‘I think designers in Europe too easily take the back seat,’ says the Swiss-born industrial designer, based in San Francisco. He adds, ‘In Europe it is quite static, but it’s great [for a designer] to be creative with the parts you’re expected to be creative with and creative on the business side. People [on the West Coast of the US] believe we can change things.’
Béhar, who won the Design Museum’s first Brit Insurance Design Award in 2008 for his One Laptop Per Child computer, will share his observations in a head-to-head with design writer Alice Rawsthorn at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London tonight.
He is expected to explain how he works with entrepreneurial start-up companies in California’s Silicon Valley, being part of the set-up process from the outset, instilling design into the entire process and sharing equity with the founders for as long as it takes for the company to become established.
‘When you create the DNA, it’s harder to unravel,’ he says, adding that ‘the DNA gets stronger’ the longer the involvement continues.
Recent examples include Fuse Project’s involvement in the Mission electric extreme sports motorcycle, and the Pact range of organic underwear with a percentage of sales going to charities of the customer’s choice.