011: Matthew Waldman

Nooka is a New York fashion design company founded by artist/designer Matthew Waldman. The ethos of Nooka is universal language, which guides the creation of products with enhanced functionality and a technoprogressive philosophy.

I♥SYNTHS: Tell us a little about NOOKA. What does the name mean?

Matthew Waldman: NOOKA started with a childhood dream of living as a citizen of a planet, and not a world divided by geopolitic. This started a journey to design and my philosophy of design as a universal/global language. So, in the mid-90s, I began designing for the emerging internet world and gave myself exercises to retrain my brain to work in intuitive processes [as opposed to aesthetics] the results of one of these exercises turned into the NOOKA project.
The NOOKA name is a perfect expression of the brand ideals – it feels and evokes the future and exists without any obvious connection to any one linguistic culture. I had initially licensed the designs to a larger company but the license reverted back to me and i produced independently in 2003. NOOKA Inc. was incorporated as an entity in December 2004!

I♥SYNTHS: How different is your business from when you first started?

Matthew Waldman: In many ways it hasn’t changed – I create objects of desire for intellectual consumers. Being independent, which means small, the marketing has become increasingly challenging and that has affected the business in a negative way as has the ongoing recession in Europe and Japan, which were once our best markets.

I♥SYNTHS: When you’re designing a new product, what inspires you?

Matthew Waldman: The inspiration that started the brand is the same inspiration I plug into when designing an individual product – and that is human to human interaction and how we interface with our virtual and physical worlds.

I♥SYNTHS: Do you have a favorite watch or product design that you’re most proud of?

Matthew Waldman: I’m most proud of the zizm, but really any of the time pieces with the zen-h display as it represents the core value of universal language best. More than that though, i think the NOOKA strip [belt] features the NOOKA philosophy of re-think everything by bringing a centuries old design to the modern age in which we now live.

I♥SYNTHS: What do you think is your most popular design worn by musicians? Do you think your products gravitate towards electronic musicians and DJs?

Matthew Waldman: All the models seem to be popular with electronic musicians. The NOOKA philosophy is technoprogressivist, so there’s an immediate affinity with people soundtracking the future. It’s kinda a nice validation for me as I’m a huge electronic music geek myself, it’s what’s playing in the NOOKA studio all the time.

I♥SYNTHS: What’s your favorite electronic song or artist?

Matthew Waldman: That’s a big question. Of course, ‘I Feel Love’ by Donna Summer is the classic track that brought electronic music to the masses, and it still sounds like the future even now 36+ years later. I love this track more each time I hear it. Some of my favorite current electronic acts are: Midnight Juggernauts, Nicholas Jaar, ADULT and Trentemøller. Some tracks that stay in my brain are: The Girl and the Sea by The Presets, Kids by MGMT, Desire by Tuxedomoon. Man, I could write a long list! Here are a couple of my favorite synthesizer-based songs.

I♥SYNTHS: If Nooka made synthesizers, what do you think they would they look like?

Matthew Waldman: A simple pad with a color spectrum in one field and solid color blocks in the other. You would use the space above like a theramin though the holographic interface.

I♥SYNTHS: Synthesizers come in all shapes and sizes. Do you have a favorite?

Matthew Waldman: I’m still partial to the original Casiotone VL-1. I had one when it came out in 1980! I was 15 years old. The Casiotone VL-1 is such a perfect piece of industrial design. i used to do crude multitrack recordings with 3 tape recorders before the little Teac decks came out.

I♥SYNTHS: Your designs have a futuristic look to them. Synthesizers have always been looked at, as futuristic instruments used in sci-fi movies and sound effects. Do you write music or have you been involved with any projects?

Matthew Waldman: In my mind, I am a rock star. I play guitar and sing, both horribly. I write, what one could call poems at times, but never tried to turn them into music. I live my rock star life vicariously through you! My obsession with music does get an outlet working with musicians on projects, like the amazing NOOZIK project produced by Synthemesc Records. You can check out the entire project here.

I♥SYNTHS: Would you like to share any upcoming or new products in the works?

Matthew Waldman: I’m working on some awesome connected audio products and a wearable computer product. I’ll launch both on a kickstarter/indigogo soon. I’m also working on more experimental process based inventions. Stay tuned and keep checking www.nooka.com for latest product line and updates!

I♥SYNTHS: Thanks for the interview and we look forward to Nooka’s future products.