“Always question why you’re doing something,” opined James Irvine, “unless you are being paid a ridiculous amount of money, then really question it.” This combination of rigour and irony not only characterises Irvine’s approach to his work as an industrial designer, but the part-purposeful, part-humorous spirit of the products he develops.
Born in London in 1958, Irvine studied furniture design first at Kingston University and then at the Royal College of Art. One of his closest friends at both institutions was his fellow designer Jasper Morrison who remains a friend and occasional collaborator today. After graduating from the RCA in 1984, Irvine worked first at Olivetti’s design studio in Milan and then for Toshiba in Tokyo before returning to Milan in 1988. He continued to work for Olivetti under the guidance of Ettore Sottsass, and in 1992 became a partner in Sottsass’ studio.
Since leaving Sottsass Associati in 1998 to concentrate on his own projects, Irvine has developed products for companies such as Arabia, Artemide, Asplund, B&B Italia, Canon, Danese, Magis and Whirlpool as well as working on ambitious public projects such as the design of the Mercedes Benz city fleet of buses for Hannover.