A concept on a journey towards realisation – an interview with red dot winner Wu Yu-Ying
In 2009, Wu Yu-Ying was awarded the red dot award for "Breathing", a chair that transforms its shape according to the body of the person sitting in it. She is currently working with Pinzaan Company Limited to develop "Breathing" into a commercial product. Wu Yu-Ying‘s example once again demonstrates the important role which the red dot award: design concept can play in the realisation of a concept.
red dot: How did you decide to submit this piece of work to the red dot award: design concept?
Wu Yu-Ying: When “Breathing” was exhibited during the Young Designers’ Exhibition at the Taipei World Trade Centre, it received compliments from many of the visitors. Many people liked it and encouraged me to submit it to an international competition. Hence, I decided to participate in the red dot design award. I dared not imagine that it would win an award – I entered it with the thought of giving my ‘child’ a chance. I often feel that a piece of work is like a child with its own life and destiny.
red dot: To what extent do you think has winning the red dot design award helped you in the global design industry?
Wu Yu-Ying: The red dot design award is quite an influential international competition. Every year I examined and learned from the winning works, so I guess these works have also been seen by many other designers and design lovers. Hence, the award serves as a huge media platform which allows many people to get to know your design. I feel that the “red dot” is like a common language. You can bring it to any part of the world, and people will understand what it means without needing much explanation.
red dot: “Breathing” is quite unusual in its form and the material used. What inspired you to design it the way you did?
Wu Yu-Ying: One day I saw an image of the cross-section of a tree’s cambium. It was in a biology textbook and the image was magnified many times. The arrangement of the cells with their varying sizes looked so beautiful. It got me pondering, is there a kind of material that can have its hardness and softness altered through pores with different sizes? After succeeding at pre-tests, I discovered that the versatility of such a material can stretch beyond imagination. Hence, I decided to design a chair using a material that, through changes in its structure, can provide both the hardness needed to support its user and the softness needed for comfort. Just as tree cells breathe, I wanted to apply the same concept to a chair that changes its shape according to how it’s being used, so as to present the material’s ‘aliveness’.
red dot: We received news that you’re working with Pinzaan to develop the concept into a commercial product. Tell us more about how this opportunity came about.
Wu Yu-Ying: My very first contact with Pinzaan was at the Young Designers’ Exhibition. At that time, I was demonstrating how to use “Breathing”. When I transformed a cube into a sofa chair by sitting on it, the representative from Pinzaan was surprised. I remembered him going “Oh!” with a surprised look on his face.
He liked the aliveness of the chair as it changed shape, as well as the visual surprise it had to offer. Hence, we started discussing a possible partnership. I am very grateful for this opportunity, thank you Pinzaan!
red dot: What are some of the challenges you faced in the realisation of your concept?
Wu Yu-Ying: Before I go into that, I would like to first thank the red dot design award for giving me the award, because after news of winning the award was released, several material companies in Taiwan approached us. As a result, we were able to find new materials that are more durable and more elastic than the one I initially used.
However, the use of a new material requires tests and adjustments to the internal structure, this incurs cost as well as time needed for further research and development, not to mention that the increase in capital required could cause potential problems.
Nonetheless, Pinzaan and I both believe that the new material is worth the try, so we are willing to continue and see how it goes.
red dot: You have received a fair amount of press coverage for “Breathing”, including a feature during local prime time news. Do you have any advice for designers looking to get press coverage and more exposure for their works?
Wu Yu-Ying: “Breathing” was frequently featured in the media, partly because in recent years the people of Taiwan have increasingly been falling in love with design and have paid more attention to design news. Hence, designers here have more and more opportunities to be featured on TV.
A piece of advice would be to “take note of the time”. The amount of exposure can shorten the amount of time allowed for preparing a product’s entry into the market. This is especially true for products that are exposed at the concept stage, like “Breathing”, which is now racing against time.
red dot: Do you have any final thoughts or advice for designers planning to participate in the red dot award: design concept?
Wu Yu-Ying: I think it is like preparing a matchmaking session for your work. You must do all you can to introduce, in detail, your design concept to the jury so that they fall in love with your good design. I sincerely hope that all design lovers and I can present more stunning works through the red dot design award in future!
To learn more about the "Breathing" collaboration from the incubator company’s perspective, we interviewed Pinzaan Company Limited: >>Interview with Pinzaan
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