MEET STUDIO YONOH
Past, present and future collide in Studio Yonoh, founded by Clara del Portillo and Alex Selma in 2006. The two met as young designers; now, their studio captures the vibrant colors of the surrounding city within the workspace's white walls and clean lines. This minimalism reflects Studio Yonoh’s Scandinavian influences— with, as Clara puts it, a little “Mediterranean daring” mixed in.
Met at a young designer exhibition in Valencia in 2004
Describe their style as pure and minimal
It’s kind of a factory— from the 20s or 30s, the first industrial revolution— with the notched roofs. The movable pieces are are the chimneys.
"Alex is more of a crazy designer. He’s more creative, I’m the technical one. I’m meticulous on everything, I like to have everything perfect; make sure everything is in line and all the curves are exact."
Tucked between a tightly-packed row of colorful apartments in Valencia, Spain, a modern glass exterior stands in opposition to the paving stones, cascading window plants, and wrought iron balconies that adorn the alleyway.
While perhaps not traditional, the studio’s glass facade acts as a mirror to its environment— reflecting the stamps of the old world outside while, on the inside, something entirely new is being born.
This collision of past, present and future captures the essence of Studio Yonoh, founded by Clara del Portillo and Alex Selma in 2006. The two met as young designers--now, their collaborative workspace captures the vibrant colors of the city outside, archived neatly within the white walls and clean lines of the studio. This minimalism reflects the studio’s Scandinavian influences— with, as Clara puts it, a little “Mediterranean daring” mixed in.
How did Studio Yonoh begin?
Yonoh is the fruit of the union of two young designers in 2004; we met while participating in an exhibition of young designers in Valencia. They had little stands for designers presenting their own work, and we were neighbors so we started talking. We were really young and we got along, so we started to work together.
From that moment on, our opposing personalities created a very interesting creative group. That was the beginning of the studio, formalized in 2006.
Our personalities work well together. Alex is more of a crazy designer-- he’s more creative, I’m the technical one. I’m meticulous on everything, I like to have everything perfect— make sure everything is in line and all the curves are exact. When we met neither of us had a distinct style. It’s something that’s developed collaboratively with the years.
What was the first project you ever worked on? How does this reflect your unique style?
One of our first projects as designers at Yonoh was the Lluna coat rack, created from 3 wooden boards. It was a very simple production that resulted in a unique product, with a distinct visual style. The product gained success as much for the aesthetic as for the mode of production. So I would say clarity of function is one of the main characteristics of the studio.
Our design is basic, subtle designs that suggest feminine forms, with small details; a pure style. What also distinguishes us is the neatness and seriousness with which we face our projects. This is what sets us apart.
We use a lot of noble materials, and are always seeking to improve or develop small production processes to incorporate new styles into our designs. We like to make designs understandable, to have history. We have a style-- people say our design is very Scandinavian. We like to think that we mix the purity of this style with a little Mediterranean daring.
Is there any one designer or role model who has had the most impact on your design?
Many designers have impacted our style. We have looked to many sources and tried to learn the best from each one. Patricia Urquiola is a great reference for us because of how she goes above and beyond on each project and how she treats the finishes; Jaime Hayon for how he turns his internal world into great products that will become classics; Stefan Diez for how he investigates in the industrial field; or Doshi Levien for how they apply a distinct graphic style in their designs.
As a multi-disciplinary design studio, what project are you most proud of?
Oh, that’s really hard— I think my favorite design is always the last one, because you get used to what you do. Yes, of course we have favorites— we have some projects that we like a lot. Recently, we have made a sofa for a Danish company, and we like that one— but I think it’s always the last thing because we’ve improved our way of working, and each project builds on the last.
We always prefer industrial projects; it’s what we’re most passionate about and where we feel most comfortable. Graphic design projects usually go hand in hand with industrial projects— we often art direct the photographs for our products, and design the corresponding catalogs and videos.
Has technology changed the way you approach design?
Of course on the one hand, in the inspirational part, now the world is closer; the sources of inspiration are more open and shared. That causes more eclectic, sporadic and addictive tendencies. In the studio we work a lot on the computer. There is a first phase that is done by hand where we sketch small things, but the idea is transformed and always acquires power through the computer, where we refine and give character to basic ideas.
What has been your experience working with OTHR?
We discovered OTHR through social media— we saw a project published in a blog that immediately attracted us to the brand. Once we learned the philosophy of OTHR, and how the brand is working with new technologies, we thought it would be an interesting collaboration for our very first project with a U.S. company.
We were very excited to join a platform with other prestigious designers at an international level, and to get to work with 3D technology. We like OTHR’s immediacy, its company image, its philosophy, and how each product is treated as a jewel.
How did you come up with the idea for the calendar?
It’s kind of a factory— from the 20s or 30s, the first industrial revolution— with the notched roofs. The movable pieces are are the chimneys. As far as a calendar, we were thinking about something useful; you can have all the time with you, see every day, use every day. We spend most of the time on our workplaces, and we were thinking that would be a nice object to interact with daily.
What was different about the process of creating this object than other projects you’ve done?
Having to think of something really small was very different for us—normally, we do furniture and large-scale objects. We really liked the challenge of working in minute detail, and having to take the 3D printing process into consideration.
When you’re not in the studio, what are you likely to be found doing?
Our lives when we are not at the studio are quite similar to everyone’s else; doing sports, going to the cinema or theatres, spending time with family and friends… The Mediterranean way of living is really based on the outdoor life, sharing our time with other people, going to the beach or the mountains or just having a few drinks at a bar. Of course, when there’s a good design, illustration or art exhibition we like to attend.
Where do you think design in headed in the next 20, 50, 100 years?
Ephemeral products; we will be able to move from idea to product quickly. We’ll be much more digital. There will be many possibilities of manufacturing in many different ways, and there will come a point where everything will be very technological, so much so that, one day it will turn a corner and we will return to work in a more handmade way.