by Zohra KhanSep 17, 2021
“Dyslexia very much prevented me from becoming an academic. Every day in class I was left in my own imagination. I didn’t really absorb any information from mathematics, English, geography, history… I made my own universe and kind of built my own way.”
- Michael Young
A chaos on wheels. A restless optimist who is allergic to AutoCAD. A monk who lives his life between Heavy Metal and absolute serenity: these are some of the many ways one could describe British industrial designer, Michael Young.
In this episode of UNSCRIPTED – a STIR-original series of video conversations documenting stories that are not scripted yet – Young (b.1966) gives a peek into his life and opens up about things that people rarely know about.
From his skinny and purple hair days in Sunderland (an old British shipbuilding town where he grew up and found himself the odd one out), his tryst with dyslexia that provided him an escape and education in music, to carefree student days in London where he splurged on beer and lobsters and dozed off intoxicated in a friend’s cowshed...Young recounts a whirlwind of memorable encounters and unusual experiences as he speaks with STIR from his little studio in Hong Kong’s Sheung Wan region, where he has been stuck since December 2019.
I am not an artist really. I am too commercially minded for that. – Michael Young
Director of his eponymous studio, Young is regarded as one of the UK’s most influential contemporary designers working in the areas of product, furniture, and industrial design. Upon establishing his studio in 1994, he was already being referred to as ‘a sophisticated minimalist’ who rose above an industry that favoured elaborate aesthetics at the time in London. Young’s pared-down approach channelled poetry in everyday objects such as headphones, watches, glassware, chairs, and lighting, while his adeptness to hands-on processes transcended design into what he calls ‘industrial art’. One of his early works in woven steel was quickly acquired by Centre Pompidou and the Louvre Museum and his “Mid 90’s Modern” furniture collection from 1995 was bought by the Design Museum London and Die Neue Sammlung in Germany.
While recounting what galvanised his love for objects and an ethic that he’s been following to formalise ideas, Young says, “When they invented AutoCAD, which was a very early 2D program when I was in the Kingston University, London, I made a decision that there’s no way that I am going to focus on that kind of thing. I said to myself: ‘I am going to learn how to weld, how to make things and that’s how I will learn about shape and process rather than through using a computer’. I guess, I rely on people who use a computer to do things”.
He continues, “I still draw like a child and in my head, everything makes 100 per cent sense, and those drawings look quite naïve, but they generally turn into something that has a very technical background”.
Through the 19-minute conversation, recollecting curious anecdotes, Young also shares the story of a memorable project from Taiwan when a bicycle company commissioned him to design a chair, and he also puts forward a special message for his mentors Tom Dixon and Yoichi Nakamuta (Founder, E&Y).
Beyond his practice, we also get a peek into Young’s little world which he shares with his three beautiful kids and partner Alice and discover how he finds meaning in everyday life.
All this and much more: tap on the cover video to watch the complete conversation.
Curated by Pramiti Madhavji (Consultant, Content Adviser, STIR), UNSCRIPTED is a STIR-original series of quick-witted video interviews with leading design professionals who give a peek into their undiscovered lives. A melting pot of quests, revelations and quirks, the series releases a new episode every Sunday as designers reveal unheard and unknown nuggets from their lives, in response to 30 questions.
All photographs © Michael Young. Images may not be downloaded, copied, reproduced, or used in part or whole without obtaining permission. The photographs in this video are not licensed for personal, commercial, or public use, or use in the public domain in any form.