NYT Profiles MINI_Motion Designer Yves Behar

The New York Times has an article on Yves Behar, the man behind much of the design of the MINI_Motion collection. It goes into detail on Behar's ideas on “brand fusion” and how it translates to his work for clients. Here's an excerpt:

Behar sees designers as collaborators with their clients in shaping a consumer's experience of a product, rather than just the product itself. He rails against what he calls ''feature creep,'' the gratuitous stuffing of more and more technology into products without making them any easier to use. ''Tactility — how we use and carry products — makes them more appealing,'' he declares.

This approach has pleased fuseproject's clients, like Birkenstock, MINI (a part of BMW) and Toshiba, and has earned it an exhibition that will open this month at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. (Behar designed the Learning Shoe, complete with a chip that collects data on the wearer's feet, just for the exhibition.)

Joseph Rosa, the museum's curator of architecture and design, calls Behar's approach ''brand fusion,'' and says, ''It's not just about designing something and then leaving the company to market it.'' Or, as Behar puts it: ''The time of the designer as master is over. Now, the designer is a partner — with a point of view.''

Behar's point of view developed after he graduated from Art Center College of Design in 1992 and spent several years working for well-known Silicon Valley firms like Lunar Design and frog design. He set up shop on his own in 1999 in South Park, the San Francisco neighborhood that Behar calls ''the ground zero of the dot-com boom and bust.'' ''I spent a couple of pretty miserable years trying to persuade clients of the importance of physical experience in design,'' he recalls. But a few projects that received favorable press — like the cerebral bottle for spacescent (in which the flask of scent is suspended within a transparent outer container, to evoke the virtual space that fragrance creates around the wearer) — caught the attention of larger companies, like MINI and Birkenstock.

MINI called on Behar in 2001, to develop accessories around its iconic car, the Cooper, which was being reintroduced 43 years after its debut. The company wasn't looking for the usual logo-based key rings and the like, normally sold by car dealers to people who already own the car. Instead, MINI envisioned that its accessories line, called MINI–motion, would appeal to people who might not own a MINI but wanted to experience what the brand was about.

So rather than reinforce the stereotype of accessory as status symbol, Behar focused on the transition between being inside and outside the car: every accessory would have a dual function. For example, there's a shoe that has a detachable inner slipper for driving; a watch that reads either vertically or horizontally, depending on the position of your arm; and a jacket that has a built-in seat.

You can read the entire article here