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[Herald Design Forum 2021] Benjamin Hubert calls on people to work together for sustainability

Benjamin Hubert (LAYER)
Benjamin Hubert (LAYER)


Benjamin Hubert, founder of London-based design studio Layer, has long pondered how he can contribute to the world as a designer, creating products that satisfy consumers and that are beneficial to society at the same time. The pandemic has led him to think about the issue more deeply.

“There is a lot of greenwashing that happens where it is quite difficult to understand what is truly sustainable. Designers are responsible for some of that, but it takes a group of people and a village of people to really change that,” he said in a recent interview with The Korea Herald and The Herald Economic Daily.

“I don’t think that commerce and things that are good for the world are separate. If you can combine them and create business models around them, it makes it more robust and gives it more longevity,” he added.

Hubert pointed out that the concept of sustainability is abused and how stakeholders, including designers, governments and consumers, should work together to make the concept more tangible and more achievable.

“In some sense, it’s both frightening and exciting to be a designer in this climate,” he said. “Clearly everybody, including myself, the studio, has been impacted by the pandemic. But there is a silver lining to that cloud. There is a massive opportunity to drive those new agendas.

“That agenda is going to become more prominent when the governments push it harder and when consumers continue on the curve of education around what sustainability is,” he added. 


Designed by Benjamin Hubert, “AXYL chair” is produced with a recycled aluminium frame (LAYER)
Designed by Benjamin Hubert, “AXYL chair” is produced with a recycled aluminium frame (LAYER)

He admitted that the design studio, some 20 percent of whose projects are related to nonprofit projects, was affected by the pandemic in terms of the way it functions. The pandemic made him think more valuably about his team and how they can work as a team, which he had taken for granted before.

“Personally, I think valuing being together has become much greater. I should be valuing the quality of what we do together, not just the idea of work. That mindset shift has happened quite a lot,” he said.

As a fast growing design studio, Layer is collaborating with global big-named companies including Nike, Google, Bang and Olufsen, Samsung and Braun. It comprises of twenty designers from around the world who are mentored by Hubert.

Hubert is particularly inspired by people and materials as a “great lover of high craftsmanship.”

“(I am) really thinking about how people are living, what frustrates them, what excites them, how might we live in the future in a better or more wholesome society. That inspires me, that’s my optimism.

“In a more tangible sense, I have a great love of materials … as a specific example of a tangible inspiration -- 3D knitting. In lots of projects we like to soften technology and we use a lot of 3D knitting. We have used it in furniture and consumer electronics. You can print complex forms, it’s highly engineered, it’s really visually interesting,” he said.

Hubert will speak about his vision as a designer and Layer’s recent projects at the Herald Design Forum 2021 on Oct. 14 in Seoul.

By Park Yuna (yunapark@heraldcorp.com
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