Oscar Diaz, Product Designer

The scientific process behind many of life’s workaday phenomena is something called capillary action, which is the molecular attraction that makes liquid flow through a porous medium, for those in need of a high-school refresher. It’s what makes tears flow through your lachrymal ducts, what gives microfiber its super-absorbent properties, and why groundwater naturally spreads into areas of dry soil. It’s also what powers the Ink Calendar by Oscar Diaz, the Spanish-born, London-based designer who became a minor internet sensation this summer when images of a paper calendar that each day absorbed enough ink to color one of its embossed numbers hit the web — eventually landing on New York Magazine’s Approval Matrix.

When designing the Ink Calendar, Diaz actually had in mind something a bit more transparent: “I was inspired by people who dip their sugar cube just the tiniest bit into their coffee, so the coffee rises up and dissolves the sugar,” says the Royal College of Art grad, who maintains that most of his designs are triggered by small, everyday observations such as these. His RGB Vases, for example — a tricolor set of glass vessels that, when nested, form specific hues — arose from a competition sponsored by Veuve Clicquot, where the brief was to create something inspired by the Champagne company’s signature orange. “I thought about how to create orange,” Diaz says. “I didn’t know at the beginning how it was going to work, but when I deconstructed the color on the computer, it gave me the exact RGB numbers and I began making tests on different materials.”

Diaz’s research-led approach was formed in part by his postgraduate studies and also by an internship with the Paris-based designer Matali Crasset. But his wonderful sense of color and form — i.e. why those conceptual designs are so darn lovely to look at — owes a debt to his undergraduate training in fine art, which he eventually abandoned. “I realized I was interested in doing pieces with objects,” he says. “Besides, I thought art was a bit hermetic. You need a whole body of work to really be understood. I like that design is able to easily reach more people.”

What inspired you to be a designer?
Meeting the right people at the right time but also feeling that some things needed to be changed or challenged in design.

First thing you ever made:
An elephant carved into a piece of soap.

Favorite material:
I really don’t have a favorite material (apart from soap). I usually start with ideas and then find the material that best suits the idea. And I keep only very basic tools around my studio, because tools will condition your output. If you have a really good wood workshop, you’ll start making lots of pieces in wood.

Fictional character who would own your work:
James Bond. He seems like he appreciates good design (especially in cars).

Next big thing:
No idea, it could be you.