Interview with designer Miguel Pinto Félix (MP), regarding views on design, and for the award-winning design Oli An Olive Bowl.

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Interview with Miguel Pinto Félix at Tuesday 26th of April 2016: DI: What is the main principle, idea and inspiration behind your design?
MP : I was inspired by the fruit, the olive, and redrew it, reinterpreting the shape to make it a design object, which means that it must have a practical and aesthetic function.

DI: What has been your main focus in designing this work? Especially what did you want to achieve?
MP : The objective was to create an olive bowl that would enhance the olive, so the shape itself, and also stop the pits spoiling the aesthetic aspect of the item. That was the idea behind Oli®.

DI: What are your future plans for this award winning design?
MP : Make the most of what the competition offers in terms of dissemination, promotion and commercial contacts so that Oli® reaches as many people as possible.

DI: How long did it take you to design this particular concept?
MP : I made the first sketches between 2009 and 2011. Constrained by economic factors and by other opportunities arising within my workflow as a designer, it was only possible to produce and commercialise Oli® in 2015.

DI: Why did you design this particular concept? Was this design commissioned or did you decide to pursuit an inspiration?
MP : This object was conceived by me and for me as a “client”. I have always thought that the pits get in the way of people who like eating olives and that they could be concealed!

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?
MP : Currently Oli® is commercialised through my studio (MPFXdesign), making use of the company structure, for we sell directly, online and also to third parties who are our partners. The idea of assigning the commercialisation rights for Oli® has always existed, and indeed I see this award as an opportunity for this to happen.

DI: What made you design this particular type of work?
MP : Portugal has great experience in making porcelain and the fact that we have a highly specialised industry strongly encourages designers to think up objects that can be quality mass produced industrially.

DI: Where there any other designs and/or designers that helped the influence the design of your work?
MP : There is a general influence, I believe, and I particularly like to see design applied to everyday objects.

DI: Who is the target customer for his design?
MP : All those who like olives but also enjoy design objects as an adjunct to tableware.

DI: What sets this design apart from other similar or resembling concepts?
MP : Its minimalism and the consequent impact of the form together with what at first sight is an imperceptible function: these are the characteristics that distinguish this object from others.

DI: How did you come up with the name for this design? What does it mean?
MP : The name Oli® comes from the Latin word “olea”, meaning olive and is a diminutive form of the fruit of the olive tree, characteristically curvilinear and feminine. It conveys grace and lightness, joy and sonority, making it easy to comprehend in other countries.

DI: Which design tools did you use when you were working on this project?
MP : When developing my projects I always start with the design, with many draft sketches in fact, and two-dimensional attempts that I want to see in three dimensions. Then the model of the piece is paper-mounted, and then I used 3D software, after which a 3D model is made.

DI: What is the most unique aspect of your design?
MP : Minimalism.

DI: Who did you collaborate with for this design? Did you work with people with technical / specialized skills?
MP : Yes, I did, during the design optimisation process the Brazilian designer Paula Strumer worked on the project. During pre-production the technical development and 3D production were carried out by Victor Oliveira from the I&D department of design and development at Costa Verde S.A., where Oli® is made.

DI: What is the role of technology in this particular design?
MP : OLI is produced by filling both plaster moulds with slip clay. This is the oldest ceramic-making process. Initially I discussed the original designs with Victor Oliveira, I&D department of design and development at Costa Verde S.A., to adapt them to the manufacturing process. We also produced virtual images and quickly realised that we would have to alter some of the final design details. A 3D model was then made. This is about 15% larger than the final product and was produced on a 3D printer which produced a first plaster mould which in turn served to make the matrix mould. The production moulds, also made of plaster, were made using the matrix.

DI: Is your design influenced by data or analytical research in any way? What kind of research did you conduct for making this design?
MP : My research was based firstly on a study of existing objects on the market having a similar function and then I analysed people’s behaviour as they ate olives in different situations and environments.

DI: What are some of the challenges you faced during the design/realization of your concept?
MP : The issue of capacity was crucial for this factor defines the volumetry of the item. On the other hand ensuring the exact fit of the two parts that define Oli® was a technical challenge which was overcome thanks to the know-how and professionalism of Victor Oliveira, I&D department of design and development at Costa Verde S.A., where Oli® is manufactured.

DI: How did you decide to submit your design to an international design competition?
MP : The fact that I was able to actually make an object imagined, designed and produced by me, that I met all the targets set for the project, and also that all the people who have so far seen and/ or bought Oli® were surprised and delighted, made me realise that it would be an advantage to enter into a competition as a sort of international test for Oli®.

DI: What did you learn or how did you improve yourself during the designing of this work?
MP : This is the third porcelain project designed and produced by me. When it comes to porcelain I have been learning technically how to solve some of the problems and this helps me anticipate solutions. As for the drawing and its three-dimensional form, what has most surprised me is the difficulty encountered in optimising formats and making them user-friendly.

DI: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
MP : Yes, perhaps because of this award the time has come to reflect on the future of Oli® in terms of its commercialisation and dissemination. I would like as many people as possible to enjoy Oli® and naturally the time has come to move forward with other projects that are still only on paper!