Charles O. Job is an architect, teacher and product designer. He designs things that he himself likes and then looks for a collaboration partner to produce and market it. With his Flip Desk, he ended up at Vij5. The seed for this was actually planted during the lockdown. At Dutch Design Week 2022, this folding workstation will be officially launched because it fits perfectly with the theme of 'small living'.
Text: Daniëlle van de Haterd (Steel Wire Text Writer)
Photography: Vij5 & Riccardo Schalcher
Charles grew up in Lagos, then the capital of Nigeria, and knows no better than to make his own toys from items he found. Creativity was a natural part of his life.
'You couldn't go to a store in Nigeria and pick something out, you had to make it yourself. This taught me from an early age to imagine what I could make from pre-existing objects. As a designer, you have to have imagination; the basis for that lies in my youth.'
"As a designer, you have to have imagination; the basis for that lies in my youth."Charles O. Job
Living around the world
Because of his father's work, Charles moved to London at 15. He went to high school in Scotland and studied "architecture and urban design" at Oxford Brooks University before settling down in Switzerland. If it were up to him, this would be his forever-home.
'I can really enjoy the lively hustle and bustle of Lagos and London, but I also really like the peace and quiet in Zurich. I love both and could live in both places. My wife is Swiss and I have two children here. Besides, Zurich is also nice and central in Europe, I can travel very easily from there. This is where I will stay.'
Becoming a product designer
That Charles, who trained as an architect, eventually became a product designer, came about organically. Actually mostly by coincidence. 'When I had just come to Switzerland, I didn't speak German. I was looking for work and to pass the time I entered design competitions. Then I realized I was pretty good at it because I won a lot of prizes. It felt like it should have been that way, which is why I've continued to design ever since.'
Charles as a teacher
In addition to being an architect and product designer, Charles is also a lecturer. He teaches "architecture design theory". 'I really like teaching students to look outside the box. I encourage them to think for themselves, they get to learn to think creatively and independently; out of the box.'
Design in complete freedom
In his studio in Zurich, Charles creates his product designs which he sells to a variety of companies. He chooses to work in complete freedom. Charles designs what he wants and looks for companies that like to produce and sell it.
In attracting the right companies, Charles follows two tracks. Some he has worked with for 20 years, but in addition, he is always looking for young partners who are new to him. 'I like to look for people who are doing refreshing, interesting things.'
"I like to look for people doing refreshing, interesting things," he said.Charles O. Job
Quiet, minimalist, functional
A characteristic of his designs is that they are not fashion-forward. 'I keep my products very calm, minimalist, and functional. I don't want them to be thrown away after five years because they no longer fit the zeitgeist. My designs are not for a specific audience, but for all people who like products that don't scream at you. For the producers, it's also nice that I work minimalistic because it means it costs very little in materials to make something that looks great.'
"I don't want my products to be thrown away after five years because they no longer fit the zeitgeist."Charles O. Job
In touch with Vij5
That this Nigerian world traveler went to work with the Dutch design label Vij5 he himself calls a funny story. During the lockdown, he was not allowed to travel. So he had to find suitable partners in other ways to produce and market his designs.
'I traveled a lot and regularly visited places like Milan and Cologne, that way I met people. Because of the lockdown that was no longer possible and I had to rely on the Internet. Through Instagram, I came across Vij5 and I was attracted to what they do. I contacted them and told them I wanted to work together.'
Arjan and Anieke suggested that Charles send them some information, and he grabbed that offer with both hands. 'I sent them about 20 drawings, I really wanted to get on board because my style fits what they do.'
Flip Desk Proofs
'My drawing of the Flip Desk stood out to Arjan and Anieke as an item that could fit into the Vij5 collection, but at the same time, they were somewhat skeptical. They were not yet convinced that it could work. It was up to me to prove that the structure was sound. I made a prototype, then they were persuaded and we could get to work.'
Everything is about space
That Charles is originally an architect is reflected in his designs for interior items. For him, everything is about space. He sees an object as a 'tool' to make the space more comfortable. It is not hard to guess that his designs are very simple in form, they should not dominate the space. 'Space is what people live in, objects in that space are just there to make your life simpler.'
"Space is what people live in, objects in that space are just there to make your life simpler."Charles O. Job
Nigerian product designers
You might think that many children who grew up in an environment like Charles' have translated their life lessons into a career as a designer. Yet this is only something of recent years. 'I actually know very few Nigerian designers and that is mainly because the problems in the country are much more fundamental. Interior design is luxury, so for most, the focus is not there.'
Yet there now seems to be a change in the way product design is viewed in Nigeria. 'It is increasingly seen as an industry in which there is money to be made. Soon there will even be a Design Week in Lagos; I am exhibiting some of my products there. There is an awakening movement going on.'
From kitchen scales to Flip Desk
The Flip Desk had been on Charles' mind for a while before it became a real product. 'We had a vacation home in the Swiss mountains. There was a kitchen scale hanging on the wall, which I found particularly beautiful in terms of design and functionality. I wanted to apply this system to a piece of furniture. Because of the corona lockdown, people had to work at home. This gave my idea form and the wall-mounted kitchen scale was translated into a workstation; the Flip Desk.'
Collaboration with Vij5
In collaboration with Vij5 , the Flip Desk became a manufacturable item; it is available in white, green and pink. Charles sees collaborating with Vij5 as organic. 'What appeals to me is their relaxed attitude. They take what they do very seriously; they spend a lot of time with the designer. The end product is really something that is perfect for both of them.'