OTHR

USEFUL / AESTHETIC / UNIQUE

MEET JOE DOUCET

“When I’m designing a product,” says Joe Doucet, “I don't sit down and start sketching, I sit down and start writing.”

IMG_3138.jpg

QUICK FACTS

Doucet is of Cajun descent. Clients include Wallpaper*, Grey Goose, BMW, Braun & Hugo Boss.

FOLLOW

WebsiteInstagramTwitter

SHOP

Cru Cake Spatula & Knife Set
Cru Cake Knife
Cru Cake Spatula

CREDITS

Written by Sean Santiago
Photographs by Fran Parente
In collaboration with Freunde von Freunden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"I’m really excited about how quickly the current technology is changing and the new possibilities it’s opening to us."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"It’s incredibly exciting to be able to take this technology, which has been promising so much over the years, and to make it real."

 

An industry veteran whose portfolio features everything from minimal playing cards to large-scale architectural installations, the designer makes more than just beautiful objects. He crafts their accompanying narratives, as well.

It’s true that for Joe, whose clients have included Coca-Cola, Braun, BMW and Swarovski—and whose dynamic index of accomplishments continues to grow steadily—“firsts” may be a rarity. But now, years since launching his eponymous practice, he’ll add OTHR, a company poised to revolutionize the world of design, to his expanding list. Employing emerging technologies like 3D printing, OTHR will partner with some of the industry’s most extraordinary talents to put forth tabletop and home accessories at very little environmental impact. Its founders’ primary goal: to create objects that, above all, are useful, aesthetic and unique.

Exhilarating as it all is, Joe prioritizes daily downtime with family, balancing a fast-moving work life with duties as a doting father of three. From his home in Brooklyn Heights—where he’s lived for the past two years and where he’s just a block away from stunning views of the city skyline—he reflects on craft, communication and the many-sided nature of a multidisciplinary career.

 

Tell us about the first object you ever designed.

As a child, I had a few stuffed animals that I really loved and carried with me everywhere. One day I fastened my father’s suspenders to a brown paper bag, clipping them to the top and bottom. It was my first backpack. I would put the animals in and carry them around. It was a natural act for me. Of course, then, I didn’t consider it creating a design—I just saw a need for something, and it seemed natural that I would make it.

Today, your portfolio features a mix of identity and product design, furniture, architecture and more. How did you become interested in design as a career?

My background is in Communication Design, which is what I studied at Art Center College of Design. I was taking a class—a packaging class or something that you have to take—which I wasn’t really all that into. That was when I decided that I didn’t just want to find an object and package it. I wanted to make the object. It was there that I fell in love with the idea of controlling all aspects of something—the entire experience.

Can you elaborate on what you mean by that? The idea of “the entire experience”— branding and packaging and creating a brand narrative—is a big deal in design right now.

A true identity designer has to think about what their choices communicate. It’s not about making pretty forms or ‘is this a great color?’ It’s messaging. If I choose this color versus that, I’m talking to a slightly different audience; if I choose this typeface versus that, I’m telling you something different. It’s a different way of viewing the brand. Everything is about communication, so the choices you make are quite deliberate. What I did was apply that methodology to creating product.

Do you see this as a relatively new approach to design, as opposed to the way things were five or ten years ago?

I think that younger people who are graduating now are naturally inclined to be multidisciplinary. There’s no longer an interest in diving deep and wanting to be the master of one thing. I graduated in 1999, and at the time, that was very rare. There were very few places where you could go and get a job where you weren’t just a graphic designer or a product designer.

As a student, I created a multidisciplinary education for myself. I wanted to double major in product, but I wasn’t allowed—there was no program for that. And this was in the late nineties. There was no such thing as a multidisciplinary designer at that point, believe it or not. Now it’s quite common.

Tell us about OTHR, and how the idea for the company arose.

Three years ago, I was working on a cutlery set, and like many designers, I ordered some 3D prints made out of plastic to get an idea for how the pieces felt in the hand and to make certain that the scale was right. At the time, there was this brand-new technology that allowed you to create a 3D print in stainless steel, so I ordered a fork. It was about $250 and it was terrible. The quality was so poor and the resolution was low, but even still, it was a fork. It was useful.

I did a calculation and figured that in 2016, the price and the quality of a 3D printed object like that one would finally intersect in a way that allowed you to make a viable model of high-end 3D printed design. That was when I set out on a course of building a business plan, bringing in venture capitalists and a great team to execute the idea. Now, I’m in my fourth year of working on the project.

What excites you most about the platform?

We want to give a voice to great design and do it in a really responsible way. That’s why we use technologies like 3D printing and materials like steel and porcelain, which allow us to bring great products into the world with zero environmental harm. We’re not having to fabricate in China and ship halfway around the world. These things don’t exist until you buy them, so we’re reliant on our designers to create amazing ideas and products that are really worthy of existence. It’s a heavy brief. We’re tasking them with creating the first artifacts of the third industrial revolution.

I believe designers are going to be craftsmen of intellectual property in the very near future, and we’re just getting ahead of that. We celebrate craftsmen. And, what’s maybe most interesting about the model is that it’s the most environmental form of manufacturing ever devised by modern man. Whatever the object is, it’s just an idea—there’s nothing done to the environment. If you want it and you can give it a home, it gets made. It’s a beautiful thing. It sounds quite revolutionary now, but in ten years this will be standard.

"It’s incredibly exciting to be able to take this technology, which has been promising so much over the years, and to make it real."

In what other ways are you excited to watch this project grow over time?

It’s incredibly exciting to be able to take this technology, which has been promising so much over the years, and to make it real, to a certain extent. I’m really excited about how quickly the current technology is changing and the new possibilities it’s opening to us. It’s also amazing that we can bring in great design minds to take full advantage of these opportunities.

With all that’s going on in your life at the moment, how do you manage to strike a work-life balance?

You make the time and you force it to happen. You just set things. Like at 4:30 on Tuesday, I’ll leave the office because I want to have time with my son for dinner, just the two of us. No matter what, that doesn’t get moved. And the same thing goes in the mornings. I don’t schedule meetings before a certain time, because I want to be there for my kids. It’s not only about setting boundaries, it’s about setting clear expectations. Now, having been so regimented over the years, I have lots of time to fuck around—and still get everything done.