In Conversation With Kim Colin & Sam Hecht

Design duo Sam Hecht and Kim Colin, the founders behind the London studio, Industrial Facility, are the design consultants to world-leading brands, such as Muji, Issey Miyake, Louis Vuitton, Herman Miller and more. We met with them at the Stockholm Furniture Fair earlier this year, and got a little insight into the process behind their award-winning work. 




Creating a range of products, from chairs and tables to hard drives, tents and toilet brushes, the pair approach design from an anthropological perspective. They still use paper models when prototyping designs in their studio, and are very much concerned with how everyday objects interact with their surrounding environment. 

The duo’s most recent work was designing the Civic Table for office furniture brand, Herman Miller. It was launched at the Stockholm Furniture Fair earlier this year, where the pair was present. We spoke to them after the show where they imparted some of their wisdom on us – wisdom gained across their two-decade strong career.

From left: Kim Colin and Sam Hecht

How did the two of you meet and come to work together? What was it about each other’s work that inspired you? 

Sam: I was born in London and graduated from the Royal College of Art. Kim is a Californian who studied architecture. We met at an exhibition in London and started to discuss a new approach and direction for design to take. And ultimately set up Industrial Facility in 2002  to combine our skills.

Kim: In contrast with industrial design, architecture is comfortable with a lot of responsibility. A building, for example, has a responsibility to its surroundings and those using it. So, we thought it would be interesting to combine the two disciplines in terms of their process.

How would you describe your design style? 

Our designs reflect both a meticulous attention to an object’s details and a thoughtful consideration of its context. We measure the success of our designs not only in sales or notoriety, but also in the contribution to the greater good of the industry (and we hope, the planet).

When working together, how do the two of you approach the design process?

Kim: Each of us is from a different part of the world, and we are constantly collaborating on ideas, methods and opinions. Our work is never created in cultural isolation and therefore, our office behaves like a good, condensed, international neighborhood, which is efficient, energetic and pleasurable!

Sam: When we are working through the design process, it is very much a series of conversations. What comes out of it is a sense of equilibrium, because the process, the result, is essentially holding those two points of view.

Clockwise from top left: Platform by Muuto, Coffeemaker and Circumference watch by Muji, Fronda stool and Radice chair by Matiazzi

Can you tell us a bit about your working relationship with Herman Miller? How did the relationship come about? What do you see as the synergies between your studios’ ethos and the Herman Miller brand?

We started working with Herman Miller in 2006 as advisors. That entailed simply talking about design, and reviewing projects that the company were developing. After three years, we slowly started to apply ourselves to project design, first for the domestic market, and then for the contract market.

The Civic Collection was recently launched at the Stockholm Design Week. Can you tell us a little about the collection, and its relevance today?

Civic is a new table program that addresses some of the important aspects of the modern office – and also the modern home. The office is seeing a rise in the need for greater agility, driving the transformation of workplaces. In addition, businesses are focused on creating an identity particular to their organisation. Civic tables have a base structure that can be reduced or enlarged, allowing for a multitude of different surfaces, materials and shapes to be accommodated, all on glides or castors. The single table structure thus allows for multiple styles and functions, and can be utilised for anything, from a coffee table to a conference meeting room. The Civic Table holds its own identity while also offering congruity.

Above from left: Wireframe sofa, Plex Lounge Seating, and Lino chair from Herman Miller
Above and below: Civic tables from Herman Miller

In your view, how have designers adapted their processes when it comes to office spaces, in light of the changing habits of working professionals?

I wouldn’t say that our process has changed, but simply that the modern office is continually redefining itself. It always has, but now it is becoming exponential. In other words, the changes are happening faster. Probably the biggest change to come is 5G. You may ask why this would have an effect on interiors and furniture. Imagine a laptop wirelessly connecting to the cloud, that requires a fraction of the processing power. It means it will last 8hrs without a charge. So, a full day of work will be possible from anywhere, literally, as even power will no longer be required.

If you could design anything without constraints, what would it be?

For us, we are driven by our constraints, and we actually enjoy them. Even artists, we believe, will invent their own constraints.

What is the best advice you have ever received? And alternatively, what would be the most valuable advice you would give aspiring designers? 

Stay curious.

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