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Form follows function

Ray Carter tells us about his inspiration, the human-centred design and the process of creating new products.

What are the most important features of office furniture for you?
Visual and actual comfort, in that order. The design should look inviting, not intimidating, and the seat must give adequate, correct support while working. Simplicity of operation is important.

What is the most inspirational, interesting trend in the office design right now?
Trends are very weak these days. People are looking for something new – either a movement, a mechanism or a style with the “WOW” effect. In styling, retro seems to be IN. I think we will observe many more open spaces with emphasis on comfort. Colours, lighting and interaction among people will be important. Emphasis will be put on more efficient use of personal devices along with a company’s equipment as well.

Every designer has their own style. What is your signature, something that can be found in each of your projects? Or maybe your every project is completely unique? 
Obviously, each project has a separate set of rules given by the customer and driven by the market desires. Starting with these two forces, I like to have the product explain what it does or how it works in its detailing and form. I don’t like over decorating. You might say the old rule of “form follows function” is still important in my eyes.

What is your inspiration? 
I would say the main inspiration I have is nature. But when I say ‘nature’ I mean the way things grow, evolve, and are constructed gives us a familiarity of details. A slight element we have seen before makes the design more acceptable. Injecting this into the new design with its new solutions gives me the desirable solution, not just a meaningless form or shape from the computer.

When you are asked to create furniture with specific features or functions, what do you start with? Is it spontaneous or do you have a plan? 
I usually start with the desired function of the product, rarely a complete plan at first. The design evolves through sketches, models, meetings, etc. It’s important to keep the client involved.

Which stage of creating a new product is the most difficult? 
Difficulty differs with each product. Sometimes it’s the initial concept or vision. Sometimes it’s convincing the client. Sometimes it’s reaching the price goal or all three. But if you work together, it makes the process much easier.

You have designed a new chair called Panthera for Nowy Styl Group. What are the unique features of this product? What was your inspiration? 
In the case of the Panthera chair, the client was instrumental in guiding me in the direction they were happy with. I showed various solutions based on their initial briefing and they chose the solution that evolved into what we see today. The unique shape of the backrest led to the neck support which I feel is a unique feature of the styling. It seems to add a very strong ‘eye catcher’ element.


Ray Carter

Having more than 30 years of experience in industrial, consumer and automotive design, Carter is a guarantee of high quality and measurable results for his long-standing clients, such as BMW, Nokia, Siemens and Compaq. In 1973, together with his friend and well-known designer Charles Pelly, Carter opened Designworks USA which has become one of the world’s best known design studios in the field of office and transport design. He is currently running his own design consulting office.

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