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Industrial Facility: The Impact of Design on Individuals and Society

London-based design studio Industrial Facility was formed in 2002 by architect Kim Colin and industrial designer Sam Hecht. Kim and Sam entered their partnership after successful careers working in both small firms and large corporations. They envisioned Industrial Facility to remain a small studio, one that forms relationships with clients that have a deep knowledge of their industries and customers, but, just as important, clients willing to take risks to be true to the character of design and vision of the designer.

The Tumbler luminaire is a winner of a 2020 Red Dot Award for Urban Design.

“Our process is to understand what’s right for the time we’re living in, for the people using and living with the things we design, and that have the right commercial success," says Hecht. "We want products to stick around for a long time, so we must challenge the client and produce fundamental innovations that are relevant for society. We work with clients that are prepared to innovate in an authentic manner and prepared to go on a journey with us that involves lots of conversation and thought; we take a careful approach and work hard to make things that are progressive.”

Industrial Facility partnered with Santa & Cole Urbidermis to design Slope and Tumbler lights, which Landscape Forms introduced to the North American market in 2019. Tumbler received a 2020 Red Dot Award for Urban Design.

In excerpts from its monograph Industrial Facility and from a 2019 interview with Landscape Forms, Sam Hecht shares Industrial Facility’s thoughts on design and the studio’s design process.

The Origins and Working Methods of Industrial Facility

I am going to describe our studio in London and the mishmash of different ideas that we follow. We have no real set pattern or process; no methodology as such. The majority of the work that we do is generated from conversations within the studio, between us, and with the many factories that we work with, our clients and their customers. Nevertheless, there are strands to how we think. All of these strands converge in an effort to make design a provider of enjoyment, pleasure and relevant things, so that we’re happy for manufactured goods to stick around and not simply be destroyed out of frustration or thrown away after a short period.

The Importance of Context — More than Just Product

Design should be invisible−it should not get in the way of its use, but rather, it should make sure that it is pleasurable in use, from the placement in a room to its relationship to what surrounds it.

When we work with a company and we’re developing a design, we rarely think about the product directly. We’re thinking about what’s around it. In other words, we go much further than the brief, regardless of whether the client is interested in us doing that or not, because that is what will give the project its grounding, its purpose.

The vision for Industrial Facility was to remain a small studio, one that forms relationships with clients that have a deep knowledge of their industries and customers, but just as important, clients willing to take risks to be true to the character of design and vision of the designer.

When Industrial Facility was designing Tumbler and Slope lights in partnership with Santa & Cole Urbidermis, Hecht and Colin’s looked to the character of the lights in a broader context. Sam explains: “If we designed Tumbler or Slope purely for the human individual, then you often start to make a character flaw that is particular to taste and trend. Instead, our process is saying that the world can be a lot flatter than that. The city, the trees and the forests, buildings, cars, streets, towns, as well as the people are all on the same level. Everything is of the same importance. We look at it in a pluralistic way. Designing in this way lets us consider the texture of the pavement, the buildings, the people walking, all equally important elements that together form the city.”

Simple Hides Little

Design shouldn’t be viewed as temporary. We should all have a feeling of angst if an object breaks or if a part wears out, and doggedly try to save it.

I would be the first to admit that we do like simple things. The reality of this trajectory is that you can’t hide behind simplicity, as all is laid out before you. You are forced to find the essence of the object or the project, and it has to live by itself through its simplicity. Without this essence, it will not survive for long. Often, we are faced by products in the world that are confusing, complicated, and have features that we don’t need; that get in the way of this essence.

The Slope luminaire’s silhouette subtly angles nine degrees, echoing and blending into the topography of the urban landscape.

The route to simplicity is often chaotic, spiraling, and rebounding on itself. Simplicity is not a trend or style; it cannot be applied but only worked towards. It is an arduous and time-consuming process, in which things are made easier and more enjoyable to use. The investment of resources and the care necessary to achieve simplicity are so great that few products reach this standard.

“Even though Slope and Tumbler lamps look simple and refined, they took a lot of work, thought, and investment; it was a considerable project. Everything is done carefully and with constant design guardianship.”

Design is Much More than Product

There is another type of sustainability (that we think is underrated), and this lies instead in ensuring that products have qualities of longevity and endurance that justify their manufacture and distribution. We know that with the right balance of quality and a character that we enjoy, we are happy for products to stick around for longer, when given the chance. In the end, this is a far greener and more efficient form of sustainability because, chances are, if we do grow tired of the thing, there is a strong likelihood that someone else might appreciate it or find it useful after us. What is the point of designing for sustainability if the thing has no enduring quality, compared to designing something that’s not necessarily designed with the sustainability moniker, which will stick around for much longer?

Part of the responsibility of a company is to act as a proponent of the idea that good things should last a long time. There should be a heritage of investing in design; demanding a quality of idea that is beyond material, so that the things that are produced have longevity beyond fashion, in order to keep them in circulation.

Tumbler is refined, with thoughtful details such as hidden connection points that speak to Sam Hecht and Kim Colin's of design sensibilities.

“For the Tumbler and Slope lighting lines, this idea of longevity is crucial, not only in the choice of materials and LED technology being used, but also in the design context of the garden, the car park, the campus, and all of the environments in which they will be found. Thinking about all of these things−and not just the lamps themselves−allows for a greater harmony that avoids them appearing dated.”


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