04th April 2013

We are delighted to have been featured in DesignLine's recent web article, Claudia Simone Hoff defining our designs as "always functional and straightforward, but never cold":

Sebastian Conran has design in the blood. In 1986, the son of Terence Conran set up his own design office in London. The range of his designs ranges from bathtubs and cars to stereos and lights. The products of the British industrial designer are always functional and straightforward, but never cold. In 2009 Conran founded the brand Universal Expert, under which he has so far released 150 products, mainly tableware, kitchen accessories and appliances. We met Sebastian Conran in Chicago and talked with him about his passion for designing, eternal model Dieter Rams and Soft Minimalism .

CS: You have this year at Ambiente in Frankfurt and at the International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago, the first 150 items of your Labels Universal Expert presented. How does that feel?

SC: Well, I'm very excited. Although I have designed many products, this is something else. . I could make the products exactly as I wanted them to be.

CS:After studying in London at the prestigious Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, you have worked in many different areas - from corporate design, development design to to pure product design. Also, you were up to three years head of design in the company of your father, the Conran Design Group. Why you founded your own brand?

SC: It ??started in the seventies when I was studying in London industrial design and engineering. At that time I received my first order: The design of a record cover for the punk band The Clash. That was amusing. In 1986 I set up a private design studio and worked independently for very different companies such as Concorde, Leonardo or McLaren. Until three years ago I was also Head of Design in my father's company, where I worked for eight years. I wanted to make something of my own - no more shops and restaurants.

CS: What is the idea behind Universal Expert?

SC: Designing is my passion. I also like making things. With Universal Expert I tried to design products that are contemporary in design but made ??from traditional materials. I call this concept Soft Twentieth Century Minimalism. These cups, for example, [he grabs a pair of white porcelain cups with rounded handles; see Photo 6 left] are stackable. They may look simple, but they get character through the colored handles. Like the wooden board with the recessed porcelain bowls, into which I can dip bread in olive oil. Porcelain, glass, wood and stainless steel - these are our materials. Sometimes silicone. We try to have the color palette as neutral as possible, so that people can make their own color schemes at home. The food also creates color.

CS: Where do you sell your products?

SC: [laughs] Nowhere so far. Everything is brand new. We had Universal Expert for the European market for the first time at the Ambiente shown in Frankfurt and now at the International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago. So far the feedback has been positive and we are in discussion with various companies. But one thing is clear: Our products will be not to buy from Amazon, because we are a premium brand. The word Universal in Universal Expert name means we all have an universal right to quality products. It must not be fashionable, no catwalk style . We try despite this quality claim to offer products at moderate prices.

CS: Is it not hard, with a new, unknown brand to conquer the market with tableware, kitchen accessories and small appliances?

SC: This market is indeed a very closed one - with many long established manufacturers. We offer a product portfolio where each product is in harmony with each other: tableware, kitchen accessories and small appliances - such as a kettle or a toaster. So far, we have 150 different products on offer, soon to be 300. There's certainly a lot of preliminary work on this concept. It took two and a half years to design and produce the first 150 products. In addition, I did the entire corporate design and the stand [on the International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago was named best stand; Note. D. Red.]. My kettle is very nice. Often kettle are so unsightly. [laughs] Our kettle is simple and works. But one does not need instructions. It is easy to open and the light indicates the water level. There is a lot of considerations and thoughts put into it.

CS: Do you have something like a design philosophy? You have said that you admire Dieter Rams and the Werkbund.

SC: Yes, I like everything that Dieter Rams has made. And also the Werkbund. My motto is: form follows fabrication . You have to understand how something is made. Anyone can design something that is complicated. And anyone can design something that is expensive. I like products with the special English pragmatism, always a little playful. And even though I admire what Dieter Rams and his designs are: I believe that a product must have a human side. Place is an important keyword - especially in the kitchen. Lifestyle magazines suggest that kitchen are large open spaces of at least sixty square meters. The fact is that more and more people live in small apartments in expensive cities. And there space is scarce. Therefore, the products of Universal Expert are versatile and require little space. The issue of sustainability is an important aspect. How long does a product and how long it stays modern? We try to design products that are both elegant and neutral - no plastic stuff in fashion colors. This also means that we think about Dieter Rams and his ten theses on good design. Design for me means creating value. This can be an emotional value or that you get a fair value for your money.

CS: Mr. Conran, thanks for the interview.