These days, mobility is key and when we met the Lugano-based technology company Punkt. at the Salone in Milan during Design Week. We loved their idea of having three different design academies solve the task of transportation. Surprisingly, they all came up with the same vehicle, a bike. We also selected for our desk our favorite gadgets that make a working life so much easier.
IRMA: What is the key role of industrial design in our technological driven society?
MARCIA CAINES: Design is critical to finding solutions to problems. The products we consume and use need to focus on improving our quality of life, so how those objects look and feel, the needs they fulfill, and the space they occupy in our lives all need to be factored in and contextualized through design.
IRMA: The Punkt. Urban Mobility project was asking 3 design academies to come up with a new mobility concept. What is the project all about? What will the future be like if it comes to getting to work or around?
MARCIA CAINES: What the students show so beautifully in the PUMP project is how context is so intrinsic to design. They all designed an e bike which seems to be the modern way of transportation. Each bike is city-specific. Lausanne is hilly and distances are short, so the students envisaged a design that responds to those needs. In the Netherlands where it’s flat and everybody rides a bike whatever the weather, the students understood that electrically assisting peddling could be very useful to transport the extra weight of another person. In London the RCA students saw a gap in the growing co-working spaces as an additional service that could improve a business model, their removable docking system responds to the problems they face with theft and safety.
It’s inspiring to see how industrial design students put people’s needs at the center of their designs as opposed to tech-heavy options. This is an exciting vision of the future.
IRMA: What will happen to the winning concept? Will Punkt. be involved in the realization of the winning design?
MARCIA CAINES: Our product portfolio has been on tech for the home or personal devices, so it is quite a significant leap into mobility and the journey will be long. We are a tech firm that aims to improve the quality of life and with over half of the world’s population living in urban areas, it seems like a very obvious direction to work towards in terms of design and technology. However, for now we hope to make the prototypes travel in exhibitions to show the inspiring work of the students. We have been invited to a 6-month bicycle exhibition at the Cube Design Museum in Holland which starts in July 2017. The realization of a winning design is still a long way off, but we will be busy exploring the urban mobility space in the meantime.
IRMA: You selected The RCA, London, the ECAL, Lausanne and the Design Academy Eindhoven to take part in this competition. Why did you select them and how did the academies select the teams?
MARCIA CAINES: Punkt. has been working with universities since its inception in 2011, having worked with both the RCA and ECAL in the past we know the standard of their work is a guarantee. We have always had our eye on the Design Academy Eindhoven, which is renowned for its creative flair and conceptual approach to design, so we were eager to work on a project with them, and what better than cycling in the Netherlands! The academies (ECAL and the RCA) divided their classes into groups of 4 to 5 students and selected the teams based on a first round of design concepts presented soon after the briefing. The initial concepts were presented to Punkt. and John Tree of Jasper Morrison’s Office of Design in London and the team that presented the best concept went forward. In the case of Eindhoven there were more students involved in the PUMP. project as they were undergraduates, whereas both RCA and ECAL were both Master design programs.
IRMA: PUNKT. is mainly known for its MP01 Phone, the ES01 Extension Socket and the AC01 Alarm Clock. Is urban mobility a possible next step?
MARCIA CAINES: Design and technology are pretty broad fields, but they have in common that they are both problem solvers. Punkt. does design-led consumer technology and a urban mobility product could be an exciting avenue to pursue. We see the Punkt. project as the start for a new platform which today is about research and development, but before that becomes part of product portfolio there’s a long way to go.
IRMA: How would you describe Punkt.’s mission statement?
MARCIA CAINES: Punkt. is about rebalancing the relationship we have with technology.