Seven Questions for Yves Behar

this is yves behar.jpgIt’s Valentine’s Day! You may have spent the morning attempting to devise a gentle way to inform your spouse/officemate/favorite store clerk that red and pink aren’t two colors that look better together (yes, even today), but we can’t get our mind off of another interesting V-Day combination: designer Yves Behar and condoms.

[pregnant pause for effect]

Behar, you see, has just designed the packaging and dispenser for the new New York City condom, distributed gratis by the city’s department of health. Lovely pictures of all of that will follow this post, but first, our little Valentine’s Day gift to you, UnBeige readers: our Seven Questions for the man himself, Yves Behar. Below he tells us about why a condom dispenser is like a fire hydrant, his sartorial preferences, and spending time with Marvin Gaye. [cue “Sexual Healing”]

1. You’ve just designed a new package and dispenser for the city of New York’s “NYC Condoms.” Can you tell us about how you approached the project and the resulting designs?
We started working with the city of NY in early 2007 when they realized how much positive impact design could have on this important health initiative. For me, designing a condom dispenser for free NYC branded condoms is like designing a fire hydrant: it needs to be immediately recognizable, suggest condom use without being preachy, be a positive experience, and be able to live in tough environments (such as bars, homeless shelters, and health clinics) and also live in high-end restaurants and hotels.

By using a single external hydro-formed cover that is condom container, dispenser opening, and visual signage, the experience and visual impact is simple and iconic. The shape is reminiscent of a condom creating a relief in a surface (like a condom in a wallet) referencing the item inside, but without being too literal. This slight abstraction makes it clear: you get a condom there, it’s friendly and smiling back at you. From a practical standpoint, the smooth surface is easy to clean, it is gravity-fed from the top for easy refills (the city of NY will refill for free), and it is fast to install (also for free).

2. Speaking of New York, Fashion Week just ended in the city. Do you have any favorite fashion houses/designers? If we could peek in your closet, what would we see?
Besides a few skeletons, you will find small favorite local labels such as Nice Collective and Generic Man, as well as the art-design world uniformer Margiela and Costume National, and cheap Target T’s.

3. You’ve designed everything from shoes and laptops to magazines and chandeliers. What’s something that you haven’t yet designed but would like to?
This is a question I get asked a lot…I am afraid to answer it because if I say airplane and hotel, maybe the next funny/crazy condom project won’t come to me. In fact, if anything we specialize in firsts, diverse, unexpected projects.

4. Last film you saw?
There Will Be Blood, and (you will laugh) Marvin Gaye Live at Montreux in 1980.

5. Last book you read?
Red by Orhan Pamuk

6. Best/most memorable design-related encounter?
So many…I am lucky to be able to meet some incredible thinkers and creatives, and to do it often.

7. Proudest design moment?
Everytime someone feels smart with one of our ideas…