‘all round’ eyewear, JINS x Konstantin Grcic (Interview)
Published on January 8, 2019
“all round” focusing on the round-shape as the archetype of glasses.
A diverse collection that brings out the individuality of the people who wear them.
Konstantin Grcic carefully responds to the requirements of his briefs, creating products that are defined by his meticulous attention to detail and his passion for technology and materials. The project served as window into Grcic’s practice as a designer who engages in confronting and studying the essence of things, and also an opportunity to reconsider the relationship between people and glasses.
Thorough explorations of what is required Konstantin Grcic’s approach to design
There is something that I always strive for when designing. That is, to eliminate all unnecessary elements in order to develop a product that is honest and essential. In order to achieve this it is indispensable for me to engage wholeheartedly with each project. I believe that in order to produce a high quality design it needs a very committed work process.
A new project is always the beginning of a new journey. The collaboration with JINS was an opportunity to expand the sensitivities in design that are important to me.
Designing high quality eyewear on an industrial scale offered an experience, which was quite unlike anything I have done before.
The designer’s own experiences and thoughts on glasses “The challenges of designing eyewear”
I got my first pair of corrective glasses when I was 15 years old. And even though I have been wearing spectacles on a daily bases for decades, designing them turned out to be quite a challenge.
People’s faces are extremely varied, yet production-model glasses lead us to believe that one model can fit different people. It was a tightrope walk trying to realize a product that would be universal in one way and unique/individual in another way. What are glasses by definition? First of all they are an aid, which helps people to see better. At the same time they are worn in such a way that it becomes a part of someone’s personality, of who they are or want to be. They are a product that can have positive effect on people’s self-confidence and wellbeing. On a more technical level, they are a product that entails mechanical challenges like the hinges, or ergonomic issues such as the fit of the nose pads. Coming from a strong background in furniture design I am used those kinds of issues, however the small physical scale of glasses makes it a completely different ball game. Every hinge, every screw, every radius is so much more petite than what I am used to – it felt like learning a new language. My only experience of a similar kind of scale was a project designing wristwatches for a Swiss watchmaking brand.
With both an emphasis on functionality and beauty, the bridges and nose pads have each been designed according to style and comfort of the eight different types. The shapes of the bridge were devised to harmoniously correspond to the designs of the frames, also adopting round-shaped nose pads that are cohesive with the overall design.
“round” –a concept that explores forms which trace back to the origin of glasses
Looking back into the history of spectacles I discovered that the very earliest models were round. It was certainly determined by the shape of the lenses, but if you think of it, it is also how children would draw glasses naturally.
My research confirmed that round-shaped glasses suited all kinds of people, from all over the world.
Of course we studied images of the many famous people who are recognized for wearing round glasses. Such include figures like John Lennon, Steve Jobs, the architect Le Corbusier, and the famous Mahatma Gandhi.
In terms of designers, the Italian maestro Achille Castiglioni is a personal icon for me.
Round shaped glasses represent an archetype that can historically be traced back to the earliest references. At the same time is still a shape which feels appropriate and fresh today. It is interesting how round is the most generic form of glasses, yet it always seems special on whoever wears them.
The first pair of glasses I ever had were round-shaped. At the time I wasn’t really thinking about who I wanted to be or look like. It just so happened that I chose the simplest design. Today we have the pleasure to change and wear different glasses according to the occasion, how we feel, or what we wear, and I feel that there are various ways in which to enjoy round glasses.
Preliminary studies in the studio
Sketching on templates
Once I had decided to concentrate on round shaped glasses I prepared a 1:1 scale image of human eyes. This image became a template which I could use for sketching outlines of glasses. These early drawings, made in pencil and felt-tip pen, laid the foundation for all the designs I developed for JINS.
I wanted to explore as many possibilities as possible, creating sketches guided freely by my own curiosity, repeatedly studying and contemplating them. The results of my studies are eight different designs of round-shaped glasses. Some have organic forms, while others are more geometric. Including attempts to reinterpret existing glasses, each design was established through a different approach, made with optimal materials that have been carefully selected.
Pretzel, Cartoon, Bike… Names as the key for developing the designs
What became necessary in simultaneously developing eight different designs, were names that indicated their respective characteristics. It was also important to have a means of reference when working and discussing the designs with my studio assistant Sami, and therefore names based on the design concept or a mutual understanding of their essence had been born at an early stage.
“CARTOON” has a form reminiscent of a quick line drawing or simple sketch made with a thick felt tip pen. “PRETZEL” conveys a soft and organic form just like making a pretzel from one long piece of dough. The designs for “BIKE” and “SAFARI” refer to formal aspects associated with those names.
Designs like “NEEDLE,” “BRACE,” and “INLAY” are a more traditional interpretation of round glasses.
Other designs include “LINK” that is a combination of two different materials.
We used the 3D printer to make models of our designs, which I could try and see how they looked. A process of relentless refinement is very important to every project. I recall how we were inspecting details in increments of less than a millimeter, continuously engaging in close discussions with the JINS design team and engineers based on these real prototype models.
The drawings I received from the JINS design team in Tokyo included various comments, notes, and feedback, which I referred to in further considering the eight designs. There were no significant technical problems with any one of our designs so that it was more about making subtle adjustments until we reached a point where we were all content.
In the case of “NEEDLE” there had been a considerable extent of contemplation regarding the hinges and joint sections of the frame.
In “CARTOON” we repeatedly fine-tuned the design in terms of extending the bridge section to go beyond the rim of the lens. At times the meticulous studies and verifications of one model is applied to another model, which I believe is one of the great pleasures of working on multiple designs at the same time.
In this way, the collaborative task of exploring every aspect of precision and deepening the design while overcoming the various challenges that emerged had been very meaningful and fruitful process. I don’t think that we would have been able to achieve what we aimed for had any of these stages been missing.
Beautiful and Emotional Details Explored Through a Dialogue with the JINS Team
Details are extremely important. It was my intention to create products with the highest level of quality and beautiful details that would bring a sense of joy to the wearer.
Allow me to mention “INLAY” for example, in which fine lines are recessed into the plastic molding to create the illusion of the nose bridge and temple arms being separate from the circular frames. JINS manufactures their glasses through contemporary methods, yet this design is that which pays respect to the history and craftsmanship of glasses that have traditionally entails the assembling of multiple parts. The detail has been devised for the owners of the glasses themselves to enjoy.
To be honest, I never thought that all of the eight initially proposed designs would be developed into products. It is indeed a great pleasure to have been able to realize each of these unique products through the collaboration with the JINS teams who had respected my proposals. Although it had not been an easy journey, I am grateful for this collaboration that offered me with an experience unlike any other project.Through this design project I also came to the understanding that JINS is a company that starts with eyewear as its core, and from there has the ability to branch out into various directions. I believe that with their attitude and technology for producing highly sophisticated eyewear, they would be able to advance into all kinds of fields concerned with improving the quality of life such as medical care, mobility, and education.Indeed, it is to be “All round” in the very true sense of the word. I also feel that it is important to “Look around” and direct one’s eyes to view the world at a much wider scope.Now taking the finished glasses into my hands, it is with great joy that I reflect upon the many discoveries I made through working on the JINS Design Project.