Vim & Vigor is a New York City-based design firm established in 2009 by Aaron Tsui and Irina Kozlovskaya. Their award-winning designs include Stella, a reading light for Barnes and Noble’s NOOK, which won the Red Dot award and Bento, a steamer and portable lunchbox, which was a finalist in the Spark Concept Design awards. We sat down with one half of the designing duo, Aaron, who is passionate about designing products that are refined, beautiful, emotive, imaginative and highly functional. Read below for the full interview…
Do you find that being from the East Coast has influenced your design style, versus a person based on the West Coast? Do you feel design can be influenced as a product of your environment or rather, where you went to school/people you learned from?
Aaron: I believe being in the East Coast enables a designer to be well informed of the latest trends and avant garde movements. New York City being one of the most diverse places in the world has a tremendous affect on the universality and global viewpoint of V&V’s design work.
I love how you can provide numerous solutions within one design. For instance the NOOK case, not only acts as a stand, but is magnetized, so you can stick to the door of a refrigerator to facilitate easy reading of recipes. Is that how you approach a design? Or do some ideas just hit you in the middle of a prototype?
Aaron: With every design, we create multiple prototypes and test them in every possible situation. Only through such experimentation can you uncover certain latent needs and pleasant surprises during the design process.
What is the hardest aspect in bringing a product from ideation to manufacturing?
Aaron: Obstacles and speed bumps can come from any source. In my experience, the most challenging aspect of bringing a product to life is finding the balance engineering, and manufacturing while preserving the original design intent. So many times, you find products that lose their way sometime between design, and consumer. This is why V&V loves to be involved in the development process of the products we design to ensure the highest level of quality and design are delivered to the end user.
It’s easy to get caught up in the process of making things perfect, rather than making things right. How do you achieve a good balance?
Aaron: We tend to hold ourselves to the highest standards. We strive for perfection in the smallest of details, while remaining aware of the big picture. At the end of the day, products not only have to look beautiful, they need to work!
What were your inspirations growing up in the creative world? Have these inspirations changed as you have grown as a designer?
Aaron: I’ve been very fortunate to have traveled extensively growing up. For me there is no better education than experiencing other cultures, languages, food and of course art/design. That definitely holds true to this day. I am very much inspired by the world around me, whether it’s a hiking trip in the wonderful National Parks in the US, or an enlightening trip abroad.
What can we expect from you in the near future?
Aaron: I love to design just about everything I can get my hands on. I definitely want to continue with electronics and accessories, but I would also like to pursue a couple of my passions in furniture/lighting as well as outdoor/performance equipment.
Do you have any favorite Asian films?
Aaron: Hands down, Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away“. It is his most beautiful and imaginative work, and is one of my favorite films of all time.
What would constitute success in your career as a designer? Do you want to change the world?
Aaron: Success to me is about learning. When you are no longer learning anything from what you are working on, you are no longer making progress. I don’t have aspirations of being a super star designer, I like being the unsung hero behind the scenes [laughs].
Many people say; ‘Don’t go into business with your friends’. How are you able to have a great working relationship with your partner?
Aaron: For the V&V team, business is business. Everybody puts 100% into the work. We do our best not to mix too many personal matters into the process. Outside of work, we have a blast exploring everything this amazing city has to offer!
Lastly, any advice for creatives?
Aaron: The most important piece of advice I can give is to follow the path that will lead to a career of passion and love. If you truly love what you do everyday, that is all that matters.
To see more of Aaron Tsui’s work at Vim & Vigor, where him and his partner excel in bringing the extraordinary to life through elegant innovation — visit the studio’s official site below: