Design file: Michael Young
Seven years ago, industrial designer Michael Young moved his practice from his homeland, in Britain, to Hong Kong to be closer to his mainland manufacturing facilities. A recent collaboration with Hong Kong-based manufacturer EOQ has seen him design chairs, lights and tables that pay homage to the world’s great industrialists.
How did the EOQ collaboration come about? “It started after a talk at Hong Kong’s Business of Design Week [in 2009]. A guy from a factory came up to me and said, ‘We’re looking for something to do and we like what you do.’ Honestly, I don’t really look for work. I probably scare clients most of the time, so we work with people who seek us out. It takes a certain mentality.”
What is the essence of EOQ? “Our partner is a big industrialist in China that manufactures computers, telephones and fridges. The product we launched recently is called the Bramah lamp, an extruded [aluminium] light, and [business is] just starting to go crazy now. There’s a lot of interest.”
Wasn’t Joseph Bramah the guy who invented the extrusion process, when a material is pushed through a die, or mould, to create a specific shape? “Yes, exactly. The Latin term deus ex machina, ‘God from the machine’, is the name of our show in Milan. What we are doing is praising all these industrialists who never get mentioned. All of the pieces in our collection are named after people responsible for these industrial processes. The furniture industry is not very rock ‘n’ roll so it’s nice to idolise the people who invented metal plating or anodising.”
What is involved in manufacturing the Chair 4A? “The chair involves quite a few processes in one piece of metal. It’s an extrusion, and then it’s sort of folded and curved. You normally find that sort of thing in the bike industry.
Why are you using so much Apple-style brushed aluminium? “When we started the [Chair 4A], one of the factories lost a contract with Apple, so we had a great facility with a lot of aluminium. Now we’re moving towards materials like cork and leather. I’m trying to stop working in synthetic materials. We’re using cork for desks and seats, not in a major way yet – we’re just testing the market now.”
You’ve also just launched the Airbag for Zixag. What is that? “We developed this bag three years ago, when there was no one in China manufacturing products that blended hard and soft materials. There wasn’t a factory you could go to that had the technology to bring these two surfaces together. It has the soft front side for your clothes and the hard rear side for protection.
It’s a weird product right now but it’ll be copied quickly. I factor it into the cost of doing business. I’ve had so many patents violated.”