We sat down with designer Dominic Montante to talk all things design including the highlights, the challenges and what inspires him the most.
Hey, Dom! Thanks for sitting down with us, we know you're a busy guy. First and foremost, could you tell us where you're from and how long you've been designing with us?
Hi! I'm originally from Rochester, NY, so I like to say Umbra "imported me". I came to Canada and began working for Umbra in 2017.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I’m on Google Earth street view in the exact same location on two separate occasions – 4 years apart.
What do you do in your spare time when you're not in the Design Studio?
I love learning foreign languages. Right now I'm learning both Russian and Italian at the same time. I’m half Italian so I think I have an obligation to learn the language. I also can speak German, Spanish, French (though my fellow designer Eugénie de Loynes would probably say I can’t), I can read and write in Russian and I know bits and pieces of Portuguese.
My dad is from Sicily and my mom is from Laos. I feel like I don’t fit in fully to my Italian or my Asian side, although I try and connect to both through food. I really enjoy cooking traditional dishes from both sides of my family, especially meals that my grandparents would cook.
I have always loved mechanical things and taking things apart to see how they work. Design is a good way to show what we are capable of. I really like cars, tanks and especially airplanes. The other day I saw a massive jet on display on the side of the road so I pulled over and got out of my car just to see it. I really wanted to be a pilot when I was a kid. Next year I would love to get my pilot license.
As a designer, we know that you appreciate good design. Could you tell us why good design is important to you and where you find inspiration?
Good design is important because you shouldn’t move through life feeling limited because of how something works. Everything in your life should move seamlessly with you and not work against you. To put it simply, good design helps you to move through life effortlessly. I really believe that even the most regular, everyday item in your life should bring you joy and be a source of happiness.
There’s a bit of magic in taking something from just an idea to something you can physically hold. For me, that's really motivating as a designer. One of the most exciting things is when I receive a sample of something I’ve created from our factory. It feels like Christmas.
Where do you find your inspiration? Do you have a favorite designer?
A lot of my inspiration comes from feeling frustrated with everyday items. This frustration leads to curiosity. I like looking at something and questioning why is it the way it is. I ask myself, how it could be better.
From an aesthetic aspect, a lot of my inspiration comes from architecture. I can get inspired from a beautiful city or also from a product that I see in a store. I always try to understand why I like something and what about it has caught my interest.
I have favorite designers, but a lot of them are my peers and people close to me. I pull a lot of inspiration from the people around me. I don’t get inspired by being surrounded by the same thing as everyone else. If all designers are inspired by the same small group of famous designers, everything will begin to look similar.
You wake up and go to the office, then what happens? What does a typical day look for you look like?
My day depends on where I'm at in my current design process. I’m not developing new ideas every single day. Sometimes, I’m finishing products that we’ve been working on for a while.
Next week I’m going to be in the development stage which involves researching the market and customers. Right now, I'm focused on the kitchen market so I'll be taking images and looking for issues or obstacles that could be improved on with better design. The next step is going wild with ideas. We shoot a very wide net and then reel it in to see what's possible. After we've narrowed it down to a few really good ideas, we can focus on developing them. We begin the process of 3D modeling, revise again and then move forward with prototyping.
What is your biggest challenge as a designer?
The hardest part of being a designer is having to constantly design things out of thin air. You have to take a prompt or original design and make it into something new and interesting. I have to choose a specific area of the house and then narrow it down to a specific idea. There is a misconception that designers can just constantly come up with new ideas which is certainly not the case.
QuickFire: What are your top 3 favorite Umbra designs and why?
1. The Spin Click N Tear because it was my genius design.
2. The Slip Shoe Horn because I really like how it looks, feels and works.
3. The Hub Ladder because I use it for every day for my partially worn clothes.
We are a very global company. Our products can be found in over 120 countries and we have offices all over the world. What do you love most about working for such a global company?
I’m very interested in the world, so it’s fascinating to learn and discover what people in different regions or countries like. It's very inspiring that the products I design or work on could be used in any part of the world. The thought that I could go to Japan or India and see a product that I've designed is really amazing.
I also love getting to work with people from all over the world, what other jobs do you get to work with someone from Brazil one day and then someone from France the next?