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“You can’t make anything crappy today and think it’s going to be successful. Crappy’s out.”

SAYL CHAIR, 2010
Client: Herman Miller
Challenge: To craft a high-design office chair for half the price of the iconic Aeron chair.

UP BAND, 2011
Client: Jawbone
Challenge: To create a fitness and sleep-tracking band cool (and comfortable) enough to be worn 24-7.

OUYA, 2013
Client: Ouya
Challenge: To engineer an Android-powered open-source gaming console for under $100.

VER BIEN GLASSES, 2010
Client: Augen Optics
Challenge: To make customizable, indestructible eyeglasses for low-income schoolchildren in Mexico.

It’s Yves Béhar’s World. We Just Live (Better) in It.

The man behind the Jambox, the UP band, and, soon, the OUYA (say it “Ooh Yah!”) gaming console is changing the business of product design.

Béhar is notoriously hands-on, preferring to work closely with CEOs to cut through the bureaucratic web. Ouya founder Julie Uhrman first approached Fuseproject with an underdeveloped, underfunded startup idea. After three meetings, she was surprised to learn that she would be working with Béhar directly. “For Yves, there’s no beginning of the day or end of the day. It doesn’t matter when the money comes in,” she says. (Fuseproject has partnered with promising startups at a reduced rate in exchange for equity.) “He throws himself into every project as though it’s his own.”

At Fuseproject, Béhar is known as a demanding presence. The long hours and open work space foster a certain in-the-trenches spirit. And with the unusual design of the new office space, Béhar hopes to further stoke the community. “I’m interested in architecture that creates a moment,” he says. “Somebody’s telling you something; somebody made something special for you.” The stop-you-in-your-tracks moment here is found at the top of the staggered bleachers. Soon, visitors will reportedly be able to pop their head out a skylight hatch for views of China Basin.

It’s the thrill of the challenge, of pulling off something inherently risky, that drives Béhar—in his office renovation, in his business decisions, and on the beach, waiting out the next wave. “I like to put myself in places in which I need to focus, be in sync, and constantly get better,” he says, adding with a smirk: “Or else.”

 

Originally published in the April 2013 issue of San Francisco.

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