An Interview With Royi Frame
Royi Frame is cofounder of Spiral Product Design, with studios in London and New Delhi. Growing up in South Africa Royi studied Mechanical Engineering. This was followed by a postgraduate in Product Design at Central St Martins in London. Royi started work with international Design Consultants Fitch RS followed by a number of years with the visionary UK home furnishing retailer Habitat as well as the William Sonoma group in San Francisco. His position gave him the opportunity to design with manufacturers from all over the world.
In 1994, Royi set up Spiral, fusing the roles of both a Design Consultancy and Buying Agent, and offering something unique in the industry. “We manage the entire process from concept, design, and production through to delivery.”
Spiral works closely with their prestigious Chicago clients, Crate & Barrel, CB2 and The Land of Nod, developing and delivering products from Furniture, Lighting, Textiles and Decorative accessories.
How did you get into your field?
I was fortunate to have a position at Habitat in London at a time when it set up one of the first dynamic in-house design studios, developing exclusive product for the home. For the first time a home retailer was not only sourcing product, but designing entire ranges from trend direction through to the store.
It taught me to understand the market, not to be possessive and precious about product. It was an exciting time of rapid innovation, an introduction to India and the possibilities (potential) of creating product there.
What influences your work?
My background in mechanical engineering and this coupled with my love for hand crafted product have both influenced my design work.
Whilst technically we are always exploring the possibilities of production and particularly materials, I have always tried to incorporate elements of hand crafted techniques. We relate to product far more when the hand of the maker shows through.
What role does design play in your work?
Design is 50% of our business and it is the DNA at the core of our identity.
Over the years I have instilled and shared a passion for design within our teams, our clients, and also stimulated the factories to participate in the process.
Keeping fresh and creating innovative designs has been key to our ability to bring new product to our clients season after season.
What is one of the biggest challenges in your field?
India offers the unique combination of ancient and modern hand crafted skills as well as the precision of industrial processes. Striking a balance between these two, whilst maintaining the former and pushing the boundaries of the latter is our biggest challenge.
Our extensive experience in the manufacturing capabilities of the factories we work with gives us a framework of possibilities. We strive for perfection and consistency, and we also layer this with a hand touch quality, which can ultimately give the product "soul".
How do you personally view design and it’s role in our lives today?
We are all more sensitive to the inability of the world to sustain the current rate of consumption. As customers we are more discerning and particular about the environmental impact of objects.
Design has the ability to create product in an ecologically sustainable and socially responsible manner. As designers we are aware of this and need to challenge the decisions we make.
Does location play a role in your work, why?
I’m an urban being, and whilst I love the countryside, I spend most of my time in London and Delhi. I am constantly stimulated by the cultural interaction and creativity of these cosmopolitan cities. What has always fascinated me is working within diverse cultures and locations and not just visiting them. Both cities have wonderful antique markets as well as a buzzing contemporary design scene.
What do you see as the future of retail?
On a global platform the growth of retailing in the emerging economies of China, Brazil and India is fascinating. As designers we need to engage these regions not only as sources of production, but as future retail markets which we will need to understand culturally.
As retail becomes a more sophisticated virtual theatre, goods and services are packaged together and sold globally through multiple channels. What is interesting is not just the larger corporate retail brands going global, but even the smallest local retailer who has access to the world (via the likes of ETSY).
What do you see the future of local manufacturing to be?
There is a definite resurgence in the UK to reinvigorate what is left of our manufacturing base. “Local “ is the buzz word, whether it's farmers markets, or artisan batch production. In our world of home furnishing product the future is flexibility, small production runs, customization and innovation.
How do you see design contributing to the economy?
Great design stimulates economies, as proven by Jonathan Ive.
What advice would you give to young designers?
Immerse yourself right from the start in how things will be made, at what cost, by who and where ?
Think of emerging global markets, not necessarily as production bases, but as a dynamic future for selling.
What is a favorite object you own?
Indian body scrub: circa 1850, at a time when many traditional houses in India did not have internal doors. This crafted brass body scrub has a bell cage to alert others and ensure privacy in the bathroom.
Set of Pablo CB2 side tables designed for CB2, elegant, colorful and affordable.