In the Studio With...Jim Rokos
Image on the left is a man bending over with his face in a metal bowl. On the right is an image of a mobile phone inside a metal bowl.
When he’s not trying to beat his nephew in chess or strolling through the park with three huskies, this designer is creating stunning products that challenge the norms of physicality. A 2006 graduate of Central Saint Martins with an MA in Industrial Design, please meet Jim Rokos.
Left: Paper template. Right: Artist taping a paper template to a wall.

Where is your studio?

Kensington.

Describe your typical day.

I start with coffee and emails. Then I check my job list to see what needs prioritizing – anything from interviews to competition entries. If there’s an order that’s come in I try to get to that first, because I like those to be sent out immediately and for my customers’ expectations to be exceeded. Occasionally I head out to meetings on my bicycle or go for a walk with a few huskies – it’s good to leave the studio during the day. Since my cat passed away, whose job it was to tell me when I needed to stop working, I’ve had to set an alarm with a robot voice reminding me. At the end of the day I revise the job list and get it ready for the next day.

What are the key stages of your design and making process?

It often starts with a question like, “How can an object lean over autonomously as the liquid that holds it upright reduces?” From there I research – I like to visit factories and think about the physical properties of materials. Sometimes a conversation leads to an idea, or sometimes I’m actively imagining things.

The ‘Gauge’ vase on sale at not just a shop was realized as a reaction to physical challenges brought to mind by a decanter I created. I like to push the boundaries of what is physically possible, so sometimes the ideas I come up with cannot be made.

While a lot of my product ideas build upon themselves, it’s also important for me to take a step back and not consciously think about them all the time.

Eventually I make drawings and models to discover the perfect shape and angle of what I’m creating, and depending on the project I’ll put it into a 3D computer drawing program. My most recent vase designs have been formed out of a dense foam which I then draw the correct proportions of, all before sending it to the Maker in the Giant Mountains of Bohemia.

Left: Paper templates. Right: Wooden chopping block and large hammer.

What is the best thing about your job?

At the end of a product’s journey, it lives in someone else’s home. Occasionally a customer will send me a photograph of it. I really appreciate seeing the work in people’s homes, in harmony with its surroundings where it has become a part of something greater than itself. It is especially interesting when others have arranged it in such a way that I would not have considered.

Do you listen to music in your studio? What three songs are on your playlist?

Music is very important here. Some jobs need music. I often seek something new to listen to. Right now:

  1. Martin Creed – (You Put Your) Hand In My Hand https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVIo9igtBAg
  2. Hinds – Davey Crockett https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=488tfIa66v4
  3. I heard this at some friend’s wedding in Sicily recently: MAMA DIASPORA vs YURIY GURZHY – DJ IS DRUNK https://vimeo.com/61410762

What’s on your desk right now?

A smart phone (mainly for the music), a bowl that the smart phone goes into to amplify the music, and a pile of job lists.

Left: Two men blowing glass. Right: Close up of glass being blown.

Who do you look up to as entrepreneur?

Paul Smith for his balance between being commercial and original. Alberto Alessi for the same thing – he sees himself as a mediator between designers’ ideas and what customers will be willing to buy.

I appreciate Steve Jobs for his obsession with quality and perfection. He aimed to make his products an extension of its owner, which he did too well.

What three apps or companies should every entrepreneur know about?

Receipt Bank for filing invoices. Moment because it measures the amount of time we spend on our phones. Not sure of another app that is a must-have for entrepreneurs, but I did just download a chess clock, so I’m planning on using that with my nephew who says I always take too long on my moves.

Why were you interested in having your products sold at not just a shop?

I have a fondness for UAL and it was a way to reconnect. The shop is very well run and curated. It is modern and forward thinking. The layout of the shop is somewhat like an art-gallery, so it is an excellent platform for work to be associated with. Its brand is innovative and consistent.

Left: Glass vase in wooden mould block. Right: Glass vase being cut out of wooden mould.