“‘Better’ is questionable.”
Kenyon Yeh × Industrial Designer × Taichung, Taiwan
Kenyon Yeh has spent nearly a decade working with respected design brands around the globe, while staying close to the small island of Taiwan. He believes the art of creating simple objects is complex, and that it’s the things he takes away that make his designs truly something.
RE: GIVING FORM TO AN IDEA
When an idea comes, I write it down in my phone, or use a sketchbook app to sketch it out and save it. It’s absolutely necessary to draw things out because a lot of details cannot be communicated just by talking and I always do some drawing by hand.
We use paper and cardboard to make models. Once those look good, I make a 3D printed scale model, since one-to-one would be too big.
How prototyping goes depends on the complexity of the object. The Rove Table, for instance, only took a few hours to nail down.
The hard part is coming up with the idea. Executing it is fast.
RE: NIGHT OWLING
I work a lot at night. I don’t know why — maybe it’s because I live in the same building where I have my office. The first and second floors are the studio, and I live on the third floor. I don’t have a TV, so I spend most of the time in the studio. It’s probably unhealthy — in the morning, I work, after dinner, I work, then I sleep. When I don’t finish something I want to finish, I’m left feeling uncomfortable.
RE: FOLLOWING HIS HANDS
I started university in Taiwan as a programming major. It was a popular field at the time, and everyone wanted to become a programmer — it was impressive, cool. I followed that path for a year but it didn’t suit me. I had to force myself to study. I transferred to industrial design my second year. Those four years were happy years.
My love for design started with a bicycle. Growing up as a kid in Indonesia, I was obsessed with customizing my bike — I wanted to make it stand out. In high school, I got my hands on a motorbike, and I went crazy customizing that, too: changing things, switching parts, repainting it. I’ve always liked to make things with my hands, and a large part of industrial design is exactly that — modeling, using your hands to create.
RE: THE LONDON YEARS
I went to England for my Masters and worked in London for a few years afterward. Western living and Eastern living are different. Design is more commonplace in London. Anywhere you go, there will be something created by a designer — an outdoor bench or an art museum. It was a hive of design activity and, every week, things would change.
People talk about design more in London. I remember absorbing information quickly and inspiration coming quickly. Your surroundings always determine your experiences.
RE: HIS DISLIKE FOR BUSTLE
When I came back from England, I landed in Taipei for four years. But I knew I couldn’t be there long-term because of how busy it was outdoors. In Taipei, everyone is in a hurry — you need to walk fast, talk fast, do everything fast.
As you go south, down to Taichung, Chiayi, Kaoshiung, Tainan… I don’t know why but everything happens more slowly. I’ve gone as far south as Tainan before. The architecture is beautiful, not modern, and the city has a rich history. But the pace of living isn’t well-suited to me — I feel lazy in Tainan.
Taichung is just right. And many of the factories I work with happen to be in Taichung.
RE: SPACE AND PLACE
I design products to be practical, not disruptive. I try to think about products within the context of a space. A lot of products are conceived in isolation, then photographed against a white background. But once you place the product in a real space, it might not fit in or it might feel out of place. Whether it’s in a public space or your home, every product should find a place that suits it.
RE: HAPPIER > BETTER
Personally, I think “better” is a small percentage of what design does. Its larger impact is that people have this thing called “design” in their space and it makes them happier — and I strongly believe that design makes people happier. “Better” is questionable. But, happier, yes!
The more a design can be simplified, the better. I always want to simplify, simplify, simplify.
RE: HIS TIDINESS CRUSH
I really like seeing tidy spaces. Is that OCD? I love when things are organized and clean. Maybe it’s more accurate to say I’m sensitive to details — I find that when they’re just right, they can be exquisite.