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27 November 2023
The English designer explains the reasons and values of his approach to the project
For Benjamin Hubert there is no superfluous project, and the purpose of every new imagined object is to make life better in at least one aspect. The Layer studio, which he founded in 2015, deals with all-round design (not only furniture and interiors but also products, digital, branding) and is made up of a large group of designers united by a pragmatic vision which however does not forget the beauty. Inclusivity and sustainability are among the founding values that Hubert pursues with intellectual and planning honesty.
What is your background and why did you choose this job?
This question takes me back to my school days when I studied design and art as two separate subjects and was interested in a career in both fields. I am by nature a “problem solver” and art has less practical application and although I love both artistic expression and design, in this second field I can rationalize the reasons and functions that lead to creating something new. And it’s very important for me to establish why I create something new, who I’m creating it for, and what kind of problem it will solve. This is what really makes the design great.
Do you miss the artistic side, or do you feel you can apply it to your work?
Everything must look attractive for someone to want to touch it, use it, buy it, talk about it. This “appeal” is profoundly linked to the way an object appears, how its visual expression is perceived by touch. Taking care of these aspects is just like being an artist, but in a more practical way and in a way that appeals to many people – while the artist doesn’t care that much about this aspect. What we try to do, as designers, is create something that is not just an expression of ourselves but of many people.
Your studio deals with design in different fields, what is the common thread between them all?
Our studio can find itself working one day on furniture, the next on transportation, one day on strategy and the next on branding. We don’t have specialists but rather people who are great design minds and who know how to move across different contexts. The sensitivity to create things that make life a little happier, healthier and easier is certainly a common intention for all projects. Things that are simple, tactile, easy to use with a contemporary take on gender, timeless, that will work for years to come and that are sustainable. This is a vision that we can apply to all our projects.
What is your approach to new projects?
My role is that of creative director so the first thing I do is listen to the people who come to us, take notes that I collect in hundreds of notebooks that I keep. I try to understand what the main request is and what our response could be. We use a mix of both analogue and digital design tools, we use digital whiteboards to compare ideas, 3D tools to visualize the feasibility of a solution in the very early stages of the project.
Speaking of furniture design, what are the challenges now?
There are many challenges: in the world of furniture, creating something that is truly sustainable is very difficult, due to production processes, transports, dimensions, materials, durability. Another challenge is to create something that is perceived as necessary, since there is already so much furniture in the world. Costs are another challenge: materials, labor, craftmanship have increasingly higher costs unless you have huge volumes. Let’s think about the big Italian companies in this field: they still have limited production and it is difficult to sell high quality products at affordable prices.
You chose London as your headquarters, what relationship do you have with the city and what do you like about it?
I have lived in London for about 14 years, I was born elsewhere but my working life has mainly taken place here. The advantages of London are diverse: in creativity, in social life, in events, in socialization. There are a lot of stimulations and inspirations, it changes a lot and you have the feeling that there is always something new going on.
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