“The silicon rush is the second gold rush,” declares Stephen Peart, the head of Vent Design, based in Campbell, California. A natural-born philosopher, being close to the cutting edge of technology and the freedom of nature seems to suit Peart well. Having worked for Frog in Germany, and then designing Apple’s keyboards and printers in California, he decided that the west coast was for him; “I saw that I’d have the chance to design objects you couldn’t get to design in Europe.”
Peart set up Vent just over a decade ago. Keeping his office small, he prefers to build close, long-term relationships with a few high-profile clients, often providing them with conceptual and directional thinking, rather than constantly churning out new products.
Talking to Peart is like taking a master class in lateral thinking. High profile, successful applications of his approach include the pull-on Animal wetsuit for O’Neill and the range of Surf Ergonomic computer accessories in biomorphic, purple neoprene for the Knoll Group (designed with Ross Lovegrove).
Recently he’s combined the two divergent industries of technology and furniture. “One’s rushing along too fast and the other isn’t fast enough,” he says. Again with Lovegrove, Peart has designed a flexible, above-ground cable management system for Herman Miller and Interface Architectural Resources, which he describes as an “environmental platform”.
“I work best with the folk who are starting up with new ideas,” explains Peart. “Most of the work we do is funded with venture capital, or in a bigger corporation we’ll work with people who have been given autonomy because they admit that they can’t do new and interesting things within a corporate structure. There’s just too many interests involved, so change comes easier from the outside.” The economics to create that inside/outside opportunity may be exclusive to America’s west coast, and, it appears, Peart has made it Vent’s business to colonise that lucrative territory.
Peart would be heading for design-guru status if he was more media-hungry, but he seems content to just do what he does, and enjoy the kind of relaxed lifestyle which seems to come with the territory.