Founded in 2015 by Jonathan Biet and Sophie Bain, So Watt is a Sydney-based industrial design studio and workshop, which combines their skills in design with new and exciting manufacturing methods to achieve distinctive, thought-provoking and playful pieces. So Watt’s designs always meet a level of practicality and are fabricated with efficiency to bring you considered works to last a lifetime.
”Our aim is to make well-designed, ethically sourced, locally made pieces that are affordable. We see no point in making something beautiful if no one can enjoy or afford it.”Sophie Bain and Jonathan Biet
A collection of smart, affordable and ethically produced custom furniture by Sydney design studio So Watt. We speak with co-founder Sophie Bain.
What inspired the name So Watt?
It’s a play on our original design projects. We started out designing lighting, but found it was too restrictive. So we branched out into furniture, although we still do some lighting work.
How did your collaboration evolve into this business?
We met at TU Delft (Delft University of Technology) in the Netherlands when we were both on exchange for six months. Both of us were studying industrial design at uni – Jono is from Sydney and I’m from Melbourne – and we’ve been together ever since.
What were you doing before you launched the studio in 2015?
Jonathan’s always freelanced as an industrial designer, and in fact, some of So Watt’s best clients are from that time. So Watt was just an extension of that work – putting a name to it. I spent a year working in playground design, which was fun and definitely informs the sense of playfulness we bring to our projects. I also worked for a couple of years in the corporate furniture field, which, again, has influenced the work we’re doing now – creating pieces that can be adapted for domestic or commercial use.
What's been your most noteworthy project to date?
We collaborated with Sydney firm Grumpy Sailor to create a Google Pixel Wall – a six-metre-long interactive wall of thousands of domed light buttons – as part of Telstra’s phone launch.
How would you describe your design philosophy?
We both agree that it’s probably too early to have a clear-cut set of principles. It’s more a matter of working towards them, then looking back on what we’ve done, because we’re constantly learning as we go. But satisfaction is important – for us in what we design and make, and for the people who buy our products. Our aim is to make well-designed, ethically sourced, locally made pieces that someone who’s, say, moving into their first home can afford. We see no point in making something beautiful if no one can enjoy or afford it.
Who would you consider your design influences?
Funnily enough, quite independently of the fact that we spent six months studying in the Netherlands, we both love Dutch designers, such as Piet Hein Eek. They don’t take themselves or their work too seriously, and love experimenting. Design is supposed to be fun!
What does the future hold for So Watt?
We have some big ideas! Despite the closures we’ve seen in areas such as car making in Australia, there’s actually evidence of a resurgence in manufacturing here, and skilled people keen to move into new areas. We’re in the process of moving to a larger workshop, and see ourselves expanding infinitely, including into making our own materials, while continuing to source and produce everything as locally as possible within NSW.
Any object that you'd like to improve upon, or something you'd like to invent?
Oh, we have so many, but we’re both interested in finding ways to make raw materials from waste products – that’s a project that could take a decade to achieve. I’d really like to design an ethical version of those coffee pod machines – that would be a good start.read less