January 31 2012
Monday morning we wake up at the surf shack on the coast, looking into a blinding sunrise spilling across the Pacific Ocean. Usually it’s a race to get out of the house, but this morning I am checking on my weekend projects one last time. My neighbour Jim, who lives 40ft across the road, is a woodworker who coincidentally turns 68 today. His shop is made up of a series of outbuildings, and features some of his wood sculptures mixed with 1960s surf posters.
For the past two years I have designed one-off pieces that Jim has built. These personal projects are inspired by the desire to experiment on my own terms, and simple functional needs such as a bunk bed for my son Sky, or a set of stools to sit on around the kitchen island. Usually I stop to see him on Saturdays to check on progress. Sometimes we even pick the wood together, like the 100-year-old planks of redwood from the inside of a large water tank that a neighbour had been storing for years.
I draw an idea on tracing paper with some rough measurements, and we immediately make a rough prototype, modify it and restart a few times, until the shape and function are right. There are no computer drawings, no reviews with clients, no focus-group tests. It simply either works, or doesn’t. It is a refreshing way for me to just pursue ideas until they are right.
This morning I check on the second version of a high stool we have been working on for about nine months. The new idea is simpler and bolder at the same time, a minimal, branch-like geometry made in oak dried for about seven years. These pieces are exclusively built for me, under an imaginary label Y&F (Yves and Friends). They are not intended for a market, or the silly concept of limited editions in design. Actually, they are made for a market of one… the family and I.
We pack the car, load the kids and are on the road at 8.30am. Highway 1 is a glorious coastal drive, one of the most striking roads on this planet, that concludes with crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. I take a call from a British journalist who wants to discuss the design of the new OLPC tablet.
At FuseProject I get through five or six reviews: the final tweaks on a pre-production product, a launch website that needs more work, finalising a logo, strategising the next meetings with a German client, selecting some textiles for a product that is worn, drawing the interface of a virtual product, exploring the LED patterns of a new display. This is how I like to spend my time in the office. Rather than dealing with formal client meetings, I am most happy when my days consist of long stretches of design and brainstorming, hopping from project to project, accelerating solutions with the team.
I then travel a few blocks away to my longest continuous engagement, Jawbone, where I serve as chief creative officer. The weekly executive committee has been a great way for me to keep a perspective on every part of the organisation, and to have a voice on how design affects the direction of the company. I thrive in an environment where we are discussing the future of audio and health technologies that will be implemented two or three generations of products from now. My sketchbook is filled with drawings of this future.
My last activity of the day is a power yoga session, in my favourite studio. It is a music-filled, friendly, overcrowded 90 minutes of pure physical hardship and mental retreat. I decide that it’s time to do this more often again.
As I contemplate the rest of my week – a Wilco concert, dinner with friends and Richard Wright of the modern-design auction house that bears his name, at least two new projects starting, and a big Pacific surf incoming – I think it is time to conclude my diary. And get ready for what’s next.