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Wave Rider

Yves Béhar surfs the swells of California cool, technology—and social good

INTERVIEW

@Spencer_Bailey

+ SEAT OF POWER: The product designer Yves Béhar, photographed at the San Francisco offices of his company, Fuseproject, in January.
CHRISTIE HEMM KLOK FOR NEWSWEEK

THE STATE OF California—its ocean swells, its open spaces, its tech-minded culture—has shaped Yves Béhar. The Swiss-born designer first traveled there with his parents in his early teens, at the beginning of the 1980s. The family took a road trip along the coast, making stops at Hearst Castle, Big Sur and Monterey. A few years later, in his early 20s, Béhar returned to study at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, from which he graduated with a master’s degree in 1991. He has remained in the Golden State ever since, running his company, Fuseproject, primarily out of San Francisco for the past 18 years.

“What struck me is, compared to Europe, the amount of space, both physical and mental, on the West Coast,” Béhar says, sitting in the lobby of the Royal Palm hotel during the Design Miami fair last fall. Though he turns 50 this May, his rumpled hair and sunny disposition make him seem 10 years younger. “What was truly mind-blowing was how open people were to a Swiss designer with a thick French accent showing up at their doorsteps. I was shy and introverted, and yet people who were leaders in science or technology opened their doors and listened to some of the ideas I had. I began to think that design could be at the forefront of change, not just a sort of skin. It could be profound, about big ideas.”

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