We recently grabbed a coffee with Martin Keen. We wanted to hear what the Focal Founder has in mind for 2018, but the conversation took a few twists and turns along the way – read on!
Focal Upright: You are originally from England. How has that shaped you? Has that had any impact on who you are as an industrial designer?
Martin Keen: I’m kind of a stranger in a strange land so I’m sort of accustomed to not exactly blending in. The product I design seem to reflect that.
FU: How have you changed as a designer since you began your career in the 90s?
MK: I have stopped wearing ties.
FU: Who or what inspires you?
MK: I’m inspired by the timelessness of some really functional things, like a fulcrum, or a pencil. I love structures in nature, like the pattern in a leaf or a flower. Have you looked at and orchid? The wings of an insect?
FU: What’s the most unexpected situation where you could see upright seats come in handy?
MK: We’ve prototyped a wearable “seat” for manufacturing that is odd but makes perfect sense
FU: What has changed in office chairs since you launched Focal?
MK: I’m following in the footsteps of Peter Opsvik and other great designers who understood the problems with chairs. When we launched Focal, we were pretty unusual but now there are a lot more companies with leaning or perching seat options. We’ve helped create a new market category that is here to stay.
FU: What is one thing you wish you had known as a young designer starting out?
MK: You have to be patient and a good observer. Take the time to watch, listen, and learn.
FU: Can you share any gossip on new Focal products you are working on?
MK: I’m really excited about the seats and desks for the education market. If we can change the sedentary sitting habit before it even starts, we can impact things like obesity and maybe improve educational outcomes.
FU: Are you a cat person, a dog person, or none of the above?
MK: Dogs! I learn compassion and true selfless dedication from my dogs.
FU: Night Owl or Early Bird?
MK: Yes! I love getting up early and I love staying up late. I probably don’t sleep enough.