We’ve been inspired by Phillips Collection‘s outstanding creations and larger-than-life products for years. We use them in every project we work on, as you can always find a piece that not only fits the room, but completes the room. We absolutely adore the Phillips family and find ourselves spending hours in their showrooms, catching up on their latest travel adventures and of course being fascinated by what new materials they’ve managed to turn into the next must-have collection. Recently, we sat down with Jason Phillips, who not only oversees Phillips Collection’s sales and marketing departments but has also won several ARTS Awards for best Product Designer of the Year. We don’t know how this busy man does it! Enjoy!
Design Campus: Where do some of your inspirations come from?
Jason Phillips: We are inspired by nature and organic forms. Specifically, I am a maniac for the overall form, proportion and composition. I strive to find a balance. The materials and artisans we have access to is the icing on the cake. We are sometimes driven by a material, like this exotic onyx we came across in Indonesia. And sometimes the form takes shape first and we then think about material. Everything evolves from an idea or an emotion, then we make sure it is beautiful, functional and marketable—in that order!
Design Campus: Have you always wanted to do product design?
Jason Phillips: By degree I am an industrial designer, however I always knew my heart was in the family business. I have a zest for life and a curiosity in how things are put together. I also found my creative outlet in fine art in my childhood so I was always sketching, painting, sculpting and loved to take photographs. It was always about sharing my view of the world and seeing how that fit into the larger realm of creativity. While I like to explore some pretty unusual ideas, it is always with a sensitivity to the current market perception. That is what I consider design. It is art that needs to exist in the reality of our society. It needs to communicate everything art does, but with some logic and function behind it.
Design Campus: How important is traveling internationally to what you do?
Jason Phillips: Traveling is the lifeblood of our business. At our core we are intrepid world travelers, not only taking inspiration from the multitude of colors, sounds and societies but actually searching the world for unique artisans and materials and developing some amazing ideas through collaboration. We have never pretended we are the first or the best, we simply keep our eyes open for inspiration and then put our heads down and get something from paper to production.
Design Campus: What do some of those trips look like?
Jason Phillips: After spending many hours on the plane, and then many hours in the car, it is easy to get exhausted. We visit our artist workshops and larger scale factories to check on production and develop new ideas. We visit galleries and local markets to get a sense of the local trends. The days are long and hot, but always rewarding. As our business grows, so do our partners overseas. We have watched many-a-factory go from being a small operation to a substantial enterprise. Without getting too lofty, we have seen our most successful partners support an entire community with the business we generate together.
Design Campus: How would you describe Phillips Collection’s style?
Jason Phillips: Organic contemporary. Everything we design and bring to market has to have some sense that a hand has touched it. We thrive on nature and it’s beautiful imperfections. Whether we are working from found roots of long ago felled trees or recycling bicycle wheels that pile up all over Indonesia, we are looking to do something beautiful with unexpected materials, shapes, functions and applications. For instance, we took a massive root of a Lychee tree and cast it in resin, silver leafed it, and then mounted it to the wall as a sculpture. This is one of those happy accidents when we were really designing a coffee table but said, “How would that look on the wall?” We are known for being innovators with a touch of whimsy. I love our position in the market. We are so much more than what you see in a showroom or a catalog. We are a design engine with our own D.N.A and one of my goals in the marketing department is to communicate that to a global audience.
Design Campus: What is the design team like at Phillips Collection?
Jason Phillips: There are several of us here responsible for the designs that get produced at Phillips Collection. We work in-house as well as with designers from all around the world. We are hard-working and motivated, very excitable, but most importantly humble and without egos. We know that while we may each have talents individually, the sum of our parts is far bigger than any one person or design. We collaborate, we ask each other for advise, we solicit our customers for their opinions and we explore other markets and industries. We travel, we feast and we enjoy what we’re doing!
Design Campus: Why do you think Phillips Collection has grown into the leading home furnishings vendor in the industry?
Jason Phillips: There is a bit of magic that we can’t put our fingers on. We do what we love and we’ve found our sweet spot in the global marketplace. We take our responsibility very seriously, but we can also point out a dozen companies that we think do an amazing job. At a certain point we realized we weren’t trying to convince anyone that we were special…our customers started doing that on our behalf. I think that’s how companies become viral. It’s not so much about being marketing savvy but by establishing where you fit in the market. Why people should invest in your design. We want to create items that spark conversation. That’s actually our tagline 🙂
Design Campus: What are some challenges you’ve had to face as a product designer?
Jason Phillips: We are not such a large community. Certainly orders of magnitude smaller than—say—interior designers or architects. That makes for challenges in establishing industry and global networks which allow cross-pollination of ideas, sharing of new technologies and trends, continuing education and general camaraderie. It’s not all dreary, but it is important to note that product designers are a rare species and we are often under-acknowledged. I have been an active board member of the American Society of Furniture Designers and recently became President of the organization. We are addressing the exact issues I just mentioned head-on.
Design Campus: What does your home look like?
Jason Phillips: Mid-century with a sprinkling of Phillips Collection and Global Views. Love those guys!
Design Campus: What is your favorite product in the line right now?
Jason Phillips: I love our latest designs where we are taking exotic onyx from a special quarry in Indonesia and fashioning it into tables, sculptures, pedestals and so much more. Onyx is typically black, whereas, ours is white with beautiful striations of color. We have learned that onyx is really quite special. It has the hardness of granite and the translucency of marble. So now we have this material that is gorgeous in its own right but is also extremely durable. And with its translucency, we have been experimenting back-lighting these pieces to create a glowing collection. Expect that in early 2016!