Notes From a Talk by Industrial Designer Sam Hecht

British industrial designer Sam Hecht co-founded London-based design firm Industrial Facility in 2002 with Kim Colin. The studio has clients such as Braun, Muji, Whirlpool and Lacie, among others. Hecht recently visited San Francisco and spoke about his career and design process at an event organized by the furniture purveyors at Arkitektura. There were some good nuggets in his talk that are worth sharing. Here are some of the salient bits:

  • Architects are comfortable talking about concepts, whereas designers have to wait for things to be finished. And the product is the thing you can really talk about.
  • Many people are focused on consumers’ shopping habits and don’t worry about their experience with the product after they buy it. Hecht is interested in what happens after the shipment, though.
  • Most industrial design is thought about in isolation, as if nothing else exists.
  • Most companies don’t realize that people read words and sentences, not letters. So most companies think they are designing letters.
  • Marketing people think about consumption differently from engineers or designers. Marketing people want more features (so that they can talk about and sell them), while designers focus on design, aesthetics and usability. Engineers think about tolerance and other physical aspects.


  • Design can have the lightest of touches.
  • Design is not about slaving over a sculpture; it is how you articulate a thought.
  • So much of design is consumed as images. People now consume all design at an image level. It is about being pretty. Many don’t realize that industrial design is not about learning through images.
  • Hecht believes in the haptic experience: How you feel and use a product is important. Most people think that since a machine is more expensive than a person, a chair made by a robot is better. That isn’t the case. Good design is about providing a sense of functionality, and that also comes from what feels and seems familiar.
  • Design as a provocateur is important in Italy. When the company doesn’t have a problem, it asks the designer to be a provocateur.
  • The stuff on lower shelves is often overlooked, and only the things at eye level get attention.

Additional reading: Arkitektura Assembly Interview with Sam Hecht (podcast + notes)