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Home Sweet Home: Yves Béhar

The storied industrial designer reflects on a lifetime of innovation, starting as a teen in Switzerland

Yves Béhar is many things: CEO and founder of the award-winning design and branding firm fuseproject, chief creative officer at Jawbone, sustainability advocate, surfer, dad—and with a client list that includes Herman Miller, Movado, General Electric, Samsung, and Prada, and more, it's easy to understand why Yves Béhar is one of the most influential industrial designers of our day. From smart watches and homes to a revolutionary approach to inexpensive laptop design for children, his studio fuseproject's roster of projects continues apace following its start in San Francisco in 1999.

"I grew up in Switzerland in small town, Lausanne, that’s about 30 minutes from Geneva. My parents, my brothers, no one in my family was in design or in an artistic field. It was much more of a personal pursuit. It was an era when the notion that you could make it yourself, you could change it yourself, you could transform it yourself—it was very much a punk idea. Take the future in your own hands and do something with what’s around.

I certainly found it an escape to build things by myself. I spent a lot of time, like everyone, with LEGOs, but I was particularly obsessive, trying to build things that were impossible. When I was 15 or so I started building prototypes in my parents’ basement, after I’d gotten a workbench a year earlier. The first things I built were some furniture for my bedroom, and then this thing that was a cross between windsurfing and skiing that allowed me to go on frozen lakes in Switzerland. And it worked! When you’re on a frozen lake and the wind is blowing, it gets fairly cold and can be pretty scary.

For me it quickly became obvious that products were my calling. Of course I enjoyed furniture in the realm of industrial design, but for me it was a calling—I felt there was a lot of innovation and new ways to do thing, and I found it to be a tremendous challenge. I almost minored in graphic design, but to me, with three dimensional space everything gets more ten times more complex. It was tough to develop those skills: to be able to draw, to be able to express the ideas that are in your brain, and to illustrate them so that other people understand them. At times, it seemed like the toughest thing I could take on, but I wanted to master it.

I appreciate great furniture and collect it, though I make pretty much everything in my home from chairs to tables. At this stage, it’s really important to declutter and I realized that I can think better with less stuff around.I want the things around me to have a maximum level of intensity in the sense that they’re there for a reason, they solve a problem, and they bring an element of pleasure and beauty. Distractions, the trinkets and extraneous things around you, are brain noise. I’ve eliminated most of those. What’s left is a carefully selected set of objects and things I live with with my family. A lot of products are a good solution unto themselves but quickly turn into an eyesore."

For Home Sweet Home, Curbed talked to 30 engaging personalities across a range of industries to learn about where they grew up and what home means to them. Follow Yves Béhar on Twitter and Instagram, and learn more about fuseproject.

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Video Production by: Sarah Bishop, Ben Carey, Sara Intrator, Sara Masetti, Max Mellman, Anthony Morgan, Danush Parvaneh, Mark Olsen, Ryan Simmons