Matt Carr Talks Life as Design Director of Umbra


Matt Carr has been an integral part of the Umbra design team since 2001. Contributing countless designs to their product line, his work has been featured multiple times in The New York Times, The Daily Telegraph, I.D Magazine and Living Etc. Compelled to create products that balance business and imagination; he currently oversees a global design department in Toronto. Here Matt shares with The LuxPad his favorite design in his 16 year career and explains why a short attention span led him to product design…

bathroom storage
plants in window

Have you always wanted to be a designer? How did you get started in the industry?
I have been surrounded by design since I was a young kid. During my childhood my family had a small construction company, I was often involved in design plans and understood how things were made.

In high school, I was more interested in architecture. I interned at Douglas Cardinal Architects in Ottawa, Canada – famous for their organic shaped buildings. With my short attention span, my mentor mentioned product design as an alternative career to architecture. I took his advice and moved to Toronto to attend Humber College School of Industrial design.

I was always keen on homewares and consumer product. I applied for an internship at Umbra where I presented a chair that didn’t really work but it caught their attention. I’ve been designing for Umbra ever since that day in 2001.

Since joining Umbra in 2001 you’ve contributed numerous designs, which are you most proud of?
There have been hundreds of designs over the years but I’m most proud of the Postino Mail box, it’s one of my first designs at Umbra and is still selling well. It’s quite rare to see a product stay in production for almost two decades. The Postino represents Umbra’s brand values of being modern, original, casual, affordable and functional.

hanging photos

Can you talk us through the design process from idea to finished product?
On average, the process take around a year. Starting in the design studio researching and observing opportunities in each of our categories. We then look at rough sketches and models to further define the concepts. Once we have final ideas, we complete full scale 3D prints and define our color, material, and finishes. This deck is sent over to our sourcing team for approval samples. From there the designers are engaged in decisions right till the product ships to our warehouses where it is then distributed to over 150 countries around the world.

What does your typical working day look like?
I spend time with senior managers in other departments to ensure company direction and priorities are aligned. The majority of my day is spent with the product development team working on new ideas and refining details throughout the design process. I am traveling several times a month engaging with customers and finding inspiration through sourcing and factory visits.

If you didn’t work as a designer what would you be and why?
A football career would be nice.

Where do you look to for inspiration?
I look to new materials, processes when visiting our manufacturers around the world. Also looking at pain points and opportunities in my own experiences to develop new solutions and ideas. I’m fortunate where I am not only a designer of Umbra product but also part of our target market.


How would you describe your own interior style?
Minimal, functional, and textured. I don’t use a lot of color so materiality is important.

How would you spend your perfect day off?
I’m lucky to live in Toronto where there is an abundance of quality things to do, see and eat. Perfect day would consist of some exercise, park hang outs with my two kids and plenty of food and coffee breaks.

shoe storage
shoe storage

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
If you don’t take advice, at least listen and understand where the experience is coming from.

What does the future hold for Umbra?
We are constantly growing and looking into developing our existing categories and jumping into new categories every year. We have a great amount of talent in the company and look forward to delivering great product to our loyal customers.