves today. So we’d like to try this out to see how it goes.

We would also like to continue to push designing for special clients, with whom we can express more freely our creativity by making a few, very unique pieces in our workshop. But of course, we will definitely continue to develop and produce our own hand-made limited products series.

We’d also like to focus on some more interior design projects and be involved in even more exhibitions and special events.

Anything special coming up for the team?
Si! Between September and October we will be “officially” opening enPieza!’s new space in Madrid together with the widely anticipated introduction to our new collection. If you can’t visit us in person, then please visit our website for more!


After what they themselves described as a necessary period of search and definition, enPieza! exhibited its “Duosys” wheel-chair at the XXXIII Geneva International Show (Inventions and New Techniques – April 2005), winning the silver medal in its class. That event marked the beginning of their activities as an organized, coherent group and provided many valuable lessons in not only dealing with the aesthetics of a project but also needed practical steps that would support them in taking their first work proposals.

In 2006 enPieza! had three of their creations selected for exhibition at the prestigious “NUDE” (New Spanish Design) section of the “Feria Internacional del Mueble de Valencia”, a much sought out showcase for new designers. Their two lamps (“Volivik” and “Lamplanta”), and table set (“El Toque Maestro”) were widely covered by the media present, and they quickly gained a reputation as exciting and talented newcomers with a fresh touch.

In March 2007, London’s Science Museum acquired one of the largest versions of their well-known lamp series – “
Volivik 347” – for its permanent collection, and as a special exhibit piece for its “Plasticity” show that began in May 2007, a very popular event that has had its run extended through January 2009. Different units of the “Volivik” series in varied sizes are also presently alight in the US (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver), UK (London, Oxford), France (Clichy, Nimes), Italy (Rome, Perugia), South Korea (Gwangju), as well as in several Spanish locales.

Noting ZN can not verify the owners of the shoes shown above, enPieza! is in part comprised of the following talents: Lucas Muñoz, David Tamame, Beatriz Fidalgo, Juan Francisco Barrero and Luis Moral.

September 8, 2008

Sherwood Forlee – fluid dynamics, break-dancing and other great tips for designing around laziness

Believe it or not, this introduction is not the set-up for the next Nevada (wink wink) Jones film: Sherwood Forlee was born in Hong Kong before moving about a year later with the rest of his family to Zimbabwe, Africa. It was here in Africa with his wildlife artist father (who, by the way, escaped from Communist China to Hong Kong by means of swimming the shark-infested waters that separate the two) that Sherwood cultivated his passion for adventure, the arts, and travel. Some of his fondest memories include throwing stones at bull elephants to make them charge so that his father could get a few good photos to work with before puttering away on a decrepit and not always reliable motorbike.

These days our intrepid adventurer tries to avoid being chased around by too many scary animals and instead protects his body, mind and soul as best he can – but hold that thought until you read about his hobbies! Interestingly enough – especially as he’s pretty darn good at it – Sherwood is by his own admission a designer with no design or art education. Instead, he studied Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University. Still, when asked directly, Sherwood will tell you that he calls himself a designer because it sounds hip and no one likes hanging around a nerd at a party.

Well, we’re not sure if this interview can top all that, but here goes:

Sherwood, first my compliments on your
website. It's really interesting in the way that you "navigate" to the different sections, and also that the lovely photographs morph and change so often. A Gold Star for your forehead or at least for your site designer for sure.
Thanks for the compliment. But the truth is the site was designed around my laziness.

Updating websites is not my cup of tea, and the way its set up now makes it a breeze to add material and delete stuff when threatened with lawsuits.

Can you just quickly detail how your "daily life" is set up in terms of your current(?) job at the Arnell Group and what you provide to the hungry masses as "Sherwood Forlee – Designer Dude Extraordinaire"? I just want to make sure that this interview doesn't get you fired from your "day job". (BTW: what's the boss like? Is his office really full of Star Wars stuff?)
Ha ha! I take it you've heard of the (in)famous Peter Arnell. I'm no longer there, but in case you're wondering, there is a large Darth Vader statue in the reception area. I've heard there's much more Star Wars paraphernalia inside his office, but thankfully, I was spared any visits there.

Right now, I'm freelancing . . . and playing the lotto whenever I get paid.

But as I'm sure you've heard, freelancing does have its perks. I get to wake up whenever I like, wear whatever I like, and do whatever I like. Plus, like a regular job, I also get to always wait until the last minute to start projects.

As for my day, I'll spend a few hours at the beginning working on my own projects, move onto my clients' projects, and then get back to my work later in the day. Of course, there's a lot of “wasted” but enjoyable time watching YouTube and reading blogs like Ziggy Nixon!

Looking beyond then your current “freelancing”, is there a "skforlee studios" planned? Or is that privileged information?
While I enjoy design, I have to confess that I don't think I'll be doing it forever. Even with all my different interests and experiences, I'm still trying to discover my true passion.

