Who is he? Hong Kong-raised Eric Chan founded ECCO Design (www.eccoid.com) in New York 10 years ago. His has become a leading voice in brand identity and development - the studio has designed products for Virgin Atlantic, LG and Lenovo, among others - and he has been called one of the 10 most influential designers in the United States by Contract magazine.
What's his story? After studying industrial design at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Chan attended Cranbrook Academy of Arts, in Michigan. Often described as the cradle of American modernism, Cranbrook taught Chan to experience design on a different level. 'At first I thought I was in the wrong place, there was no teaching,' he says. 'They wanted more soul searching. They give you projects and you do research, and you do lots of daydreaming and questioning and working with other departments like art and sculpture. Design in Hong Kong is learned more as a commercial skill.'
What informs his work? For four years, Chan worked for the man who first took the idea of ergonomics from military equipment to everyday consumer goods, at Henry Dreyfuss Associates. There, he learned the emotional value of form and comfort. At ECCO this helped him create a sexy, sculptural-looking office desk called the Personal Pond for designers at Japanese carmaker Toyota, as a form of muse for the design process for Lexus cars. 'We wanted it to be a unique luxury experience from Asia, with a soft human element in the feel of the design,' he says.
What else has he done? The studio recently designed an executive chair, the Foray (above right), for American office-furniture firm Herman Miller. But the company doesn't always go for glamour. 'Washing machines in the US used to be noisy and hidden in dark basements,' says Chan, who worked on LG's Tromm washing machine. 'But we found that now they are quieter people are happier to bring them upstairs. So we designed something that better matches their home furnishings.'
After conducting research into what it is that people want from their washing machines, ECCO discovered most were more concerned about the smell of their clothes than about stains, which inspired it to create a waterless steam-wash cycle.