January 27, 2016
At Alice Made This we value refined design and precisely made products. From our cufflinks and lapel pins to our cuff bracelets and key rings, we are inspired by architecture, geometry and quality raw materials. Sharing this sentiment and specialising in stripped back, minimal forms, we talk to Fabien Nauroy, Head of Design at Native Union, to learn more about his simple, graphic approach to tech accessories.
How did working for a major phone and PC manufacturer shape the way you approached design at Native Union? Were there things about the technology industry that you particularly wanted to change?
It was great to work for Sagem, Packard Bell and Acer. I was fresh from university and I learnt a lot from these experiences. However the lack of space for creativity was a little frustrating as they are looking for ‘safe' design that appeals to a mass audience. When I joined Native Union I immediately knew it was the right direction I wanted for my career. Suddenly we could take risks, try different things, design products with a strong personality even if it's more niche and less commercial. We use our tech all day, everyday - the accessories we choose should be more than just functional, they should express something about us as individuals.
What appeals to you about a minimal aesthetic?
Personally, I studied industrial design in the early 2000s when good design in consumer electronics had to be curved, complex and organic. I discovered later the power of clean and geometric lines by studying the work of designers like Dieter Rams for Braun or Max Bill for Junghans. All the Bauhaus movement really. I'm not an art expert but I like Carl Andre's minimalist installations or Sol LeWitt's geometric pattern. I'm also a big fan of Matthias Heiderich photography. Simple form following function, keeping only the essential with subtle details on material and texture. It was just an obvious direction for Native Union as we wanted to make the products more approachable, intuitive and desirable. It also helped us to build a strong visual identity to differentiate ourselves from the other tech accessories manufacturers.
Why are materials so important? How do you find new materials to work with?
We work on minimal and geometric products so materials and finishing is key. It's the details that make the big difference. At Native Union we pride ourselves on working with genuine materials only. We will never do plastic with chrome finish or woodprint. If we want a metal finish we work with stainless steel polished to perfection. Same for natural materials like wood or marble, it's much harder to manufacture but they bring a fantastic touch that you could never fake with a print or a plastic treatment.
Can you tell us a bit about the design process at Native Union? How does it start?
It always starts with a user scenario, studying how people use their tech, trying to identify everyday small frustrations. We brainstorm solutions, things we could do better to improve the experience. We work on materials and start sketching. An obsession to keep only the essential is really part of the Native Union design language now. Clean and geometric lines make our products more approachable, intuitive and desirable.
Do you think simple products can still express personality?
I believe in the power of simplicity. Personality is not only colours, texture and original shape. A sleek and minimal piece with high attention to detail is really powerful - the kind of detail that most people won't notice but creates the experience, like the rotation feeling of a volume button or the cold mineral touch of marble.
What is your biggest frustration with technology that you would like to find a solution for?
Probably cable management at home. I would love to find a solution to remove the dozens of messy charging cables under my sofa!
Learn more about Native Union here