Right now, I think I may end up doing something around food. But you'll just have to wait till “Mom's Kitchen”, “The Bread Machine Shoppe”, and “Nussgarten” open to see just what that something is. These are all projects still in the works by the way.

You obviously make having fun a top priority, particularly taking a look at your independent offers. One article even described it as "(you have) a sense of humor for stating the obvious." How do you keep track of the "fun" aspect of your work, that is, without losing yourself in the design or even engineering of an object or concept?
I'm making a generalization here, but I think it's fair to say that a designer's independent work is a reflection of who that person is (professional work is a reflection of the client's browbeating of course). I'd like to consider myself light-hearted and happy-go-lucky. This being the case, it doesn't even cross my mind to intentionally insert “fun” or “playfulness” into a design.

There are serious designers out there like Phillipe Starck, Marc Newson, or Naoto Fukusawa – but to be honest, I don't like their work … and neither do many of the engineers who have developed their products.

Then there are the less-serious designers whose designs make lips smile in delight instead of eyebrows furrow in contemplation – these are the designs I like. And when you're designing something you like, the project as a whole turns out to be fun.

Do you think your designs ever either cross the "taste" line or even if not tastefulness per se, is there in your mind a "kitsch-iness" limit you like to keep in sight? Take for example such fun items as

  • your "Zagat Rated" stickers (which may be more "political statements" than anything to do with taste... well, excluding that they have to do with the food industry),
  • reusable shopping bags (“Now available for the low price of $0.00. Hurry up and get yours today!”),
  • "sleep safe tape", perfect for the office or that less-than-thrilling blind date conversation (ZN: dammit, and I just got my eyelids tattooed),

  • or even tee-shirts that say in Japanese "In case of an emergency, cut along the dotted line."
I don't have any hesitation with pushing the envelope. At first there's a slight fear that I might be treading on someone's toes, but as a good friend once told me, it's easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission.

For example, the Zagat stickers and reusable shopping bags are what I like to call “think pieces”. It disheartens me that people often lack individuality and independence, and instead opt to rely on faulty and/or untruthful information from greedy corporations. So I really hope that my work makes them finally stop and think.

With the case of the shopping bags, no one realizes or perhaps better said is willing to listen to the fact that if you add up the entire environmental impact that reusing the plastic bags that American grocery stores give away for free is less destructive than buying one reusable shopping bag.

Your on-line biographical, uh, stuff indicates that you “studied fluid dynamics and partial differential equations, and then barely managed to graduate." At the risk of having you tear this set of questions up and thereafter ignoring me profusely, I'm going out on a limb here and say bluntly: I don't believe you (the bit about "barely managing to graduate" I mean).

But goodness gracious Sherwood, why did you ever get into "Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering"? Weren't you aware that the "chance-to-meet-girls-AND-get-their-phone-numbers-factor" is at the bottom of the scale with this major? And as an Organic Chemistry graduate, I should know (in 2nd to last place on the same scale)!!

Ha! Yes, that factor was definitely a
consideration. But like many pre-college high-schoolers, I had no idea what I wanted to study. I didn't even know that the field of product design existed.

What I did like to do, though, was make things with my hands. After accepting the offer to attend Princeton, I thought the only subject that would allow me to “make” things was Mechanical Engineering. And while that was true to a certain extent, boy! was I surprised when I opened up those textbooks on thermodynamics and linear algebra!

With your engineering background in mind then, how do you bring into your design process the needed "operational" details, for example, making sure that the plastic of your
"aroma dry" hairdryer doesn't melt or that any such object doesn't just lose its color in the first washing or kitchen wipe-down, etc.?
Of course there is a need for engineering know-how when it comes to design. Thanks to my background in mechanical engineering, I can rely on some experience working with materials and manufacturing techniques. And if I don't have the know-how I need for a given project, I know how to obtain that information.

I think it's quite sad that most industrial designers don't have even an iota of engineering training, leading them to design products that look nice but simply don't work.

You seem as well to have a keen sense of the environment and the responsibility we small and insignificant creatures have in terms of protecting this planet. For example, I find that your "
just mail it" design has just the right balance of logic and irreverence. How does your sense of "greenness" affect your design approach?

I grew up in the suburbs of Harare, Zimbabwe where there were more wild animals than humans. I've seen natural beauty and I miss it and think about it a lot, especially now that I live in NYC. Hence, my interest in green design.

However, when it comes to designing something green, I'm not interested in materials. A big mistake “green” designers make is to take an existing product and green the materials. Problem is, if the product isn't processed correctly, the green materials act the same as “ungreen” materials.

Case in point : biodegradable plastic. It's only biodegradable if you compost it at high temperatures. If you throw it in a landfill, it lasts just as long as non-biodegradable plastics.

