For industrial designer Hlynur Atlason ’01, finding a creative solution to a client’s
needs is first and foremost about research. Conducting research allows a
designer “to build a really solid picture, to then be able to design with
confidence,” he explains.
This approach extends far beyond customer demographics or intel on competitors; it involves observing and speaking with anyone who might touch the product his firm, ATLASON/studio, is designing.
Atlason didn’t set out to be a designer; he certainly didn’t take such a methodical approach to life. Born in Reykjavik, Iceland, Atlason had a vague notion of designing cars or motorcycles but moved to Paris “to chase a girl.” He found his way to Parsons
Paris and finished a BFA in Industrial Design at Parsons in New York, where he learned the hard way to always question first assumptions.
After spending a few years in branding, Atlason returned to his true passion and opened a design studio in Soho in 2003. His output includes furniture for Design Within Reach and Ercol, home goods for the MoMA Design Store, packaging for Xbox and The
Sill, and Billie, an ergonomic body razor for women. Diverse as they may seem, his projects all reflect Atlason’s deep commitment to research.
Atlason developed the chair shown at left in response to a call for compact contemporary seating put out by John McPhee, President of Design Within Reach and Herman Miller Retail. Of the result, McPhee says, “The Lína Swivel chair embodies Hlynur’s ability
to harmonize aesthetics, sustainability, and comfort in pieces you want to keep for years. His research-driven methodology offers promise for companies who want to stay at the front edge of sustainable practice.”
Atlason jokes that his native Iceland has a saying for times when things aren’t coming together: “Þetta reddast,” “It will work out.” Judging from Atlason’s success, it certainly has.