Contrast Disseny, an ecodesign company dedicated to the production of desk organization accessories, is a project undertaken by Eduard Graell together with a small team. From the illusion of believing in what they do they are taking their company forward, not without effort but with the objective set in a future that they trust will bring them great satisfaction. Today we talk with them about their vision and the path they have taken at the head of Contrast Disseny.
Do you work with artisans and local craftsmen? Is this decision purely a question of lowering costs or sustainable development criteria applied in the production process?
All Contrast products are produced by local craftsmen and small workshops near Igualada (Barcelona), where I live and have my studio. I can proudly say that all the products are produced in a radius of less than 20 km from my office, even the packaging. The reason is simple: with them I can establish a closer relationship and take advantage of their technical knowledge about materials and manufacturing processes. I usually come to them with an idea, a sketch or a model and we develop the final product together. This would be impossible to do with suppliers who are not close by. Designers need craftsmen and small producers to guide us in the process of developing the products we design. Being able to contribute to the economy of the territory where I live and do my small bit for local crafts and manufacturing is something I am very proud of. Every small workshop that closes down is knowledge that is lost. Supporting them is vital for design. My products are produced by people I know their name and surname, I know where they live, I have been in their workshops, I have seen them work...being able to know the personal history of each one of them involves me much more emotionally with the process and the final product and this is something I would like to transmit better to the people who are interested in my products.
How does a young designer like you value environmental criteria when designing a product? Do you consider them important? Do you think they are a differential value (a competitive advantage) or do you see them more as a necessary condition to achieve sustainability and sustainable development of a different economic model?
If I have to be sincere when I started with Contrast, I did not consider the sustainability of my products or of the materials I used. But when you produce your own product and you start adding material, working hours, packaging, shipping... and you realize the REAL cost that things have. That's when you think...how can a product similar to mine be sold at such incredibly low prices? What is behind this product so that it can be sold at these prices? Unfortunately we have become accustomed to seeing only the economic cost of the products we buy and we do not see the environmental or social cost in the long run of consuming "low cost" products produced on the other side of the world without respecting labour rights or taking into account social and environmental criteria. It has made me reflect and change my buying habits... Buying is investing your money; with every purchase we make we invest in a project, people, values... a way of working. It is up to all of us, as consumers, to support a fair and sustainable economic and social model. We are not aware of the power we have. Personally, it is clear to me that product quality, sustainability and local production are values that I do not want to give up in order to lower the final price a little. One of the things I have learned with Contrast is that if I want to offer a good product, I will be more expensive than other brands, but I feel comfortable there. I prefer to produce little and do things well than to produce large quantities and not be consistent with my values.
You are a young designer, why did you decide to embark on this business adventure? How is the experience so far? What aspects are posing the greatest challenge in your company? Contrast Disseny
is a personal project that was born 3 years ago, when I started to work on my own. After chaining some bad professional experiences in companies of the engineering field I feel the need to connect again with my creative side...the real reason why I decided to study industrial design and at the same time what fills me and gives me better. With the money I had saved I rented a small office in a shared workspace and started with the objective of dedicating myself professionally to product design although I didn't know very well how to do it. I remember how the first day I arrived at the office, I sat down and thought...well, I have clear that I want to dedicate myself to this, but how do I do it? I had no clients, no orders, not much money saved... just desire and ideas. One of the possibilities I came up with was to sell my own products. I had seen other young designers doing it and I thought it would be a good way to make myself known and give free rein to my creative side. It all came together when I realized that I was having a hard time finding quality office products to furnish my new office. I realized that there was a lot to do in the field of workspace design. So I decided that my first assignment would be to do it myself; I commissioned myself to design a family of desktop products for my office with the premise of being functional, original and elegant. That is how Contrast started... the result of combining a personal need with the illusion of devoting myself to product design. Along these 3 years, Contrast has allowed me to learn the most "business" part of the product. As a designer I had very well assimilated the part of identification of needs, design and development of the product...but I had no idea of setting prices, commercial management, communicating the brand...it has been a bit like an accelerated master. From everything I've learned and from all the people I've met along the way I can say that it's one of the best decisions I've ever made.
Which are the future objectives of Contrast Disseny for the next years?
These first 3 years have been a bit of experimentation. I started with only four product references. Partly because of my low budget and partly because I didn't know if my products would be accepted, in fact I didn't even know where to sell them! Thanks to platforms like Ekohunters, I have been able to reach people and I have been able to see that they like my product. Now that I have a clear path, this year I have set myself the goal of growing the brand. By the end of the year I plan to release 3 new products that I have been designing for some time now. In fact, I am now working on the final prototypes. Apart from designing new products, I am working on the new website. So far Contrast does not have its own web and I plan to open it soon. For this I count on the collaboration of my sister, who helps me with the graphic part and the photo sessions. Facing the future... I would like to consolidate Contrast as a reference brand in the product design, without losing the essence and the values that define it.
As an entrepreneur and in the industrial design sector do you miss more support for business initiatives like yours? Where would you put the focus on this question, in public institutions, in design associations/colleges, universities...? What kind of support do you think is necessary?
I think that the entities are doing a good job. In general, I think there is support for the promotion of design, innovation... although it is not always easy to know or access it. Obviously, any help is welcome, but I think that the aids should be a support to our activity. Where I think more effort should be devoted is to raising consumer awareness. If there were more people who valued good design, there would be more and better designers, more industry, better craftsmen... and this would have repercussions on the local economy. Industrial design, as its name suggests, needs industry, that is, we need someone to produce our products. Without industry or craftsmanship we are dead. What is the point of supporting local design if we lose our productive capacity? I see with concern the current consumption habits... I don't think we realize it, but we are throwing stones at our own roof. Supporting a large-scale production model has very little impact on the local economy. I think the problem lies in the lack of consumer awareness...at the end of the day when we buy a product we only see the brand, design, price and country where it has been manufactured. Little else. We have lost the relationship with the product and so it is difficult to value other things. In this sense, I wish there were more initiatives like Ekohunters that give visibility to the people and stories behind each product, provide information on how and where they have been produced, the values behind them... help change buying habits and raise awareness among end consumers.
At Ekohunters we support entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs who, like Eduard and his team, try to move their project forward with enthusiasm and effort because we know very well what it costs.
We wish you all the luck in the world on your journey.