About Petur Hannes Olafsson

To fulfill his lifelong ambition to design and produce ergonomic technology products for everyday use, Petur created onanoff in 2010, a design and lifestyle accessory brand for consumer audio products and mobile accessories. A permanent resident in Hong Kong, Petur draws inspiration for the brand’s design from his Nordic heritage and the vibrant Hong Kong lifestyle. With a passion for technology, problem solving and design, Petur merges creativity and practicality to offer stylish solutions for active urban lifestyles, as well as simple ways to enhance and improve so busy families and those constantly on the go can get the best use out of their mobile devices.

Interview with Petur Hannes Olafsson

Petur Hannes Olafsson ("PHO") interviewed on Thursday, 16 August.

Could you please tell us about your experience as a designer, artist, architect or creator?

PHO : I am a self-made designer, I didn't find my calling for design until later in my career. I'm happy I did because now I have more experience to be able to contribute towards design.

How did you become a designer?

PHO : I started my career in this industry as part time job with university in Iceland, on the floor in electronic store as salesman, then have transferred from international sales into purchasing and manufacturing in Asia and finally to my own company and designs, I want to think that all the parts have helped me equally to make me the designer I am today.

What are your priorities, technique and style when designing?

PHO : Simplicity towards users interface, if the user cannot figure how to use the product in an intuitive way, it makes for bad experience and normally frustration follows. I want users to be able to use my designs with comfort and ease. The focus of my designs are making basics work better, simplify and enhance and leave the user happy and at ease.

Which emotions do you feel when designing?

PHO : The design process can bring a whole rainbow of feelings. Everything from frustration when things are not going well to elated thrill when things work out the way you want them to. When I design I feel very focused and creative, I think those two feelings I get are some of my best qualities.

What particular aspects of your background shaped you as a designer?

PHO : My experience in international sales, purchasing and manufacturing has given me valuable insight into how design should work from a business standpoint. Growing up in Iceland has had a priceless affect on my aethestic, which is very Nordic. My design style is very straightforward. It's characteristics are simplicity and modernity. It's very form-meets-function. If your product looks nice but doesn't work or sell well, it's worthless. It needs to perform just as it will look pleasing to the eye resting on your coffee table.

What is your growth path? What are your future plans? What is your dream design project?

PHO : Our team is committed to researching and developing kid-centric designs for safe audio products. We are capitalizing on the success of our current products and designing products that protect hearing and enhance the listening experience for a wider age range- like young teenagers and the modern professional. We are also working on pushing the boundaries of ultra thin speaker technologies that is super portable and designed for global business people on the 'go'.

What are your advices to designers who are at the beginning of their career?

PHO : Stay true to your goals, your vision and your designs- designers and people working in creative industries have a social responsibility to make things better. Improve, progress and evolve. Design touches and influences how we live and how we use things and how we get things to work for us. It can make your life easier and more beautiful. Designers need to carry on the torch of betterment of all things, and that is a lot of responsibility.

You are truly successful as a designer, what do you suggest to fellow designers, artists and architects?

PHO : With all design, there is an element of trial and error, we are human and doomed to make mistakes and seldom things happen correctly in the first go. The key is to keep at it, don't give up. Use your errors to learn and improve, and eventually you'll get to where you want be.

What is your day to day look like?

PHO : I try to squeeze in an early morning run, it's a great start to the day. Head to the office and spend the morning answering emails, after which I will see my team for a meeting to go over marketing and sales. Finally I like to spend the rest of my day working on new designs and upcoming projects. In the evenings I'll walk my dog Snowy, cook a hearty meal at home while listening to music.

How do you keep up with latest design trends? To what extent do design trends matter?

PHO : One way that I keep up with the latest design trends is through the trade shows we attend. We are regulars at CES, and it's a great way to tap into the most innovative products coming out. You could even consider them ahead of the trend, as many of the products are launched at the shows.

How do you know if a product or project is well designed? How do you define good design?

PHO : I always consider if the design serves the initial purpose. In my opinion, form always needs to meet and merge with function for it to be a truly good design.

How do you decide if your design is ready?

PHO : My design process is very organic. I swear by the power of pencil and paper for getting the design process underway. I like my ideas and design to flow together. If I have already put solutions into place, if I am working on another aspect of the design and suddenly feel like I need to revisit those that I thought done, then I must. I tend to go back and forth until I'm happy with the result. This allows me to methodically craft my designs without letting any little things slip through the cracks.

What is your biggest design work?

PHO : Designing the full range of BuddyPhones has been our biggest project. We currently have 7 different models each with unique features to meet kids various listening needs. It's a project that keeps expanding as we evolve alongside what kids need out of a safe audio product. For example, now that kids frequently use devices and headphones at school to learn, we have incorporated StudyMode, which cuts out interference and enhances vocals to make it easier to focus.

Who is your favourite designer?

PHO : One of my favourite designers is Arne Jacobsen, who designed the Egg Chair. I know it sounds like bit of cliche answer, but his design is amazing in every aspect. I admire the modernity of his work in the context of the 60s.

Would you tell us a bit about your lifestyle and culture?

PHO : I'm a permanent resident in Hong Kong, but am originally from Iceland. I draw lots of inspiration for the brand’s design from my Nordic heritage but the vibrant Hong Kong lifestyle has also left its mark on my designs. It's a melting pot of different cultures, and I feel has brought more value to my design in their own unique ways.

Would you tell us more about your work culture and business philosophy?

PHO : We have a close knit design team at our company. I lead it along with two young local Hong Kong designers that bring a lot of dedication and hard work to our projects. We've worked together for several years now on many different projects. The team is very collaborative and I'm always inviting their opinion on things, rather than dictating how things must be. They are very capable across print, product, packaging and 3D designing.

What are your philanthropic contributions to society as a designer, artist and architect?

PHO : Our BuddyPhones designs play a crucial role in bringing awareness to the risks of hearing loss in children. We also teach young kids how to have good listening habits that they can keep with them for life. We partner with hearing loss groups, local schools, and mom bloggers to spread awareness about this cause.

What positive experiences you had when you attend the A’ Design Award?

PHO : It's important for us to participate in established design competitions to prove that we are serious about safe audio for kids. A lot of work goes into the design and development of our products, so being recognized for that is essential for us as a company, but also for customers to know that we are committed to protecting kids hearing through well-designed headphones that parents can trust and kids will love.

Petur Hannes Olafsson Profile

BuddyPhones Kids Headphones

BuddyPhones Kids Headphones design by Petur Hannes Olafsson

BuddyPhones InFlight Kids Headphones

BuddyPhones InFlight Kids Headphones design by Petur Hannes Olafsson

BuddyPhones PLAY Wireless Headphones

BuddyPhones PLAY Wireless Headphones design by Petur Hannes Olafsson

BuddyPhones Wave Wireless Headphones

BuddyPhones Wave Wireless Headphones design by Petur Hannes Olafsson


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