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In Conversation with Selek Design: Product Design Studio

Corrugated Pen Tray

We discussed their work and production practices with the product designer duo Hale and Erdem Selek, founders of Selek Design, which focuses on designing everyday objects.

We would like to know Selek Design, an Oregon-based product design studio. How did the process of coming together and establishing Selek develop?

We met while studying Industrial Design at Middle East Technical University during our university years. Over the years, we wanted to share the knowledge we gained while working in the industry and teaching in academia by designing new products. Having our studio gave us more freedom. Selek allowed us to concentrate on ideas and concepts independent of general trends. In this way, we think we were able to push the boundaries in some products, such as PlusMinus and Corrugated ruler.

Inspired by the ordinary and intuitive behaviors in daily life, can you tell us about the understanding and design process behind your products that aim to have quiet characters that go unnoticed?

Today, we have more and more products. Each product interacts with people through its shape, color, sound, or presence in the environment. Just like being able to express a lot using few words. When necessary, to make this interaction in a way that people will not feel, by using their subconscious and in a way that will not tire them. As designers, we cannot create something out of nothing. What we do is blend what we have seen and experienced since we were born. Therefore, in the design process, we assimilate the events and behaviors we observe, establish unprecedented relationships between them, give these behaviors a physical form called a product, and present them to people again.


“Our idea is to review and simplify this communication between humans and products, leaving only what is needed.”


How do you balance aesthetics and functionality in your product designs? Which factors lead you to find this balance?

We see aesthetics and functionality as a whole; the connection between them is not linear. What unites these concepts is efficiency. The human brain always looks for what is efficient and is satisfied when it does the most work with the least effort. On the other hand, products are the tools people use to meet their physiological and psychological needs. The shorter these products meet these needs, the more functional and aesthetic they are to people. For example, the more regular, harmonious, and consistent the elements that make up a product, the more accessible people can perceive it, place it in their brains, and remember it when necessary. So aesthetics is also a function. It responds to psychological needs, and we find that product aesthetic when it does this most efficiently. When designing products, ideas emerge in a way that intertwines functionality and aesthetics. Because the primary intention of our designs is to make people's lives easier. While designing the form of the product, we consider which psychological functions it responds to.

Which of your works has excited you the most regarding the design process and the final product?

We believe that the designer's main task is to respond to people's needs through products. In this context, we have observed that PlusMinus excites people more. For this reason, as a designer, we think we can be useful with this product. This product stands out because it takes the screwdriver, an object that has become a part of our daily lives, from a different perspective and takes the abstract relationship between people to another dimension. The necessity of storing the screwdriver after use was a detail that attracted our attention. When the aesthetic functions of a product are fulfilled correctly, the user will want to display it instead of storing it after use. Therefore, while designing the screwdriver, we treated it like jewelry.

PlusMinus Screwdrivers

What advice would you give to young designers and architects? What tips would you give those wanting to start a creative career?

It is essential to develop observation and empathy skills to identify real needs and design products that meet them. Developing the ability to offer different and creative solutions to these needs is also crucial. For this, we recommend them to be versatile, to develop themselves in other fields, and to be fed from various sources. In a world where it is easier to do business in many areas such as production, communication, and transportation, and where borders are expanding, we think the ability to take initiative and focus skills are becoming more critical.


“Especially in an environment where artificial intelligence imitates humans in many areas, empathy skills will become even more important and put the designer one step ahead.”


Can you tell us a little bit about the sources of inspiration behind your work?

The diversity of our design process depends on the variety of our inputs. The more different inputs we use, the more diverse and innovative outputs we can achieve. We try to have a different perspective even when our sources are similar. For example, in an environment where the same view inspires everyone, we try to look at the sight, at least from the reflection of the water.

Especially in the near future, artificial intelligence is expected to be effective in many areas, including design. For this reason, we need to be inspired and nourished by traditional offline sources that artificial intelligence has not yet reached.

Are you excited for the future, and what are your plans?

We want to combine our experience and what we have learned from our design processes to create a helpful reference book for those interested in design. We aim to move aesthetics from solely on personal abilities to a more scientific basis. In line with this goal, we review studies in neuroaesthetics and semantics and seek to transform them into design practice by adding our own experiences. In this way, we want to transfer the scientific foundations of design to future generations.


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