A Day in the Life of black+blum
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This month’s Designer Dailies heads across the pond to spend a day with Dan Black and Martin Blum. The duo founded black+blum in 1998 and have been designing their own range of products ever since, from the Eau Good water bottle to the Hot Pot BBQ, all being sold in leading design stores around the world. The busy pair now work in separate offices most of the time but with the beauty of technology it’s like they’re in the same room. Here’s a slice of how this successful team makes it all happen.


I’m married to Hen and our day starts when our children wake up…luckily for us, they are both great sleepers. Jamie is 4 and Ella is nearly 2. They both like to be carried downstairs with a double piggyback ride…although not sure how long I will be able to keep this up as they are growing so fast. We all have breakfast together, which is normally a lively affair, as Ella is still working out whether to eat her bowl of cereal or wear it on her head! Once we’ve had breakfast, I head off to work.


My mornings are usually occupied with the routines of having 2 x 1-year old boys. So they normally wake us up before any alarm has a chance to tell us what time it is. My last chore before leaving the house is to feed our Pixie-Bob cat Monty.


Although the main office is in London, I live two hours north in Northamptonshire. We picked this area as it is beautifully rural and quiet, but still has great train services to London. Being in the center of the country it is pretty easy to get anywhere and you can even get to great beaches on the Norfolk coast in just over an hour. For the last six years, I have been commuting daily to London, but recently rented a small office in my local town of Stamford. It’s a lovely little market town which was recently voted in the Sunday Times the number one best place to live in the UK. My commute is now a ten minute drive on back country roads and it makes a lovely change from having the long commute to London. I do though still go to London once a week, so now get the best of both worlds.


I live about 20 minutes cycle ride away from the studio, so I cycle in every day in any weather really. It is also a great way of getting my daily exercise and, no, I don’t carry the bike all the way.


I rent an office in a lovely old Georgian building on the main street in Stamford. Much of the town is made from limestone and has a lot of history. The locals often say Stamford is like a ‘mini Bath without the tourists’. It isn’t big, but it has everything you need and is known for its antique shops. Because of the beautiful architecture, it is often used as a location for period films and TV shows.


As I tend to get in early to the studio, I kick off my day with a coffee and croissant. I have around an hour of quiet time to catch up with emails and things before the team arrives.


There is no fixed routine to my working day, but it will normally start by speaking to Martin and seeing what is outstanding and if there are any pressing deadlines. We have two other designers in the office and Martin and I spend a lot of our time working up new designs with them in CAD and simple foam board and wire models. We often communicate new designs to them by sketching. We are constantly filling sketchbooks with ideas in development.


The creative team gets together in the morning to discuss progress on the different projects we are working on. This is normally followed by a Skype call to Dan to coordinate our day.


Because I am not in the office, I am using Skype a lot more. It is a great way to speak to everyone in the office. We even have weekly meetings where I am there on Skype listening in for the whole meeting—this is Skype at its best! When Martin and I are brainstorming new designs, we do a lot of quick informal sketching to communicate ideas. Now that I am working remotely from the office, we still do this but, again, via Skype. I have a great new white board product where you simply tear it off a roll and stick it to the wall and using this makes brainstorming with Martin very easy.


As the managing director, my time is also spent catching up the sales and admin team. We have dedicated sales managers who look after the different world wide territories. There are over 10 trade fairs a year to organize and generally keeping in touch with our retailers and distributors.


I admit that my desk is not very tidy and I always struggle to keep it organized. It is always littered with samples of materials from different products and sketches of things we are working on. We normally have about four to eight new designs that we are mulling over at any given time and it is hard to discipline at what point the inspiration will come or time spent on any given one, a perfect excuse for a messy desk!


Behind my desk is a white board which is ideal to visualize solutions. Many of our designs started their lives on this board.


Because I am in an office by myself, it is nice to pop out to get my lunch and sometimes Hen will even come and have lunch with me before picking up the children from nursery. There are some great little bakeries, sandwich shops and cafes. Another bonus is on market day, where you get lots of local farmers stands selling delicious local produce.


One of my passions is for classic cars. My wife and I share a garage space near our house. That rocket shape thing forms part of a past installation piece of my wife Michiko. I currently own a 1960s Rover which I service and maintain myself. Whenever I can, I will stop over on my way back from the studio, as there is always something that needs attention which is all part of the fun.


I normally get home from work, just in time to put Jamie and Ella to bed. I always love reading Jamie a bedtime story and his favourite one at the moment is on knights and castles. It’s lovely during summer time as it stays light so long and there is still time to take our two Ridgebacks (Dunla and Juno) for a quick run. Our house is surrounded by some great local walks and tracks in woods, so there is no shortage of routes to take with the dogs.


When I get home the twins Kaito and Cooper will be on their way to bed – but not without first having their daily dose of Shakespeare or Sartre.


I am also getting into my vegetable growing. I don’t really know what I’m doing, but learn a bit more each year and it is really fun watching what you have planted start to grow. I tend to make the mistake of planting everything too close together and at the wrong time of year, so everything ends up arriving at the same time. Last year we had a thriving crop of courgettes and had to eat them quickly, before they turned into enormous marrows! So far this year, my carrots, beans and peas are all doing well. Following a quick dinner with Hen and some backgammon (we are both keen players) or TV, it’s time for bed and the end of another day.


Once the twins are tucked up in bed, it gives Michiko and me time to catch up and planning our days ahead. Michiko is also a busy artist, so this is the part of the day where she can work on her projects. This is also the time where I will try to find that elusive spare part on the internet for my Rover and to generally catch up with current affairs.

Caroline Williamson is Editorial Director of Design Milk. She has a BFA in photography from SCAD and can usually be found searching for vintage wares, doing New York Times crossword puzzles in pen, or reworking playlists on Spotify.