by Zohra KhanSep 17, 2021
"I think, in a way, writing is similar to designing. You start with nothing. You have to fill the blank page with the right ideas, the right emotions, and the right intent.”
- Yves Béhar
A passion for reading science fiction and writing short stories engrossed Yves Béhar (b.1967) when he was a kid. A strange student as he describes himself, Behar's grades would always perplex his teachers in school: “I would get a 10 in writing, and a four in grammar and spelling, which seems like the same thing, but it probably isn’t." As someone who pursued design only after finding it an equally exhilarating counterpart to writing, the 43-year-old Swiss industrial designer shares interesting nuggets from his life on UNSCRIPTED.
Born in Lausanne, Switzerland, to a German translator mother (Christine Béhar) and a Turkish stamp collector father (Henry Béhar), it was at the age of 15 when Yves Béhar first experimented with the art of ‘making’ (which he believes is also a form of thinking). “My parents,” he says, “had gotten me a work bench where I would saw, glue, and clamp things together. I also built a contraption to windsurf on the frozen lakes in Switzerland.” Called out as ‘the one with imagination’ in school, he agrees to having cultivated it above all else, "through not only what he wrote and read but also by creating new things on his own.”
A radical thinker and a sustainability advocate, tech products and services by the Swiss designer exemplify the transformative power of technology in delivering better experiences. Béhar was the design leader who developed product identities for brands such as Apple and Hewlett-Packard at the Silicon Valley offices of Frog Design and Lunar Design, before he established design and innovation firm fuseproject in 1999. Bringing together disciplines of strategy, brand design, product design, visual design, experience design, environment and retail design, some of fuseproject’s clients include Herman Miller, PUMA, Jawbone, Kodak, General Electric, Swarovski, Samsung, Jimmyjane, and Prada.
Béhar introduced the first wireless speaker to the market (Jambox, 2010), designed a series of low-cost, low-power laptops for distribution to low-income schoolchildren (OLPC XO Laptop, 2013), presented a stunning timepiece that faded passing hours from the watch’s face (Vue Watch, Issey Miyake, 2010), and redesigned the NYC Condom logo and vending machine in 2008 as part of an initiative to reduce HIV /AIDS and teen pregnancy, among countless other projects in which he channelled technology as “a tool, much like a fabric which one can cut, sew, and make into a lot of things”. As someone who detests the word gadget, for it implies for him something that is a short-term entertainment destined to end up in trash heaps, he likes it when technology works in the background and not demands one’s attention.
Béhar likes to indulge in surfing as a respite from screen time. Expressing his deep connection with water in our 17-minute video conversation, he recalls how experiencing the long-haul greyness of the Swiss winters in his childhood led him to treasure water as “an escape, a moment of zen, and reflection".
Watch the complete episode to listen to one of his extraordinarily scary surfing experiences, his secret tip to good health, and his latest obsession.
All photographs © fuseproject, unless stated otherwise. 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.
Curated by PramitiMadhavji (Consultant, Content Adviser, STIR), UNSCRIPTED is a STIR-original series of quick-witted video interviews with leading design professionals who give us an undiscovered peek into their 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.