Peter Bristol

Tell us about yourself.
I’m an industrial designer. I currently help lead industrial design at Carbon Design Group as well guide the company’s brand. I also work on personal projects, focusing particularly in furniture and lighting. I’m lucky enough to have my passion be my field and vice versa.

What attracted you to this specific industry?
I was in college and didn’t really have a focus. I was sort of going through the motions. I met a guy in the industrial design program and was impressed by the way he sketched. I looked into the field, it was a perfect blend of fact and fiction. I always loved art, products, and was drawn into the math and science world as well. As soon as I discovered it existed, I thought, “This is for me.”

Can you tell us about the Clip Bag? It’s quite simple but it’s very thoughtful.
I feel like it is so basic. There is not much to tell. It’s one of those things where the product tells its own story. I was spending time looking and thinking about icons…

What do you mean?
Just how things go from a regular old thing to a recognizable thing. Some become local icons and others are more worldwide. For example, American light switches are not global but they’re still iconic to me. Everyone knows paperclip and binder clips instantaneously. I was just thinking about how recognizable those clips are and pictured them in a new scale.

What about the Juniper Thin LED Task Lamp?
There are a few things that helped it become the final product. LEDs are small, efiicient and making a lot of evolution in lighting happen right now. I liked the idea of the head of the lamp not being the focal point. It’s basically shaped like a thin stick, no shade. There are a handful of lamps that are of one inch diameter, but with the Juniper Lamp, we pushed it to make the skinniest and tinniest possible, but still maintain the great light quality. It’s interesting because length-wise, it’s a lot longer than you would expect. The arm segments are around 24 inches, I believe.

That is long!
Exactly. It stretches out over your desk in a pretty nice way. There’s no head and little volume, so it doesn’t feel imposing. The armature of the light becomes very functional. Something that turns me off about a lot of LED lighting is that it feels very cold and technical, both in color and form.

How is the Juniper Lamp different then?
We used natural brass for all the functional components; the base is cast iron. The materials are very warm and classic, but minimal form tells you it cannot be an incandescent. The colors are raw brass, reddish orange, and also a more basic silver color.

You seem to have a very minimalist approach. Are there certain designers that you look to for inspiration?
Probably lots. There are so many different perspectives, and a lot of amazing design out there. To be honest, I don’t’ consider my own work minimalist either. I try to design through logic versus form and color. The minimalism arises because you fight to keep an idea visible. If you really solve something or come up with a real idea, you want people to know it when they see it.

Tell us about your work space.
It’s just a messy desk filled with a bunch of varying prototypes. There are sketchbooks and many little trinkety items. I basically duplicate the same thing in my office at work. [Laughs] We have an open studio but I don’t have a clean area. It’s almost intimidating to work in a clean work space. It looks good, but it doesn’t work for me…

What projects are you particularly proud of?
In order to do the best job on a project, I have to fall in love with the project. Typically, the most compelling ones are those that I am currently working on. It’s like a current love affair. I do think Toggle Remote is important. It provides a pretty neat multimode interface design. It’s a simple idea, but I’m still excited by it. The Corner Lamp is also unique. It’s so nothing. It’s almost not an idea because it’s so simple.

If you hadn’t pursued industrial design, what alternative paths might you have pursued?
Not sure. I would say architecture, but that is still very much a part of my work. We’re just doing architecture at a different scale.

What did you study in university?
Industrial Design at Western Washington University.

Were there specific classes that you had a profound impact on your learning or you particularly loved?
I wish I remembered more of them. I really liked the introductory to physics class. In general, I think most of the introductory courses are pretty interesting.

What is beauty to you and how do you define beauty?
Appeal, I guess? I think that there’s aesthetic beauty, but there’s also cerebral beauty. There are beautiful ideas and solutions. There are even beautiful math equations. The a2 + b2 = c2 equation that makes you think, “Holy crap,” because it’s so clean. It is probably different for everyone.

What are three things most people don’t know about you?
I have no idea. I don’t think people know much about me.


For more of Peter’s work, check out his website.