This said, when I design, I try to design around people's laziness. The information on how to minimize the impact to the environment is out there, but it's cumbersome and time consuming to search it out. By providing that information with the product, it makes it that much easier for the consumer to do the “right” thing.

In addition to your worldly travels, you also speak several languages, including Cantonese, Mandarin and English. But how did you come to learn German? I was forced to learn at gun-point, yes, but why would anyone willingly learn "Deutsch"?
I worked for a while at IDEO Munich. Despite some rumors to the contrary, I didn’t spend all my time in the beer halls but also took time to learn the language.

You see, as is often the case when you start off in a new country, I had no friends in Munich and didn’t know anyone outside of the office. So I filled my days with lots of self-study and even more television.

And despite what I’m sure many people think, “Beavis and Butthead” is in fact quite educational, especially when dubbed in German. (ZN recommends watching sports or any Arnold Schwarzenegger movie in terms of keeping the dialogue easy-to-follow)

(Additional: if you want proof of SF’s expertise with all things German, then visit what ZN has already nominated for “
Design of the Millennium”, including the video at the bottom of the page. You and your loved ones will be glad you did... or in my case, even potentially the neighbors down the street...)

You seem to have moved about rather frequently in the past years and worked with several different design groups. Is that by happenstance or do you consider this "normal" for someone in your field? Did you particularly want to move about as much as possible?

Throughout my life, I've been moving around rather frequently. First, it was from Hong Kong to Africa. Then Africa to California. And then California to the East Coast.

After college, I found it hard to stay in any one place for more than a year. Anything longer and I would become irritable, and frankly, a lousy worker. It wasn't that I wanted to experience as many design firms as possible – it was really just my internal clock saying, “it's time to move.”

I must confess that I really admire those designers – most of the ones I know are like this – that can tough it out year after year after year wherever they settle down and set up their shops.

Okay, this may be painful, but I have to ask: how does it make you as part of the design team feel when a project such as the "aroma dry" hairdryer that ultimately does NOT take off? Do you find yourself becoming in any way "attached" personally to objects you design for clients?
Honestly? I don't give it a second thought. I'm not at all attached to the products I design for clients, and even with my stuff, if it bombs in the end, I'm not all that concerned.

You see, I have a very short attention span. Any project that I work on for over a month, I'm usually tired of by the end. I constantly have new ideas that I want to work on that – while at the beginning I might have been emotionally attached to – by the end it's ready to be archived in the file cabinets of my mind.

Your dad sounds like a fascinating person, both in terms of his interests and life experiences. How did he or anyone in your family or even your own life experiences influence your interest in design?
My parents actually tried to dissuade me from design. That wasn’t too surprising really, because as an artist, my father's cash flow was never constant, and there were years I remember where we on the edge of losing the roof above our heads. My parents wanted me to do something more practical, like become an engineer at a big aeronautical firm.

However, I threw caution to the wind after graduating and haven't looked back or complained since. My parents, though, are still waiting for me to get my head screwed on right and get a real job.

So what influenced me? I can't say really. There was a really cool bow and arrow my dad built me when I was about 4 years old using tree branches and string. I couldn't stop making variations after that.

Your interests include, and I quote, "break dancing, acrobatics, bread and pie baking, piano, entrepreneurship, travel, free parties, (and) knitting." Well, all I can say is: the floor is yours; I'm dying to hear how you can combine all these together. (I'm guessing it has something to do with your time in NYC... or perhaps a really bizarre self-help group...)
I don't combine these hobbies all at the same time of course. That would be quite impressive!

I used to dance and do acrobatics more frequently when I was younger. Nowadays, the joints just don't work as well anymore. But for sure, whenever I have free time, which is more often than not, I do enjoy learning new skills. It just so happens that those skills are sometimes not related.

One interesting aspect about you as a "designer" is that you're listed on a number of patents for again aesthetically pleasing objects but yet very functional ones as well. How does your design process differ when you're working on, for example, an
oil filter or even a fire extinguisher or an “(mumble mumble)“ simulator vs. say, your "speak-er" design?
The process is very different. For the work showcased in the professional section, I was strictly on the engineering side of things, so all the product styling was done by an industrial designer.

My styling skills are sub par, I'm afraid to admit. So when I do design objects like the speaker or
bento triangle, I try to go with the simplest form possible that compliments the functionality. For me, functionality always comes first.

Your "speak-er" design seems to have brought you lots of recognition (case in point, I've found dozens of hits about same in at least Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Russian [I think], French, etc.). What does it mean for a "young" designer when a product manages to generate so much "talk" on the e-waves?
It certainly was exciting at first and admittedly, it feels good to be recognized. But there is a negative side to it and that is the self-imposed pressure you feel to constantly produce “good” work.

And then self-doubt also creeps in and you end up with a so-called vicious cycle. That's at the beginning though. I've found that the publicity dies down just as fast as it begins. In which case, pretty soon, you're back to square one.

