Moleskine Detour: Q&A with Scott Henderson
To take you even deeper into the creative process, Dwell has partnered with Moleskine on a weekly series featuring interviews with some of today’s most exciting designers from around the world that contributed to The Detour Book, including Rodrigo Almeida (Brazil) and Ginette Caron (Italy). The series continues today with American designer Scott Henderson of New York based design studio Scott Henderson Inc. and Principal and Co-Founder of MINT.
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When did you first discover Moleskine, and why is it special to you (if it is)?
I got my first Moleskine notebook when I got my first job out of design school. I would keep it handy and take visual notes (sketches) in it as I walked around NYC. I think the mind is like a computer hard-drive—the more experience you have the more images you store up there. Eventually, you find you are increasingly are at the right place at the right time to reference those stored images in the form of a clever design idea. An "a-ha" moment. When I was first starting out, there was lots of room on my ‘hard drive’, and my Moleskine helped me log in those ideas and images.
How do you use your Moleskine?
Nowadays, I still use them, but more when I travel, or go on vacation and I want to bring something along to make sketches in. When I am in my day-to-day life working away as a designer, I just sketch on copy paper because there’s usually a big desk to do that on.
Tell us about your experience participating in the Detour book and the tour.
When I was asked to contribute to Detour, I thought about pulling out one of my old Moleskines that was already actually sketched in, but my sketches are all messy and hard to read, so I started thinking about an approach that was more in line with how I design things. I am always attempting to imbed one big idea into the solution—not five small ones—One Big One—makes the solution memorable. I thought to myself, I am a three-dimensional product designer, and most of my output is 3D, so although Moleskine notebooks help by providing a nice, stylish place for notes and sketches to go, I decided to make a 3D object out of the notebook itself. I hand cut each page into 20 or 30 strips without separating them from the binding, and with a sharp scissor—curled each and every strip individually, like you would to holiday ribbon on a Christmas present. And it only took 6 hours! Then, since one of the iconic features of a Moleskine notebook is the integrated brown fabric bookmark, I pulled that up through the center of this new sea of curled paper, and just left it there looped in the middle of everything. Contrast.
Do you prefer pen and paper or smartphone/tablet/tech?
Copy paper and a black Bic Crystal pen. I sketch so I can think though something myself—they are like working thoughts, not presentation material. Once I have an ‘inkling’ of an idea, I jump right into a 3D modeler with it. If I am designing a 3D object, I think it’s best to do it in 3D. Once an idea is there, not matter how rough a sketch is, you and everyone else knows it’s going to work if the idea is good. My rough sketches can get me to that point—where I know the scribble is going to be great.
Who or what inspires you?
I am driven by the challenge of putting a fresh spin on otherwise invisible stuff. When people see the otherwise invisible object and freak out about it—a tub toy, blender, soap pumper—it’s great. If something has been around forever, and a century later you can come along and re-do it to the point where everyone is wondering why the idea that got imbedded in there was never thought of before, they almost react as if they are seeing a good magic trick. It’s awesome. That’s why I do it.
What's the coolest new design product you love?
I just road-tripped down the east coast to Florida for spring break and I saw the Dyson hand dryers in all the rest stops going all the way down there. They dry both sides of your hands at once. I am not sure I like this better than being able to move my hands around under the air as I chose, but I liked that they were in every rest stop—and trust me, we hit a lot of them.
What are 5 things you cannot live without?
Food, clothing, water, shelter, and my bike. I ride to work—always on it.
If you could design in any other discipline, what would it be and why (i.e. if you are a painter, would you want to be a photographer)?
I have been designing large concept yachts. I think it’s about the oceans- why I am being subconsciously pulled in that direction. Everything I usually design is about improving life’s experiences ON LAND. But, most of the earth is water. I also think that a yacht is one of those things in our world that everyone reacts to in a positive way—who wouldn’t want a yacht?
What design has moved you the most?
Probably the Boeing 747 in terms of miles. I fly around a lot. I have actually worked on some aircraft projects which underscores how specialized and niche industrial design must be, if a designer’s portfolio stretches from low tech household dust pans to Jets and helicopters. Hard to put a finger on one particular "moving" design in the sense that you mean though. So much of design is benchmarked by cool furniture and things for the home- hence the big annual design events center around furniture fairs like Milan, because everyone wants to be inspired by happy relaxation time products. It’s hard to say that the Eames plywood chairs are the most moving designs ever created, or the Porche 911, or those awesome Serge Mouille Floor Lamps- because there’s so many examples of innovation in really diverse categories that improve life for people.
Tell us about your latest/current project.
I am always working on lots of things at once. Right now: A line of kitchen electrics (blenders and so on), a wrist worn device that tells you about all of your bio-stats so you can track your general wellness, a kids’ tub thermometer that tells Mom how hot the water is (whale shaped, so I named it Therm-Whale), a whole bunch of other kid-products, a series of air purifiers, a range of cookware, some tools for cleaning electronic gadgets, a pepper mill, and some huge yachts that are over 70 meters—almost football field sized. Love it.