Yonoh is a multidisciplinary, creative studio, founded in 2006 in Valencia by industrial designers Alex Selma and Clara del Portillo. Having built up their careers as individuals, they later joined forces, bringing together their different skills to set up this studio. The objects they create are simple, functional and unique, their designs modern and understated. Yet their practical, pared-down and informal pieces are also innovative and original.
The studio has undertaken projects for well-known lighting and furniture firms, including Sancal, Capdell, Lzf lamps and Inclass. This has seen Yonoh win prestigious, international design prizes, such as the Red Dot Design Award, IF Design Award, Good Design and Wallpaper* Design Award.
Selma talks to us about the studio and its projects in a year that sees it celebrate its 10th anniversary.
Interiors From Spain: ‘Design for Living’ and ‘Making Design True’ are some of the slogans which appear in your presentation video and catalogue. Do these define your business ethos?
Yonoh: Yes, these two slogans do define our studio. We work hard to create user-friendly, easily understandable designs — useful products that enhance the everyday lives of the user, both in aesthetic and functional terms… We like to investigate projects thoroughly until we’ve found the right solution for them.
Interiors From Spain: You describe yourselves as a multidisciplinary studio, but which fields do you feel most at home working in?
Yonoh: Our forte has always been industrial design — well, that’s our background, the area we feel most comfortable in. We like to involve ourselves in a design from its conception to completion and collaborate with a company as artistic directors, generating graphic material in order to launch a product in the most appropriate way possible. We’re always ready to take on new challenges — whether it’s interior design or events, and why not?
Interiors From Spain: How would you describe your type of design? What are your main inspirations?
Yonoh: Our design is typically sober, simple and elegant and sometimes includes childlike, fun touches. We’re inspired by everything that surrounds us: it could be travelling, a book, a feeling or the internet. When you’ve been designing as long as we have, you no longer have a single, cohesive work methodology. But the starting point for us is always to find out our client’s precise needs and, from there, research the market and harness our know-how to develop a project we feel proud of and that’s tailor-made to our client’s requirements.
Interiors From Spain: What advice would you give young designers who are talented but have little business experience? How should they approach their business and their relationship with their workshop? What mistakes should they avoid?
Yonoh: At Yonoh, we’ve never been hugely commercial. We’ve always wanted to be recognised for our work. It’s possibly a slow way of working but it’s a solid approach. It’s not the only route open to us. In order for a studio to get far, it needs to try many different avenues, all equally valid. The one common thread in our work is its high quality and the tenacity and enthusiasm with which we carry it out. In the end, projects always develop successfully with companies with which you have a good rapport. It’s the affinity felt between designer and company which makes a project turn out to be special. When this partnership goes swimmingly, it shows in the final design. As for your question about mistakes, we believe it’s good to make mistakes in order to learn how to solve them. At the end of the day, what we do is to find solutions to problems. We believe a good a piece of advice for a studio is to employ a mix of personalities, so that people can learn things from each other — and make the resulting work is better. What’s more, we’ve always felt that one studio member should have nothing to do with design and be responsible for running the studio smoothly.
Interiors From Spain: You took part in the ‘Diseño al Plato’ exhibition, which fused the handcrafted, gastronomy and design. What do you think about this combination of haute cuisine and industrial design?
Yonoh: Haute cuisine always explores new ways of creating dishes, alternatives, flavours, processes… In essence, design and haute cuisine are two fields in which creativity is the starting point. What’s more, this type of cuisine requires new utensils and containers that somehow help the chef to achieve what he or she is looking for. Design and haute cuisines are bedfellows and give rise to a multitude of collaborations and interventions which are usually interesting.
Interiors From Spain: Yonoh is 10 years old this year. Congratulations! Over this period of time, you’ve won some very prestigious international prizes. What’s the secret of your success?
Yonoh: Simply doing what you want to do. When you do, you’re able to expend more energy and passion in achieving things which are not only good but which have that special ingredient that makes them stand out from the rest. Our ability to bring this level of dedication to every project is what has led to a lot of our work — be it in fields we know a lot about or in disciplines new to us — win prizes.
Interiors From Spain: Your studio participated in technical conferences organised by ICEX in China and Japan. What was that like? Have you had more experience of working outside Spain?
Yonoh: The opportunity ICEX gives us to showcase our work in other countries is great for us. The possibility of getting to know other cultures and for them to find out about what we do in Spain is not only enriching but often leads to very interesting collaborations. In our case, our trip to China didn’t bring immediate business benefits, but did open doors for us, so that in a few years’ time we’ll be able to begin to collaborate with companies in the country. We’re currently working with Chinese businesses that are committed to good design. We’ve also taken part in conferences organised by ICEX in Japan, where we gave talks and exhibited some of our projects. Japan is an amazing country, and our trip there inspired our Sumo collection of sofas and armchairs for Sancal and Chou light for LZF Lamps — two of our most distinctive projects. Today, we undertake most of our work outside Spain, in such countries as Australia, China, the Czech Republic, Italy, the UK, Belgium and Denmark.
Interiors From Spain: Tell us about your new projects. Are you currently working on any outside Spain?
Yonoh: This should be a good year for us: we’ve started launching a new bathroom furniture collection for L’Antic Colonial, part of the Porcelanosa group, and a new collection of tables by the Czech company, Ton. What’s more, we’re collaborating with some highly relevant Spanish and international firms, which we’ll be able to reveal more about soon at the Milan and Stockholm furniture fairs, where we’ll be unveiling new products.