Philippe Starck on Design, Invention, and Branding: Recession Advice

I recently sat down with Philippe Starck, one of the world’s most well-known designers, to talk about the connection between design—so often misunderstood as mere cosmetic flourish—and innovation. He was at New York’s SoHo House promoting his new, $1,500 Zikmu speakers, which he created with French electronics maker Parrot. You might ask, why should we care about high-end wireless speakers during a recession? Well, if you watch Monsieur Starck, you’ll see he has some valuable lessons for businesses looking to create attractive new products during harsh economic times. We discussed the relationship between engineering and elegant design and how to keep a brand consistent when creating both high-end and low-end product lines (as Starck once designed for Target).

First, take a look at the ultra-sleek speakers (best appreciated in a decent-sized photo), before watching Starck speak, below:

The same day I sat down with Starck, I also spoke with Henri Seydoux, founder and CEO of Parrot, on why his company is continuing to pursue collaborations with outside, high-end designers during the global financial downturn.

He had wise advice: "Design is also usage," he said. "Now we are working on wireless devices in homes. They should be as simple, elegant, and evident to use as furniture. No one has to ask how a chair works. This is why design is important." And collaborating with designers with long traditions of successful and notable businesses in the area of furniture and interior design, such as Starck, are, to Seydoux, really a form of open innovation.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.