In Conversation: Instrmnt
Designed by a Glasgow based multi-disciplinary team, Instrmrnt’s minimalist watches have hit every nail on every head when it comes to modern, functional and seriously good looking product design. Creating considered, user-led products, Instrmnt has rapidly become an all time favourite in store. Delivered unassembled in an arguably design-perfect packaging, the firmly unisex Instrmnt watches are as functional as they are beautiful thanks to the brand’s unique design studio process.
Ross Baynham and Pete Sunderland are the brand’s founders and have nurtured each product with a flawless dedication to design. Ross spoke to us about staying grounded alongside the importance of maintaining the highest quality of design, and gave us a sneak peek insight into the new size watch face that have just launched.
Our customers always remark on your considered balance of aesthetics, process and function. Can you talk more about your design approach?
We take a great deal of inspiration from the industrial design of the mid-century. It was a time when products were functional first and foremost: design was about improving the user experience rather than adding details for the sake of it. What resulted was true minimalism - 'less but better' - and that's something that forms the foundations of Instrmnt's design process and language today. We really care about every detail having a meaning or reason and try to stay away from trends and fashions. The goal is to achieve a fairly challenging trifecta of creating products that function perfectly, are visibly appealing, and also accessible in price. Our stuff isn't meant to sit on a shelf, it's meant to be used.
What was the philosophy behind the memorable design of your branding, particularly the packaging?
There were a few different reasons behind our packaging. First and foremost, as the name suggests, we launched this brand to create instruments: purpose build tools designed to do exacting work, and the idea of the user being presented with a selection of components and instructions on how to fit them together was very appealing as a way to reinforce that. When I say appealing, I mean to us personally - in the early days we didn't really do any market research on how people would react to this and it was slightly nerve-racking going to market. We thought people might hate it, but to this day we've only ever had positive comments and really it's become an iconic part of our brand.
Our box is also the exact size of a DVD box: there is something nice about standardised sizing - things magically fit on shelves, can be stacked, packaged, posted, and recycled with a great deal of simplicity. That's exciting to people who appreciate function (or maybe just us?). We also just generally love nice, considered packaging. Its something that can so often be over looked: how good is it when you get a nice box that you can hold onto? We also talked a lot about enhancing the personal connection with a product. If you are involved in the making or realisation of a product, then you are more likely to value it. Its about adding a story and a personal narrative, making sure the brand isn't too sterile.
Tell us a few things we would not know about the level of detail that you put into manufacturing each watch?
We're pretty obsessed with sourcing the best individual components, no matter how convoluted it becomes or how many supply chains we create. Our movement is made in the best facility in Switzerland, our straps are made by one of the oldest traditional workshops in Germany, our leather is sourced from Italy, our packaging is made in the UK, and all of our card stock is Italian. Our products themselves might be simple but our manufacturing process is lengthy, expensive and needs a huge amount of organisation to manage. We wouldn't have it any other way - our product is much better for it.
What does the freedom of being a design studio as opposed to a product specific brand mean for Instrmnt’s identity?
I think we knew that launching Instrmnt with a watch was probably going to pigeon hole us as a 'watch brand', even though we saw ourselves more generally as multi-faceted designers. For that reason, we've been fairly careful to work on a range of other projects too, last year releasing a bike in collaboration with Freddie Grubb, and also designing a piece of furniture for our store. We're ok with the watch thing though - it's very pleasing to see the reaction our our 01 range and it's exciting to finally be releasing our 02 watch at the end of this year. Next year, we might have a new mass-market product in a completely different category.
This year saw the opening of your first physical store – what is the importance of this space for you? And how did you decide on your brand mix?
We had always wanted to design on a larger scale and it was exciting to turn our hand to architectural and interior design after focusing on products for so long. It's also really nice to have a physical representation of our brand, and to become better integrated in the community in which we work and live. As 'buyers' we're pretty uneducated - our brand mix consists of things that we really like, particularly from brands that we're friends with or have met through the industry.
Your rise from Kickstarter to an international success has been phenomenal, has this surprised you?
Yes, it has surprised us! Kickstarter feels like a long time ago and it's amazing to see how much we have matured as designers and business people from those days, but it's important not to forget where we came from. Kickstarter was instrumental in our success and a number of contacts we made back then are still very important to us. It's been an odd but fulfilling two years.
We heard of your plans to launch a new size watch face, can you give us a glimpse into the developments you are working on?
I don't want to give to much away about our 02 watch, other than to say it's the smaller sibling of 01. Perhaps that makes it more firmly unisex, which is exciting for us. It follows the general Instrmnt rules of simplicity, function and mid-century inspiration. Our Daily Edit will be one of the first stores to get their hands on it…
Above: The new Instrmnt 02