Our designer Jenny Lechner on a more sustainable color palette and the art of removing things.
Hello Jenny! What do you do?
I’m a CMF and industrial designer. CMF means color, material and finish. I work on color strategy, trend analysis and the tactile side of product design.
Is less more?
That’s always been the truth here at Urbanears. Our Scandinavian and minimalist design legacy rests on that belief. And it rings even more true in 2021 as we’re dedicating ourselves to making fully circular products. Simply put, materials with less layers make for more sustainable products. But then there’s the other aspect — since an austere and simple design is less likely to fall out of fashion, the end product is more likely to be used for a longer period of time.
But Yngwie Malmsteen argues that more is more?
I think that applies to guitar solos. Of course the tactile obsessive in me sometimes feels the urge to add a layer of rubber or polish to our product for tactile reasons, but since that would mean that the product will be very hard to recycle in the future — I keep my inner Yngwie back.
So your job is to remove things?
That’s a big part of my job now. How can we get rid of a layer while still giving the product a surface and texture that we want? It has to look good in all light conditions, and at the same time it can’t be vulnerable to scratches. One of our solutions has been to integrate the texture into the tool that’s shaping the case. A minimalist approach to material sometimes requires a lot from the machines that make the product, and from us as designers of course. That applies to color strategy as well.
What does color have to do with sustainability?
When you’re making colorful products, I’d say a lot. Since we don’t want to add unsustainable color coatings, we need to source recycled, and well-sorted plastic that is as close to white as possible to allow us to add the pigment we want to get. That means we really must think ahead and have a long-term strategy. We also can’t use too many product colors since we’re looking to not get any leftover material.
Your colors are going in a more somber direction?
Well slightly, but again it’s twofold; it’s about the recycled material but it’s also because we want the products to last longer from a consumer point of view. Basically, we’re looking for exciting nuances that people won’t grow tired of.
But aren’t those poppy colors your company’s trademark?
Our color selection has definitely been one of our trademarks. Unique colors have provided our products with lots of personality. But if we were the best in the business at colors before, I think we’ll be the best at sustainable colors moving forward.
I ALSO LOVE
Emma Fridsell asked me to ask you to make satsuma orange headphones.
Well I also love satsuma orange.
She also wanted them to have a fake furry texture.
Then sorry Emma, it’s not gonna happen for at least a year. Like I said, our color and material strategies are super long-term.
What’s the next milestone for you guys then, color-wise?
As we’re finding new sources of recycled materials that are better sorted color-wise, we’ll be able to advance both the sustainability and the look of our products. We’re also following the development of bioplastics — plastics made from renewable sources, like cellulosa. But there are lots of logistical and recyclability challenges we need to solve, beyond the colors.
For the upcoming product launch, which color is your favorite?
Probably the one called ‘Iced Lilac’, it’s a very light grayish purple that is our “white with a twist”.