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The Craft of Design


Heritage and vision

The sector or space doesn’t matter; if you’re committed to raising your work to a level of art, you are engaging in a contemporary form of craft. For UBS, this means applying a consistent level of dedication, care, creativity and precision to the world of finance. Honed over more than 160 years, this approach is one that places the customer at the centre of every important decision that is made. It also involves doing the fundamentals very well, while having the courage to explore new avenues – and evolve.

Adaptable by design

Charles O Job subscribes to a similar mantra. His playful attitude towards craft eschews simple categorisation yet he makes practical products that fulfil both design briefs and customer needs. Born in Lagos and based in Zürich, Job has featured in international design competitions and been a professor of architectural design theory at the Bern University of Applied Sciences since 2008. In the fourth instalment of our series examining craft in all its forms, we learn why his design philosophy stems from a desire to create with purpose. 


Purposeful reinvention

Job talks international influences, redefining his craft and the joys of setting his own creative agenda.


How would you describe your work to someone unfamiliar with your craft? 
I’m a designer. But what I do isn’t art, it’s more practical: I make usable things to meet my customers’ needs. There’s a great German word, gebrauchsgegenstand, which means “object for use”. It takes the word “design” out of the equation. 

As a child in Lagos, you made toys from items that you found in the street. What did this teach you about design? 
It demystified the notion of being a designer. My take on design is doing something useful, something with a purpose, something with a function – and by using as little material as possible. I make the most out of the least. So that experience demystified the idea of the designer as the creator. The designer is someone who goes out and creates value. 

You were born in Lagos, have worked in Paris and London, and now live in Zürich. How have your experiences in these cities informed your work? 
In Paris, I learned to be more be more open-minded. I had finished studying architecture in London and went to Paris to look for work. I found the city really vibrant with lots of young people reinventing themselves, so I learned to reinvent myself. And then I came to Switzerland to be a designer because I had the freedom to redefine what I was doing. People in Switzerland know how to make things – and make them really well. That has informed what I do. 

Unlike many in your field, you don’t work to a specific brief or with a particular producer. Why is that? 
I enter a lot of design competitions to test my take on what something is. Once I have an idea, I look for a producer who might be interested and I call them up. They don’t always accept but that element of collaboration is important: we develop the idea together and it becomes a product. I have an idea, work it out and sell it. You have to be open-minded and ready to find opportunities in new ways. 

What do you do when you are in need of inspiration? 
I am always drawing. I have my pencil and my sketchbook and my eyes open. I have thousands of sketchbooks, all full of ideas waiting to be developed.

© UBS 2024. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: Charles O Job is not affiliated with UBS AG.


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