In all the interviews that I’ve done for Oasis over the years, this one with French-Moroccan product designer Younes Duret has been the most fun. The man’s sense of passion and wonder is infectious; after talking to him, you feel like you need to create something right away. You realize that life is full of possibilities and discoveries, especially because you become captivated by his verbal mannerism of tossing an almost involuntary voilà after every other sentence, like some punctuation mark of discovery and aha!-ness. It’s because he’s always speaking straight from the heart, and only after talking does his brain catch up and chime in agreement with a voilà. I tried keeping them, but the effect is lost in the translation to the written word, which is why I’ve omitted their occurrence from the interview below. If you want to see what I’m talking about, watch a video of him giving a talk, like the one he gave last November at the 2013 Nuqat Creative Conference in Kuwait.

“For me,” he said during that talk, “when I create, I’m not a guy, not a man, not a woman, not Moroccan, not French, not Arabic. I’m just what I’m doing. I’m just the act of creating. That is the important thing for me.”
Between that video and the first two minutes into my interview with Younes, i quickly crossed off the first question I had prepared. I realized that asking him about what makes him passionate is like asking a fish why it breathes underwater.

We did a piece on Younes a few years ago, introducing his work melding beauty with functionality all wrapped up in an Arabic theme. In the past year, he’s been playing with his new 3D printer and recently showed off a cute little artsy toy that everyone has been going crazy over: the Zelli Man. Even if you don’t know anything about art, you will automatically recognize the Zelli Man’s head as an almost stereotypically Arabic design element. This geometrical mosaic style is known as zellige (hence the name) and is commonly found in Moroccan architecture and tilework.

“Zelli man is just a toy, but people liked it,” said Younes. “I realized that since he has no real head, he can be any one of us in the Arabic countries. The arabic pattern of his head evokes our sense of Arabic heritage and resonates within us, linking us together. He is an expression of our generation.”

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As with every other wonderful thing that’s been invented in recent times, 3D printing first came about in the 1980s, that magical decade that had the best music, movies and animated series, achieving harmonic resonance across all three categories with the animated movie, The Transformers: The Movie; I defy anyone to show me anything that tops that. For the longest time since its inception, however, 3D printing remained the purview of the industrial world, since the printers were much too large, expensive and limiting in what they could create. They mainly were used for making prototypes.

What 3D printing does is take a virtual model created through computer design software and slice it up into cross-sections that the machine will print out layer by layer using melted plastics or even steel, until you end up with the physical model in spectacular three dimensions. In the past few years, the cost of printers has dropped dramatically to more consumer-friendly prices.

“The tricky part is the design process,” said Younes. “You have to know how to design and how to use the different programs. I don’t think it’s a really consumer product just yet. What’s promising though is that  the printer brands are working towards incorporating 3D scanners which allow people to take any object or perhaps create a little sculpture out of clay, then scan it, have the design uploaded, and be able to print that out. You no longer need to use a design program.”