20th of March 2017
Designer Andreu Carulla was born in Banyoles in 1979. In 2006, after a few years working for different design companies and agencies, he decided to set up his own studio (^ndreu C^rull^ Studio) in his home town, set right in the heart of the countryside and just an hour from Barcelona. He has experience in a variety of sectors, including graphic design, home furnishings, jewellery, food and industrial and technological design.
With an award-winning career, Andreu Carulla’s brand new studio has recently been awarded the Delta de Plata award by ADIFAD (Industrial Design Association Promoting the Arts and Design). As well as being awarded the Red Dot 2015 Best of the Best award, one of the world’s most prestigious design awards, his work has also been recognised by Wallpaper, Elle Decor and Interiores magazines.
Recently, we sat down with Andreu to talk about his latest project, the redesign of the Expression Pro coffee machine.
When you started out as a designer, you worked for an office that designed some parts for the Iberital coffee machines. Now, for the first time, your studio is undertaking the redesign of the Expression Pro coffee machine and you’ll have a complete overview of the whole product. What concept have you developed for the project?
We’re approaching this restyling as a reinterpretation of the current coffee machine. The barista world has changed a lot over the last few years, as well as the whole aesthetic that goes with it. Our main aim is to update it in a way that makes it once again the deserving star of the show.
What added value can the design bestow on a coffee machine?
I think it adds a lot of value, because product design is more than just aesthetics. We’re trying to go deeper into the sector so that we can work out what’s missing and identify the users’ key requirements – from the most aesthetic to the most functional. For example, this initial study helped us to establish that the barista’s main work space is the tray. Armed with this knowledge, we set about making the tray bigger so that now it is one of the main features of the new Expression Pro. The customer’s coffee experience is in the hands of the barista, and what we try to do is make their job as easy as possible by making the coffee machine their best friend.
In your opinion, what are the key features of the Expression Pro coffee machine?
The current Expression Pro is an all-rounder. It’s a very versatile and sturdy machine. Aesthetically, it’s a machine that can easily fit in anywhere as its purpose is to provide a good service, not steal the show.
So to cite Charles and Ray Eames, – do you think that design always addresses a need, or can you have design for design’s sake?
If that were really the case, there would be much less “junk” around us. Unfortunately (or not), there is a lot of design for design’s sake: design for business, design for show, design for boredom, etc. We don’t even need to go as far as the Eameses; Rafael Marquina’s oil cruet is an example of a case where there’s an almost perfect balance between design and aesthetics, and that’s a real benchmark for us.
As a designer, how do you tackle design with the Design Thinking methodology?
Honestly? We don’t use it, or rather, we use it intuitively. In my opinion, Design Thinking is a tool for non-designers, although the results that can be achieved when it’s done properly and with a multidisciplinary team, can be very useful.
In 2009 you started a series of collaborations with El Celler de Can Roca (the second best restaurant in the world 2016), designing products and some dishes. How do you approach food design, bearing in mind the sensory experience that comes with it?
The work that we do for El Celler de Can Roca is basically to enhance the story they want to tell (although it’s not exactly lacking), meaning we help to more clearly unveil the history behind each dish. We try to give each of their creations the respect that they deserve, given that the dishes often don’t fit on a standard plate.
How do you think design affects the usage or the experience?
Design and usage definitely go hand in hand. As designers, we’re responsible for deciding the relationship between the product and its users, just like between the product and its environment. We’re also partly responsible for the environmental and social impact that the product might have. So without a doubt industrial design goes much further than just being a style exercise. Although unfortunately we still have to explain that we’re not a bunch of artists who’ve had a lightbulb moment…
Do you think that design has to be ahead of fashion and trends?
In our opinion, yes. But that will always depend on the commission, and also on the type of product being designed. If the product has got to survive in the market for twenty years, then obviously it can’t become totally obsolete at the end of the season. But if it’s a more fleeting idea, or a product for immediate consumption, then the aim is completely different.
Would you say that your job is more about craftsmanship or invention?
My job is definitely a mixture of both, and I try to find a balance between them in every project. Our studio is defined by the large number of sectors that we work for. In a lot of cases, this means that our message can be confusing, and depending on who looks at our website, it may be that they can’t work out exactly what services we offer. So that’s why we’re shortly going to be splitting the brand into two: they’ll both coexist in the same space, but while one part will focus on invention, the other will work more on craftsmanship and the limited range.
You’ve mentioned that to restyle the new Expression Pro, you did some field work in close collaboration with different baristas. This sounds really interesting. How did it work?
What we normally do is to try and get to know the sector that we’re working in. In this case it was particularly enjoyable. We went into cafés that we’d walked past and noticed a lot of times but that we’d never been in, and in a lot of cases we were pleasantly surprised. It was an observation exercise where we focused on the interaction between the machine and the user and its environment, which was often cluttered and untidy. We spent less than a month on the strategic phase, but it was very fun and surprising.
Can you tell us a bit more about this process, with a quick insight or an anecdote?
Yes, well, Iberital told us that the sector paid a lot of attention to the installation instructions. It turns out that the installation instructions often recommend that you never turn off the coffee machine because consumption could be very high. So, when we asked in bars and restaurants how often they turned off the coffee machines, the majority said only if they closed for more than a day, but we even spoke to some who’d never turned it off since they’d installed it.
And after this collaboration with Iberital, has your relationship with coffee changed?
I drink a lot of coffee, but I’ve now discovered that I didn’t use to demand much from my coffee. Since we started working with the Iberital project, we’ve delved into the sector’s sophistication and so, as a result, we’ve acquired the “bad habit” of getting used to good coffee. I had to take a coffee back for the first time, which once upon a time I’d have drunk without batting an eyelid.
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