Many different people with many different skills have contributed to the creation of Respira. We sat down with Tristan Zimmerman, Design Director for the project, to meet the man behind the design. We think you’ll agree, he was meant to be on the team.
Interviewer: How did you first get involved with New Earth Solutions?
Tristan: I first met Dylan rather informally. It was late summer 2019 at a clandestine outdoor vendor (my daughter's lemonade stand). A couple of weeks later I was re-introduced to Dylan and met Mitchell by way of one of their early business mentors. We met over coffee to discuss the product vision and technology for Respira. I was taken by their dedication and passion. And I knew immediately that their openness to ideas and critical thinking would cultivate a thriving creative dynamic.
Interviewer: What is your role with Respira?
Tristan: Initially, the role was Industrial Design: blending technology, experiential goals, and parameters into something that is desirable, usable, and affordable.
Dylan and Mitchell really get that good design equals good business and vice versa. As we’ve gone deeper, I've had the opportunity to step beyond the "thing" and work within the team as Design Director, helping to refine the relationships between the brand and its tangible offerings.
Interviewer: What were you doing prior to teaming up with New Earth Solutions?
Tristan: I come from a fairly diverse design background. I had a ceramics studio for several years after college, and also worked for many years in biomedical technology. I've always liked the intersection between craft and technology…I think at the time I met the group I was working on some toy concepts for my own amusement.
Tristan’s “diverse design background” turned out to be a huge benefit for the team. Here’s how his early experiences evolved into his “dream job.”
Interviewer: Where did you go to school and what did you take?
Tristan: I studied Industrial Design at OCAD University in Toronto.
Interviewer: Have you always had a knack for design? What’s your earliest memory of applying your design skills?
Tristan: I think most kids have flexible minds that lend themselves well to thinking laterally (creatively). To me, the trick is retaining the wonder and curiosity; not letting your brain get too firm as you age.
I was good at drawing as a kid. I loved Lego. I loved building weird things. One summer, when I was around 10, my friend and I put skateboard wheels on our snow racer sleds so that we could sled year-round. That would probably have been my first functional full-scale design.
Interviewer: What is it that you love about design? And why did you choose to practice Industrial Design over architecture, engineering, etc.?
Tristan: I didn't know Industrial Design existed until the last year of high school, but I was thrilled when I found out about it. It still is my dream job: a blending of inventor, engineer, sculptor and anthropologist.
Tristan has a unique style that turned out to be a perfect fit at New Earth Solutions. A thoughtful design that is clever and does what it claims to do is exactly what the team was looking for.
Interviewer: Everyone has their own unique design style. Is there a design style that you lean towards when creating? How would you describe your personal design style when working on a product?
Tristan: I don't know if I have a particular style. But I do tend to always regard the making of a "thing" as the creation of a personality. I'm biased towards people who are honest, clever and thoughtful (basically everything I'm not). I try to embody these qualities in my design work through careful manipulation of form and color - along with a red-hot disinclination towards excessive shapes and materials pretending to be other materials.
Interviewer: Does that design style differ from how you design other aspects of your life? How would you describe your personal aesthetic and does that relate in any way to your design style?
Tristan: My home is more of an informal laboratory where I get to play and experiment. The outcomes don't need to be so neutral as their impact is not nearly as vast...it's just my house.
Interviewer: When Dylan and Mitch first met with you and explained their concept, what were your initial thoughts?
Tristan: I was really excited. I was just as confident in the team as I was in the concept. I was eager to reward their trust with a quality design vision.
Interviewer: Design entails lots of iterations of an idea. As we work through ideas and more information comes to light, restrictions are put in place and the project will typically become more and more refined. Which aspects of this particular project were especially inspiring or different for you?
Tristan: Restrictions are actually the best thing for any given design. The design process needs boundaries, or you end up wandering in the bewilderness that is "possibility" forever. Thankfully, the team really understood the technology. We had so many involved discussions asking, "What if?" and "Why?" for us to establish the boundaries.
From a technical standpoint, I really enjoyed the many levels of fluid dynamics involved with this product. We needed the water element to sustain the plantings. The design had to enable the vertically falling water and the circulating air to work together and in opposition at the same time to purify the air. It was a delightful challenge to integrate the demands of this technology into a clean and tidy package.
Interviewer: With constant iterations being part of the design process, it must be difficult to know when a project is completed.
Tristan: The real trick with design is to identify how and where to make compromises - because they are unavoidable - and to play compromises against each other so they become invisible. You're done designing when you can't see any compromises.
Interviewer: How would you describe the design of Respira?
Tristan: I don't know, exactly. But I'm very proud of it.
We can help Tristan out with a few adjectives. Modern, sleek, and understated come to mind. The unit itself is beautiful while definitely allowing the plants to be the stars of the show.
Interviewer: We've been receiving questions from our community regarding where they should put this in their homes. Where are you putting yours?
Tristan: I have the perfect spot in my dining room. I've got a dozen orchids that have stopped blooming and don't get as much attention as they should. I'm excited to see if I can get them to bloom in our Respira. I can't wait (and they can't either).