The Spanish designer made his name with colourful, fun creations but has also become one of the world’s big talents and in high demand to design everything from furniture to interiors and art installations
His work has been called eclectic, baroque, surrealistic and fantastical – it is certainly sought after. Having started his career 15 years ago making a set of plastic designer dolls, Spanish designer Jaime Hayon (pronounced ‘Hi-me Hi-on’) has today worked for many of the world’s biggest and most innovative design companies including Fritz Hansen, Magis, Bisazza and Moooi, as well as creating interiors for hotels and shops and also art installations. ‘There’s Hayon the artist, Hayon the product designer, the interior designer, the furniture designer but there is only one, and that is me,’ he jokes.
‘I believe that design should provoke emotions. Design should make you feel good. Create happiness’
Very much a maximalist, his work is often full of colour. A major influence is Memphis, the early Eighties Italian postmodernist design collective that favoured the colourful and the abstract along with asymmetrical shapes.
Hayon works from sketchbooks, articulating his design ideas on paper, in beautifully detailed illustrations which are reminiscent of artists such as Picasso. This way of way of working is ideally suited to his philosophy which finds the idea of purely functional form dull and uninteresting. ‘It is important to remember that my design is made for humans – to be used by humans,’ he says. ‘I believe that design should provoke emotions. Design should make you feel good. Create happiness’.
To this end, the Catch chair for & Tradition, for example, aims to feel like an embrace (in discussing it, Jaime shows an image of two penguins hugging each other, and a bear hugging a tree).
Hayon, who speaks Spanish, English, French and Italian, was born in 1974 in Madrid to a Venezuelan mother and Spanish father. Aged just 13 and bored with life in the city, he left for San Diego, where he worked for a company making skateboards, immersing himself in the design-led subculture.
That was the start of his tendency to work with mavericks. He won a scholarship to study industrial design at the L’Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts Decoratifs, the prestigious ‘grande ecole’ in Paris that was, at the time, headed by Philippe Starck.
In 1997, aged 22, Hayon was invited to join Fabrica, the Benetton-funded design and communication academy, working closely with the legendary and highly controversial image-maker Oliviero Toscani (he of the United Colours of Benneton ad campaigns), and there Hayon was quickly promoted from student to head of their design department.
In 2003 Hayon struck out on his own, and his first exhibition, called Mediterranean Digital Baroque, a surreal installation of ceramic plants and animals in shades of pink, yellow and blue, brought him his first real taste of international recognition.
Having collaborated with a number of historic companies, such as Lladró (ceramics), and Baccarat (crystal), today he also enjoys playing with traditions. ‘I like taking them and using them as ingredients to create something new,’ he says.
His figurines for Lladro subvert the usual innocent subjects of ballet dancers and children to create ones that are sinister yet fascinating.
Most recently, he has been creating the Frame range of chairs out of rattan for the Spanish company Expormim. Last popular in the Seventies, rattan is enjoying a resurgence, and in bright colours, Jaime’s collection feels modern, but also a little cheeky – which is certainly the Hayon way.