Has the "speak-er" been your big break-through so far? If not, which project do you think has had the biggest impact on your career so far? I also notice, for example, that the "
easy PB&J jar" is cross-referenced a number of times (mostly it seems by folks who've recently had the misfortune, I mean, amazing good fortune of living with a pregnant woman and her unique midnight cravings...).
I wouldn't say the “speak-er” was a break-through at least in terms of money. In terms of exposure, it’s certainly been one of the biggest.

I think in fact that the double lidded jar got far more publicity because it wasn't strictly relegated to the design world. And although the site may get a lot of hits, no one has come banging on my door asking for autographs or licensing deals. I'm still twiddling my thumbs waiting for that to happen!

You also describe having worked for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as other museums (the Whitney, MoMA, New Museum, Guggenheim, etc.). What's it like working with a "design" or "art" museum on a project (vs. say, working with clients or on your own)?
I seem to have pulled the wool over your eyes. Actually, I haven't been commissioned by any museum to design anything. The
MET tee-shirts were simply a sly idea that I came up with on how to get into the museum for free.

This came about as I noticed that a lot of museums gave you something to place on your body as a proof of purchase. So I thought why not make that proof of purchase inherent to the clothing. I did pitch the idea to the museum, and it was met with enthusiasm. No deals have been inked though.

In terms of your "career" so far, can you describe how your design process has evolved over time?
After graduating, I was willing to work on all sorts of projects. Since then, I've definitely developed my own "discerning" tastes. Now, I'm willing to turn down projects that don't jive with my tastes (actually, it's the same if I REALLY need the money). And I think my tastes will continue to run along the track of simplicity and fun.

First of all, I don't foresee myself becoming any less lazy (hence the simplicity). And second, this world is already full of too much seriousness. I want fun!

Looking ahead for the next years, do you see any particular design trends in your field(s)?
There's definitely the green trend. Everyone is trying to tout the environmentally friendliness of their products – whether it’s really true or not.

Otherwise, I see product design diversifying in the coming future as more and more people are exposed to the field.

How about trends for design in general?
I think there's a lot of discontent among the younger designers with having to work for older, more conservative, designers. Most of the great work I see comes from kids fresh out of school. I think there's going to be a lot of more “artsy” design coming from these kids no matter what their field of study was.

How do you see your own business or interests evolving?
The older I get, the more I can't keep pace with the younger generations . . . kind of like break-dancing – I used to be fearless and would bust out the wildest moves. Now, I'm a bit more tame and only do the tricks that have the lowest chance of injury.

As I said before, I'll probably move into food – I think that's a subject where being older is better.

What's up next for you and your design work?
Be on the lookout for my “
anti-theft lunch bags(ZN update: these are out now and just too funny, as you can see below!!), “The Walls Notebook” (you can take a sneak peek at, but I really shouldn't be divulging this quite yet as it's slated for an April 2009 release and the publishers want a big push right before), and the aforementioned Mom's Kitchen, Nussgarten, and Bread Machine Shoppe.

And my very final question: who is this adorable person in the photo (not the one with the hooded sweater, the one in pink with the gorgeous little smile?). I have a 4+ year old daughter at home that once she see's this on the printer, she'll have to know... That "hood"-lum is my younger brother and she is his daughter. I am her biggest fan. (ZN: This photo is featured in SF’s “Instant Photo Frame” section, check it out!)


Following graduation, Sherwood Forlee went to work as a product design engineer. After cutting his teeth at a few firms, Sherwood decided to see more of the world and set out on adventures that would lead him to such exotic locations as:

  • Tokyo (where he was accosted by the yakuza for trying to sell homemade T-shirts on their territory),
  • the Azores (where inclement weather stranded him for a few days without food in the wild),
  • Zurich, Switzerland (where he was forced to climb a perilous mountain with two massive rental bikes atop his shoulders... no further explanation given),
  • Munich as mentioned (where the beer was indeed delicious and quite plentiful),
  • and many other places.
Among the diverse group of his past clients and the brands he has done work for or with includes Home Depot, Johnson & Johnson, Pepsi, Unilever, Castrol, Playtex, Revlon and more. Among his skills are listed "useful" bits like 3-D modeling, Industrial Design, tools such as Photoshop, Illustrator , Indesign, Minesweeper, and FreeCell. Oh, and we had to ask if the latter two involved he or his family’s past experiences in strife-filled areas ... but he confirms that these are in fact games where he usually likes to get in a game or two everyday because these, quote, “help ease me back into work after a nice lunch.”

Today, Sherwood enjoys a more peaceful life in New York City working once again as a product designer, even though some would argue that he faces just as much dangerous wildlife in his current location as ever before.

All pictures and images full copyright of Sherwood Forlee, used by special licensed permission.