“The future of Africa is collaborating and if we want to do big things, we have to collaborate.” –Bibi Seck
Birsel + Seck is an award-winning design and innovation studio that has perfected the art of problem solving in product design. Their innovative solutions have seen success in various sectors of the market; from retail and automotive, to office, bath and home divisions. At the helm of this studio powerhouse are product designers and life partners, Ayse Birsel and Bibi Seck. Perhaps what makes them so strong as a team is that they have individually rich design records.
Birsel, who is from Turkey but now lives in New York, has been designing award-wining products for over two decades. Apart from being known as the ‘Queen of Toilets’ for her design for Japanese manufacturer TOTO that has unofficially been dubbed the most comfortable toilet seat in the world, she has also won several awards, including the gold Industrial Design Excellence IDSA Award for the Resolve system she created for Herman Miller, the Athena Award for Excellence in Furniture Design from Rhode Island School of Design and the 2001 Young Designers Award from the Brooklyn Museum of Art. In addition, her work is permanently on display at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, Museum of Modern Art, and Philadelphia Museum of Art.
“Design can be a source of economic stability in developing nations.” ~ Bibi Seck
Her husband Seck, lived his formative years between Dakar, London and Paris, before moving to New York. He has extensive experience in guiding large design teams through complex problems and in materials and manufacturing thanks to his 12 years at Renault as lead designer. His F1 Micrograph watch design for Tag Heuer, won him the prestigious 2002 Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. Inspired by his roots in Senegal, Seck strives to instill the notion that design can be a source of economic stability in developing nations.
However, their collaborative work on a concept automobile interior for Renault led to the opening of Birsel +Seck in 2002. A think tank that takes complexities of modern life, products, business and work, and then simplifies it for the client. They do so through their nifty proprietary creative process they refer to as DE:RE™ process, i.e. Deconstruction: Reconstruction™. It’s a step-by-step process that helps to shift the perspective of an item in order to create new value, eliminate limitations and offer solutions that adapt to the user’s needs.
With such an efficient internal structure, is it any wonder that Birsel+Seck isn’t a stranger to external collaborations? They’ve been known to work with social innovators and entrepreneurs all over the world in order to achieve results. And it is part of the reason they’ve landed such heavy weight clients such as Moroso, Nike, Amazon, Converse, Tiffany & Co. and Johnson & Johnson to mention a few. Here are some of the designs that stand out for the duo:
Teneo Storage System
This design system for Herman Miller comprised of over 20 parts with pieces such as bookshelves, serving trolleys, wall units, to islands and office workspaces. When these pieces are combined in different ways, it can result in 80 products in total. With the idea of flexibility and adaptability in mind, the Teneo Storage System comes in a range of colours and materials. That way, the client can repurpose the furniture to meet their changing needs. This 98% recyclable storage design won them the IDEA Gold award 2009.
Made from 75% of plastic bottles and rubbish bags, this Birsel + Seck’s project partnered with Transtech in Dakar, Senegal to manufacture the pieces designed by Seck. Transtech, which is run by Senegalese entrepreneur – Marie Jo Sanchez Girardon, uses recycled plastic to make cisterns and septic tanks in Dakar. Using the same concept, it takes five kilograms of plastic to make one unit. The table and stool in the Taboo collection were actually inspired by the daily lifestyle of West Africans who use them both indoors and outdoors to dine and relax. Because the colour of the pieces relies on the plastics being recycled, there are a variety of colours to choose from.
M’Afrique for Moroso
Another project inspired by customs and people of Senegal, they engaged with West African artisans to have the pieces made in Dakar. The evident hand-made characteristics add an element of exquisiteness, aptitude and motivation very evident on the African continent today. They worked with prototypes that they used to hone their pieces, as they shared their individual inputs in the moment to guide the creative process.
Pasabahçe Omnia Collection
Their collaboration with Pasabahçe, one of the largest glassware producers in the world, is one of their latest projects. The collection boasts over 15 pieces that are made via traditional glassmaking techniques but with modern interpretation and a little amusement to them too.
In Birsel + Seck is a functional award-winning furniture and product design studio because they’ve managed to find the link between style and elegance, and adapting it to an individual’s lifestyle needs. And doing so with the defining principles of simplicity, empathy and sustainability. Most importantly, learning to use their strengths to not only strengthen their internal team, but to create strong collaborations that see them winning time and time again.