Yves Béhar aims for “world firsts” with the new division Fusedigital

Yves Béhar aims for “world firsts” with the new division Fusedigital

The designer explains how this move expands on the multidisciplinary studio’s existing work, while a European headquarters strengthens its cultural connections beyond the US.

“It’s been very interesting to me that so much of our portfolio, people identify it as industrial design,” says Fuseproject founder and chief creative officer Yves Béhar of his multidisciplinary studio, following the announcement of its new digital division, Fusedigital.

“But actually, Samsung The Frame,” he says, pointing to the picture frame with TV looming behind him in the fake Zoom background, “which is now one of the best-selling TVs in the world, was really a digital experience project The whole concept of bringing digitized art, from big institutions into the living room, in a way that blends in with the room and disappears because of the light sensors…it was really a digital experience.”

“We are no strangers to digital innovation; we just feel that we can dig into it and that it can drive some of our projects forward,” she adds.

samsung frame

Fusedigital seeks to enhance Fuseproject’s ability to design digital experiences through the delivery of UI, UX and front-end development. The project was made possible after the strategic acquisition of the Lisbon-based digital agency, Mindshaker.

According to the study, the Fuseproject management team found Mindshaker a better fit after meeting with various digital design companies in Portugal and Spain.

Béhar says that education and design skills in Portugal are very high “in all areas, from industrial to digital design,” but that it was also a matter of cultural fit.

He describes how the region’s “creative spirit” and “open mindset” lead to innovative ideas, and of Mindshaker itself, he says: “We’ve been working together for a while, the quality of your work and the quality of your culture it was very attractive to us.

Yves Béhar photographed on the Fusedigital website

“We really felt a strong connection to that team,” he says. “The two founders, João Almeida and Luís Correia, are great partners.”

Meanwhile, its beachside location in Caparica, adjacent to Lisbon, provides another parallel between the west coast of the US and the “west coast of Europe.” “His office, when you walk in, is full of surfboards from all the staff. They go surfing every day after work,” she says.

The second aspect of the expansion is to provide a European headquarters, the first for Fuseproject outside of the United States.

“Traditionally, we have done about 50% of our work outside of the United States and have had long-term relationships with companies in Europe,” Béhar says. He refers to his own Swiss heritage and explains that Thomas Moeller, director of experience design for the Fusedigital division, is already based in London.

Being based in Europe underscores the “global perspective” of the studio, while also speaking to some of the important areas for Fuseproject, such as healthcare.

“In Europe, the context can be quite different,” says Béhar. “Obviously, with national health care,” and the fact that “health, health care and well-being are embedded very differently in European culture,” he says, “I feel like it somehow allows Europe to moving faster in those fields of innovation and care, and in developing better and better designed ways of caring for people.”

Forme Life Immersive Home Gym Experience

On the question of what Fusedigital can bring to the sector, Béhar is unequivocal. “A lot of the biggest players in the digital space tend to really come from tech, and they tend to be large outsourced groups that are more driven by the tech and back-end mindset,” he says. “For us, what we feel is we need to be design-driven, we need to be user-experience-driven, in a humanistic way, and we’re driven by innovation. And I think those qualities are rarely at the center of those practices.”

“We’ve been practicing digital, UI, UX design for over fifteen years,” he says, noting the August smart lock app and platform, as well as Samsung’s The Frame platform and interface, “but we never had the ability to get in fully running with content and capabilities development.”

Swissnex website and brand

The projects that are already underway are distributed in transport; health care; “a cultural project that celebrates museums, art and artists in a digital environment”; a sustainability engagement platform that “provides reinforcement, data, and rewards for sustainable behavior”; as well as a “solar and robotics deployment” project.

“We will continue to work on things that are new to the world, and sometimes world firsts, together with this group,” he says. “Everything we do tends to have a very strong innovation bias, a very strong, world-first opportunity, and we feel that the quality of design thinking and innovation that we bring to it is truly unique in the field.”

In terms of long-term goals, Béhar says that Fuseproject has always been about “the ability of design to be the link between new technologies, new possibilities and the incredible needs that we have in the world.”

“Over the years, we’ve really focused on areas where we felt design had a huge role to play.” Speaking of his interest in the environment and sustainability, he says, “It’s not that we haven’t been shouting it to the rooftops for the last fifteen years, but I think it will accelerate dramatically in the next ten years. And we’ve seen a lot more interest in areas like consumer engagement, sustainability, carbon capture, solar and electric power, and deployment.”

August smart lock

Béhar will split his time between Lisbon and San Francisco, just for longer periods than in previous years.

As for the broader team, there is also a digital team with UX and UI capabilities in San Francisco. “That team communicates daily about the projects we are sharing, but there is a strong desire for the California team to spend time in Portugal as well, and vice versa. We now have direct flights between Lisbon and San Francisco, so it actually makes it very easy.”

All images courtesy of Fuseproject.

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