Interview with designer James Hoefler (JH), regarding views on design, and for the award-winning design Xoomrooms Modular Wall System.

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Interview with James Hoefler at Tuesday 15th of April 2014: DI: What is the main principle, idea and inspiration behind your design?
JH : The main principle is simple, that we all should be able to quickly, easily, and creatively reshape our living spaces to best suit our needs at the time.

DI: What has been your main focus in designing this work? Especially what did you want to achieve?
JH : Something simple to use, nice to look at, functional in practice, and reusable in a variety of different configurations, with the user creativity as the driving force.

DI: What are your future plans for this award winning design?
JH : There is still much to do in order to bring this product to a mass market audience. My work in the coming months will be finding the right way to do that.

DI: How long did it take you to design this particular concept?
JH : I have been working on this idea for about two and a half years.

DI: Why did you design this particular concept? Was this design commissioned or did you decide to pursuit an inspiration?
JH : I designed the product to help my daughters sublet a portion of their apartment. It is a common problem in large cities where individuals find rent to much to afford on one or two salaries. I wanted to give my daughters afford rent in a nice part of the city close to public transportation, and XoomRooms was able to do just that.

DI: Is your design being produced or used by another company, or do you plan to sell or lease the production rights or do you intent to produce your work yourself?
JH : My hope is to see the intellectual property, or to license its use, or to partner with someone who has the skills, connections, drive, and capital to help me bring this idea to market.

DI: What made you design this particular type of work?
JH : There are several features of the XoomRooms design that help make it work. First, it can be set up in an infinite variety of arrangements. Second, anyone can do it. Third, it is easy to take up, take down, and store when not in use.

DI: Where there any other designs and/or designers that helped the influence the design of your work?
JH : I have to say I can not identify particular designers, but the design aesthetic in much of the product line at IKEA is pretty inspirational to me. I almost never go into and IKEA without being inspired about one thing or another.

DI: Who is the target customer for his design?
JH : The typical IKEA customer is my target. Someone who likes the clean lines and the sensible design. The customer should also be someone who does not mind, and maybe even likes putting things together.

DI: What sets this design apart from other similar or resembling concepts?
JH : The only things that vaguely resemble XoomRooms are portable trifold screens which are not at all sturdy or durable, and offer very little in the way of real privacy. At the other end of the spectrum are temporary pressurized walls, which are sturdy, but complicated and expensive to erect and illegal in may places.

DI: How did you come up with the name for this design? What does it mean?
JH : I brainstormed with friends on literally dozens of different names, but XoomRooms struck a chord. The product is about rooms, and the XOOM, pronounced ZOOM, suggests speed, and captures the idea of quick setup and take down.

DI: Which design tools did you use when you were working on this project?
JH : I mostly used prototypes. I love to draw, but I never put much stock in anything until I actually build a prototype.

DI: What is the most unique aspect of your design?
JH : ANYONE can put this together and take it down. It is quite substantial and can completely change the character of someone’s living space. But it costs very little to buy, and takes not special expertise to assemble.

DI: Who did you collaborate with for this design? Did you work with people with technical / specialized skills?
JH : I work mostly by myself, but took all the good feedback I go from a variety of places, including Don O’Hora at Northway Industries, very much to heart.

DI: What is the role of technology in this particular design?
JH : XoomRooms is very low on the technology scale. It is mostly nuts and bolts, literally.

DI: Is your design influenced by data or analytical research in any way? What kind of research did you conduct for making this design?
JH : Most opt the research I did was searching the internet and visiting trade shows. Attending Interzum in Cologne (as a guest of my good friends at Hafele America) in the spring of 2013 was really quite inspirational and key to helping me get to where I am today.

DI: What are some of the challenges you faced during the design/realization of your concept?
JH : There were no end of the challenges, but key was to make something that was sturdy and looked good, was easy to assemble, and could withstand may assembly disassembly cycles without failing.

DI: How did you decide to submit your design to an international design competition?
JH : I was searching for ways to get my idea out there into the public realm so that it would be easier to sell and find partners.

DI: What did you learn or how did you improve yourself during the designing of this work?
JH : I learned patience and the importance of listening closely to and seeking our critical feedback. I also learned how important it is to prototype ones ideas. You do not really know anything about how things will work until you actually build it.

DI: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
JH : I just wanted to acknowledge the help and support that I got from folks at Northway Industries (Middleburg, PA), Hafele American (Archdale, NC), Dickinson College (Carlisle, PA), and the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (Copenhagen, DK). Without out their help, advice, support, and encouragement, I would not be where I am today.