How I Got Here: Designer Sam Hecht

Sam Hecht has had a 20-year partnership with Muji, helping shape the company’s minimalist yet practical image. Here he looks back over 30 years as a designer, discussing his “obsessive curiosity” and why design sometimes needs to be driven by need rather than desire

As one half of design studio Industrial Facility, Sam Hecht has designed everything from chairs and lamps to storage boxes and coffee makers. Originally studying industrial design at Central Saint Martins, followed by a masters at the Royal College of Art, Hecht spent several years living and working in San Francisco and Tokyo, before moving back to London and setting up his studio with partner Kim Collin.

Together the duo have created work for some of the biggest names in design, not least of all Muji, which has been working with Industrial Facility for the last two decades. And while Hecht’s work might be characterised by a distinctive kind of minimalism, the designer is quick to emphasise how much consideration goes into the tiniest details of every single piece. Here he tells CR how he turned a natural curiosity for making into a keen interest in industrial design and mass production, and why his studio takes a finely honed approach to its work for Muji.

His early creative endeavours I wasn’t very good at school but I was very good at making things – and when I say making things, I mean taking things apart more than anything. I was very curious as a kid but not very studious, and that doesn’t bode well for a school system. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do necessarily but then I came across design. I was very into the idea of drawing something, making it, and using it. It wasn’t really artistic, it was more this idea of practicality. From there I was able to go and do an art foundation, which definitely opened up my eyes and my mind tremendously.

Top image: Portrait by NPF. Above: coffee maker for Muji

Industrial design in the 90s It was a very male profession, and I think that was partly because it was tied to the workshop and this idea that using a lathe or milling machine was just what men did. I can’t really describe it. It was almost slightly ex-army in a way. I had a lot of fun, but I wouldn’t say it was a brilliant education. It was a very, very traditional way of thinking about what design is.