Robin Petravic considers his company Heath Ceramics a living museum. Founded in 1948 by Edith Heath, the brand is heavily influenced by mid-century modern design principles that are still reflected in the tableware and architectural tiles handcrafted today in Sausalito, California.
While much of design is about pushing boundaries to create something new that’s never been seen before, at Heath, there’s a decades-long legacy of products to build upon. It raises the question: Does working within a legacy introduce any limitations in terms of innovation? We discussed this with Robin on a recent episode of The Design Better podcast.
Robin, who co-owns Heath Ceramics with his partner Kathy, doesn’t think of the legacy as a constraint but rather an inspiration. The things that the company is doing today is an evolution of what was started in the past, he says.
“It feels very natural for us to evolve things,” Robin says. “For example, we’re not the type of people who would buy an old house and tear it down and build something new. You’d buy an old house and think: “How can we bring it back?” And so it’s very much how we think about Heath as well.”
Sometimes that evolution goes in a circular fashion; other times it continues into new trajectories. But the design approach within a heritage brand is all about building on the past, both in product and other aspects of the business as well, Robin says.
by Eli Woolery
Eli is the Director of Design Education at InVision. His design career spans both physical and digital products, and he is a lecturer in the Product Design program at Stanford University. You can find Eli on Medium or on Twitter.