Current projects: We have built a great, fast-growing wallet brand and business. Now we are working really hard on the Bellroy of tomorrow. And that will include some very interesting products. One example is that we're expanding our outdoor offerings, which we call our Elements range. We found that the thing most people want to protect is their phone. So our Elements Phone Pocket is getting sized up to accommodate phones of similar sizes to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.
Mission: Our mission is: Promote better ways to carry. Use business as a force for good. Help the world, and our crew, flourish.
But that's easier to think of through our mantra, which is Better Ways. If there is a better way to do something, then we should do it. We are relentlessly hunting for better ways to create better products and pretty much everything around it.
When did you decide that you wanted to be a designer? I originally wanted to be a graphic designer, but I was convinced that it was a saturated market in the '90s. So I went completely the other direction and studied medical biology for a couple of years. One day, my curiosity pushed me to go and visit a new design school that had opened around the corner from where I was living at the time. I came out of it so inspired that I couldn't stop talking about it to friends and family. I went again and again to look at the projects displayed on the walls. I became obsessed with the idea that this is what I wanted to do.
Education: Bachelor's degree in product design from Creapole, in Paris
First design job: My first design job was as a junior designer in a small design agency in Paris, designing perfume bottles. But my first full-time job was at Rip Curl Europe, designing watches and bags.
Who is your design hero? In bags, it's Dana Gleason. I've been following Dana's work beginning with Dana Design packs all the way until his current work at Mystery Ranch. His approach to pattern-making and material is very interesting and innovative. The tri-zip opening, for example—what a great idea!
Cote & Ciel is another of my favorite bag brands in urban/office styling. Their pattern-making approach and styling is impressive. Also, Arc'teryx for outdoor packs.
Inside Bellroy's offices
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Describe your workspace: We have an open-plan office space, right by Bells Beach. We also have an office in Fitzroy, a vibrant inner-city suburb in Melbourne. So we have the best of both worlds, really! Our spaces are primarily designed to generate ideas and interaction between people, so there's generally a nice hum.
Other than the computer, what is your most important tool? Pen and paper, a good coffee, music . . . and my Cintiq 15-inch HD.
What is the best part of your job? Having the chance to create purposeful work. Being part of a brand I love and am proud to share. Being part of a culture that is impacting our customers, our staff and our suppliers. It is an ecosystem of collaboration and sharing, and we are building it each day. It's more than our products; it is our way of thinking about products and brand.
What is the worst part of your job? When you are part of a fast-growing business, a week is like a year in a normal job. We operate Bellroy using an Agile approach, which means if we need to change something, we change it quickly and effectively. Sometimes this gets hard, and it's often uncomfortable as you search for the best way, rather than the easiest way. I've learned during these times to stay focused, stay flexible and remember that everything is a draft. Don't aim for perfection, but get the product out there sooner, so we can have the most up-to-date feedback from the market.
Bellroy's Nude Approach results in wallets made of almost nothing but vegetable-tanned leather and thread.
What time do you get up and go to bed? I'm a Dad, I don't sleep.
How do you procrastinate? Procrastination is a sign of fatigue or boredom for me. So I try to give my mind some space. If I feel I am drifting to la-la land, I try to at least get something out of it. So I use Pinterest and various blogs like 99U or Seth Godin's blog for new ways to think, get inspired and stimulate my mind. I don't think it's good to try to work at full capacity all the time. I'd like to think that to do good work you need to have some fun, too.
What is your favorite productivity tip or trick? Define what matters or what will have the biggest impact for your project and just do that. The rest will come after. It is actually harder than it sounds. You need a great feedback loop, and you need to be sure that you don't try to resolve everything yourself and don't take anything personally.
What is the most important quality in a designer? A deep desire to make something better, rather than making something original or perfect. The best designers do this by focusing more on the job to be done, rather than on proving that they are a good designer. And they learn that there is a difference between a naïve "simple" and a highly resolved "simple." The later one is much harder to achieve.
What is the most widespread misunderstanding about design or designers? For me, I get uncomfortable when the image of the star designer is overcoming the actual work. Most great design in this world has been made possible by a group, not by a single person. That is why a brand is so interesting. It represents a group of talented, hard-working, problem-solving people. And that is what creates a desire to participate, to be part of a community. We should remember that designers are part of a bigger picture—a very important part, but not the only one.
What is your most prized design possession? I don't have a very possessive personality. But I have my dad's design work from his career as an opera set designer. This not only has sentimental value, but I have to say that the care, the details and the love that flows through his work is so inspiring. It reminds me how important it is to care about making great products in our constant over-producing world. We must care.
What is exciting you in design right now? There is a shift in products that are connecting work and play. Before, there was a very strong distinction between urban, fashion and outdoor products. Now we shift from activities faster and we need products that can adapt easily. We are more than what we do at work; we are not just climbers or cyclists. We can be all of these and more. So how can one thing reflect our active life, without feeling like it is out of place in the other world? Products that improve our user experience between work and play are very interesting to me.
If you could redesign anything, what would you choose? I love soft-goods design. So I'd love at the right time to go back and design bags again. There is so much to be done. Even though we can see interesting bags like Cote & Ciel's Isar, a massive part of the bag market is still very much a variation of the same theme. I'd like to work on the smartphone of bags, I guess. Originally, phones were used just make calls; now there's an app for pretty much anything. I just wonder what a bag that can do that looks like?
What do you hope to be doing in ten years? Ten years is a long time. Being part of a fast-growing startup, you learn to plan well but have flexible plans. I hope to continue to learn and be part of the incredible adventure that is Bellroy and Carryology.
Lastly, who's more fun to have a drink with: architects, industrial designers or graphic designers? Anyone with low ego and those that have big dreams and have found ways to realize them. They tend look at the world differently. The title or trade is not as important. Hard-thinking, life-loving, achiever-type people are my kind of people.
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