"My first product was a slingshot"

Interview with Jean-Baptiste Goetgheluck, MAD Lab resident designer.

3 September 2019
© Eline Willaert

Using his brand Goetgheluck, Jean-Baptiste as a dedicated cyclist is trying to solve the theft problems in Belgium with his new project. He lived in Beirut for three years, but then he decided to come back to Brussels and improve what can be improved. 

What is your practice about and of what product you're less proud of?

I've been working for three years for a Lebanese company called PSLab, where I've been designing technical lighting fixtures. For a long time, I wanted to work on a project, which will be related to cycling, because I love to cycle. I consider it's the easiest form of transport within the city, even in Beirut. Gradually I started noticing the problem with bike theft in the cities, especially here in Brussels. People are trying to solve this issue with Villo box, however, I have a feeling that it wasn't the perfect solution. It wasn't beautiful in the city, it's difficult to integrate and expensive. Therefore, I started to investigate the additional answer for this problem, and I created variety of mockups until I finally managed to get to the satisfactory one. It's a classic bollard. You place your bike on it, you log in either with your phone or with your card and secure your bike. It's somewhere in between bicycle hoop and bike box. Now, I'm trying to examine if the users are confident enough to leave their bikes in this device for at least one night. The goal, for this year, is to have 50 hooks implemented in the city. I applied for a fund, so I'm waiting now for the money. I need a lot of money to materialize it: for the software, for the electronics and so on. 
And to the second part of the question I can't really answer (laughter). Once, I was asked to design a very innovative lamp by using big transformer and a huge reflector with massive LED chip. I tried to do it as much accurately as possible, but the final object was just ugly. The goal was to make it small, but it was just impossible with materials like that. It was a disaster. Eventually, the production was stopped because we all agreed that even it was a good exercise, it' s not satisfactory. 

My first motivation was to please myself. Because it's satisfying when you think of something and you subsequently materialize it.

What was your biggest motivation to become a designer? Is it possible to live from this occupation? 

It already commenced in my childhood. Since I remember, I always loved to create things. The first object I ever made was a slingshot. I lived in a countryside full of trees, therefore I had enough tools and materials to mould it. Throughout the time I made dozens of slingshots. It came to the point when it was really efficient and we organized the battels as well. But my mother wasn't very happy when she saw all the wounds on my, and my brother's face. In my opinion, you start to consider person a designer, when the object he or she created is being produced, moreover, when it's something what you didn't do solely for yourself. That time came during my studies, when I received an award for one of my projects. Back then I was really surprised that someone is recognizing my work. My first motivation was to please myself. Because it's satisfying when you think of something and you subsequently materialize it. However, my current motivations differ. l'm less into furniture. I don't see the design in a way I saw it when I was younger. Now I'm also taking to account the situation on the market or clients, and instead of doing what I really want to do just for myself, l'm trying to solve civic problems. And I think, that the bicycle project illustrates it perfectly. I believe in what l'm doing and I'm not doing it for the money. And I also think that the opportunities for becoming wealthy are decreasing because of the raising number of competitors. Especially when you want to become a famous designer, in my opinion, you have low changes to achieve that. In this field, rich people are those who produce and who sell the final products. Even if you are working for a big company, the money is taken by them, you don't really keep much. I saw it when I was working for PSLab, for instance. 
How do you name your pieces?
 It's always related to the technique, which is used. I usually don't want to make it more complex that it should be. I'm trying to launch a start-up, therefore it has to be catchy. But I don't always give names to my objects. You also have a list of materials you can use and according to context, you decide what is suitable for it. Then you explain, why did you use them. You use some because they are sustainable, you use others because they are cheaper etc. Or you receive recommendations from people from the field, who advise you the materials you should use, because in the end, it will make your product better and cheaper. 
You work with a lot of different materials. What are your favourites and why? 
I actually don't have a favourite material. lt always depends on the product. I like steel because now it's available everywhere and you can modify it to any shape or colour you want. And when you design it on your computer first, you can be 100% sure that the result will be the same as the one you saw on your screen. 
What are you currently working on? 
 Well, I want to transform the bike project into a reality.