Interview: Patrick Jouin

French designer Patrick Jouin has a creative approach strongly based in the intelligent and innovative use of technologies; we contacted him with our questions and he was happy to answer.
Patrick Jouin

How's your creative process?

I have so many ideas in my mind all the time - it's just a matter of finding the right answer to the project at hand. For me, the process of design is constantly happening - all the time, no matter what I'm doing - there is no clear beginning or end, I am always coming up with new ideas for new projects and each project gives way to other ideas. That has been my process for the past ten years. 
For example, I have a new couch that is coming out now with the American furniture group Bernhardt. It's a couch called ITEM which is a modular couch that can be arranged in a big variety of ways - to fit people's different desires. I first worked on breaking down a couch into different elements while I was working on a private residence in Kuala Lumpur. The idea of working with three or four or five different elements that can combine in different ways, it's something I've been thinking about for the past couple of years, but I didn't fully develop it or realize it until I met with Bernhardt.

What's the best tool you use?

For me, the fastest way to get an idea down is paper and pencil. I always carry with me my sketchbook! But it's equally important to know the latest technical possibilities and to always be up to date in technology to further develop the initial idea - to see the new possibilities for creating objects, for prototypes, for new materials...
  Patrick Jouin

Could you do what you do without a computer?

I could always do the drawing and drafting stage, the concept, but to some extent, computers and technology are not just important to developing the work we do to the point of production, but also in terms of the projects we choose to work on, what and how we can produce them.
Sometimes we work with technology to achieve a certain effect in a design - for example gas-injected polycarbonate chairs for Kartell or the stereolithography process for the Solid Collection. But we also work with scientists and the latest technology in a given field to create an object that brings a new utility to the work done in laboratories, for example a light and sound sensitive alarm clock with Zyken - for which we prepared 2 years of research with a sleep-specialist physician. We're working on cardiac capturers for video game creators, a new musical instrument based on the latest sound technologies - the possibilities in investing in technology are limitless and exhilarating for a designer!
  Patrick Jouin
  Patrick Jouin
  Patrick Jouin

Which is the hardest part in the process of creating a new object?

The hardest part of the process is when a project doesn't come together. When we try to create something beautiful and for some reason it fails - whether we end up disappointed with the direction of a project after initial discussions, or disillusioned by the realization of a project, there is nothing worse than envisioning and trying to create a magnificent project, and not succeeding in seeing it through.

and the most fun?

The most fun is just taking part in the daily life of my agence - the quotidian exchange of ideas, discussions of materials, drawing together, interacting with the other designers and architects in my team. Day after day, there is just nothing better than this.
Patrick Jouin

What does it take to "convince" a company to produce your projects?

We have a number of companies that we have worked with for a long time, so sometimes we will propose a project to them, a few different things we've designed and we'll let them choose which ones they would like to produce, and sometimes they commission us to produce something. It very much depends.

The most important skills a designer should have?

To be creative within constraints - constraints of the market, of the materials, of the location, of the client...

Who gave you the best lessons?

My team and my clients.

Patrick Jouin

How much does your own personality reflect in your projects?

Our projects respond to both the space and the client's conditions simultaneously - as they coexist. We have ideas, of course, for spaces and objects that we are not commissioned to work - spaces in other cities that we see in our life, spaces in our own cities that we pass by every day, objects that we use everyday that we would like to improve, objects that we think should exist, but generally, when we're brought onto a project by a client, it comes immediately with a specific criteria. Our job is to make that a reality within the specific constraints of the space, area, atmosphere, etc., bringing our aesthetic and our creativity, but in general the project is not just about us, so we seek a balance in this.

If you were not a designer, what would you be?

An acrobat.

Best thing you have done so far:

Had the Centre Pompidou and MOMA buy my Solid collection.
  Patrick Jouin

What's next?

A cultural center in Shanghai, a set of silverware for Puiforcat, an exhibition at the Pompidou Center and a catalogue to go with it, a restaurant in Strasbourg... we're keeping busy!

October 2009

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