10 Questions With... Dan Black | Eastman Innovation Lab

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10 Questions With...

10 Questions With... Dan Black

18 July 2016

At the Eastman Innovation Lab we look to our fellow design and materials nerds for inspiration, community, and expertise. In order to get to know them and their projects better, we created a column called Ten Questions With…

Dan Black is the co-founder and lead designer at black+blum, a London based
creative company who design, source and sell their own range of original homeware products. Since they launched in 1998, they have designed and brought over 90 unique products to market which are now sold in over 1000 stores in over 50 countries. Their designs have won over 25 international design awards and are now part of permanent collections in many design museums.

What is your program known for? 

We are known for creating innovative, original designs which are functional and sometimes fun.

What is the next project or product that you would be most excited to explore?

We are currently working on a new sport water bottle. It has lots of challenges, but is an exciting project to be working on.

What are themes that you find yourself addressing over and over again? 

For us, it always comes down to genuine function and improving what is already out there.

How do #materialsmatter to you? 

Picking the right materials is essential to ensure the product functions as it was intended to and also that it lasts and wears well.

Who is doing work that you find inspiring? 

I love the designs from Konstantin Grcic and the Bouroullec brothers  

What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?

Always try and remember KISS, which stands for ‘keep it simple stupid’. The best designs are minimal and not overly complicated. This is not to say they can’t be complex, but should always be kept to the bare minimum.

What technology gets you excited? 

I think we are on the precipice of some major changes. I think it is highly likely that 3D printing and materials like Graphene will have a massive impact on our lives and it gets me excited that these have the potential to counter so many issues that we are now facing.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how did you deal with it?

Focus. Traditionally we have designed any product that we had an idea for. While
this was exciting on the design front, it made it very challenging on the business front, as we had to enter markets with just one product and our brand was never known for any one thing. We are now focusing on our Box Appetit food and drink on the go category with the aim of being known for this area. Making the switch both professionally and personally (changing the business and my own mindset) to think about one area, rather than just an individual concept has been a real challenge.

What’s something you want to get better at? 

Communication and blind passion. These go hand in hand when I am designing  a
new product. With communication, I get inpatient when explaining a new idea to
others. I can clearly see the idea in my mind and need to get better at realizing other
people can’t quite. 

What’s your go-to reference book?

I wouldn’t say I have one particular book, but I do read a lot of magazines and am forever taking pictures with my phone just to keep a visual library of cool stuff I see.


Coffee or tea? Both, but mainly tea

Droid or OS? OS

Kindle or book? Book

Sketch or build? Both

What are you reading right now? The Count of Monte Cristo… for the second time.