With his San Francisco design and branding company, fuseproject, industrial designer Yves Béhar has had a hand in creating products as diverse as the Leaf lamp, which uses new led technology, for Herman Miller and the laptop for One Laptop per Child (OLPC), which at $100 is affordable and cutting edge. Now Béhar, 40, is looking further ahead, taking on full-time creative partnerships at companies like Aliph, for which he produced the sleek Jawbone headset, so that he will have a hand in designing everything the consumer sees and feels, including packaging, marketing and corporate strategy.
Born and raised in Switzerland, Béhar has always had a strong sense of the path forward. After working for design firms such as frog design and Lunar, where he handled clients like Apple and Hewlett-Packard, Béhar struck out on his own in 1999, opening a studio in San Francisco. It was the height of the dotcom boom, and all his neighbors were e-companies. "At the time, everything was going to be virtual," remembers Béhar, "and if you were interested in the physical world, you were antiquated." But two years later, "we were the only ones around." An early hit was a pair of brightly colored biodegradable foam clogs Béhar designed for Birkenstock in 2004. That product cemented his reputation as a designer who could marry the human touch and technology.
"Customers today are smart and want to be surprised," says Béhar. And designers are uniquely positioned to shape that experience. Next up: more creative partnerships, this time with a beverage company, and accessories for Aliph and olpc. "Design is more than the aesthetics of a product now," says Béhar. "It's the entire experience."