What has been the strangest project/object/request you've received? Some years ago for Lille 3000, which is a high-level international art event, I was asked to create the most abstract work of art I could. I created an eight-metre diameter UFO. I think that a UFO is, arguably, the most abstract thing that we as humans could know.
Who are the best kind of clients? Clients that are motivated by good values and who do not regard design only as a form of artificially induced consumerism. You have to have chemistry and feel an affinity with them. And you have to remember that you are giving them a service. It is not all about you.
What material do you most enjoy working with? I try to use materials that are most appropriate to the task. You are not going to make something large and portable out of ceramic, are you? I've used Alcantara in the piece for the tapestry room at the V&A. It [Alcantara] is made from polyurethane but feels like suede. We scanned the V&A's 15th-century tapestries with a program that allows you to recreate the colours as you can see them today - ones that you wouldn't be able to colour match otherwise, as they have faded and changed over time.
What is your process from first idea to final concept? I tend to study what a company or client has done but I don't slavishly borrow from it. In terms of actual process, it's a lot of sitting and staring. Darwin did it, Einstein did it. It's very necessary. Then I work in my private notebooks. No one is allowed to see them, so I don't have to satisfy anyone. I have people who support what I do in the studio, which helps to get consistency, but I am otherwise an individual - and more like an artist in how I work.
How challenging is it to make technology aesthetically pleasing? Technology tends to conjure things that are structural and functional - machines for living. I take inspiration from nature, which is self-sustaining and perpetual, and try to bring the two together. I see a connection between nature and adaptive, generative design.
What would you say is the biggest trend in industrial design at the moment? The current trends seem to be for high precision coupled with a refined perfection of materials. You see it a lot with cell phones and the new Range Rover. I try to remain balanced as far as this is concerned. Emotional intelligence is missing and this can often be better expressed through form. I'm working on the shape of some headphones right now. They are super interesting. You won't miss them.
Transmission is in the V&A's tapestry room from September 16 to October 9.