Interview: Hadrien Monloup, Product Designer

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Hadrien Monloup co-founded Bellroy, a popular wallet brand, as well as Carryology, an online resource for wallets and bags, on a mission to make a difference in the world of carry. In this interview, Hadrien shares his EDC, his approach to creating better ways to carry, and how to apply that mentality to life’s bigger obstacles.

What’s in your everyday carry?

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View Hadrien’s Full Everyday Carry

What is your typical work day like, given your different roles as a business owner and product designer?

My role is evolving constantly. We now have an amazing team of designers at Bellroy that I proudly lead. I am still designing but less than before. I am now working more on “bigger picture” projects with Andrew, Jimmy Gleeson and our team, looking for new opportunities and building strategies to realize our ambition. Our role is to accumulate information and reduce uncertainty around ideas. That’s what design is about for us. We start by asking ourselves ‘How would it look and feel if this or that could do …’ and then create potential designs that give us a better idea of the size, impact and worth of a project. Our goal is to move fast to validate our ideas and find ways to release products that we love as fast as we can. It is a relentless evolution as much personal as it is professional.

From where do you draw inspiration?

I draw inspiration from various blogs, brands, books, music, travel and people. Inspiration for me, is not the go-to ‘thing’ when you run out of ideas. It is a way to see the world from different perspectives every day. My Dad, Hubert Monloup was a set designer for the Opera in France and his work is still one of my strongest sources of inspiration. His work ethic, creativity, and resilience are the three pillars I believe should form a good creative.

I was born and grew up in France, but moved to Australia a few years ago, and have been enjoying the cultural mix/clash since. I love how language shapes my thinking and the way I see the world. I love surfing Pinterest when I feel like procrastinating. It is a great way to look at interesting work in a fun way and share my findings with the rest of the team. My one year old son is reminding me how important it is to look at the world with excitement and marvel. How little things make a big difference. Have fun with it all. And try not to take anything too seriously, which I tend to forget.

We’ve seen how your passion for all things carry-related play into your profession. Do you have other interests that helped you get to where you are in your careeer?

I have been through a few career changes. From medical biology to product design, with a diploma in remedial massage therapy and a second Dan of Aikido. I love moving from different worlds and learning things that I didn’t think I could. Now with YouTube, Pinterest, blogs and ebooks, it is a fast track to get what I need to know and work on diverse projects. I love illustration, so I have a cintiq 13HD with me. I sketch on my notebook but move to digital pretty fast and keep my work with me on a portable hard drive.

Why do you EDC?

We move and live faster, so we need to be adaptable. The things I carry with me must help me transition between work and play. I need the capacity to turn ideas into actual product designs or switch between illustration drafts. I want my tools to be there for me and for it to be less about me adapting to them. I carry more tech with me these days than notebooks because I can access my work anywhere. It allows me to do a quick sprint on a project, get what’s on my mind out and move to the next project.

Everything needs to be compact and fit in a Tom Bihn Synapse 25 type of bag. Any more, and it gets too heavy or bulky to justify carrying every day. So I constantly look for better-sized notebooks, cable organizers, or anything that keeps weight or size down. I used to have a sunglasses hard case to keep my cables together in my bag and place it in those dead spaces of my backpack. I recently bought a Grid-It in a small size to see if that’s a better solution. I think I like it although I would love it to be more elegant.

Although you said you like to keep your daily carry compact and lightweight, is there anything you’ve seen that you’d really love to add to your carry? Of the things that’ve made the cut, what’s your favorite EDC item?

I’d love the Cintiq Companion. Less cables and restrictions. Other than that my Cristal Bic pen has been my favorite pen, for ever! Cheap, easily replaceable and it gives me a huge amount of line variations to work with. It’s great for sketching. And in thinking about types of sketching, I sketch without an eraser. My Dad taught me to start light and build my lines. Don’t erase, build.

It seems like you’re constantly moving from project to project. Could you tell us about some of your more recent work?

We have recently released a new range of wallets for the active, adventurer-types. It is a great feeling to release a wallet solution for all the cyclists and travelers out there that have been asking for an elegant product that can also perform. Their needs go beyond just slim when it comes to wallets or other carry. It was a challenging project, especially trying to get the right balance between the craft and beauty of leather goods with the performance we wanted. We have more new products coming very soon, so definitely keep an eye on Being part of such a fast growing business is so exciting — there’s always more to come.

You mentioned moving through different worlds and learning new things. To wrap this up, could you share some of that wisdom with us?

That’s a big question to answer in Frenglish (my French-English)!

How about this: Life is like a sketch. Maybe we could all benefit from approaching our lives in the same I like to approach sketching — with pen, no eraser. The fear of making a mistake will freeze your ability to try, learn, and potentially get it right faster. So instead we should build the lines, from light to heavy, layer by layer, with small corrections all the time. Enjoy watching the lines build on the paper, shadowing the better ones, while at the same time celebrating the frustrations that come with the process.

Talent is nothing without work. All those mistakes are not mistakes — just steps towards a better outcome. Maybe life, careers and projects are not so removed from the way I (and many others I know) approach sketching. Break down the big projects into small ones and test, prototype, again and again. I really believe it’s a faster way of getting closer to the ultimate goal. Oh, and don’t forget to enjoy the ride.

Photos courtesy of Hadrien Monloup and Bellroy.

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