This profile originally appeared in VMSD's January/February "Look Book" issue.
Robert Langstaff, Director of Design for Aspecta (Norwalk, Conn.), developed a keen interest in art and design at an early age. Creativity is in his DNA; his uncle was an artist, and his great-grandfather an architect in London, whose work was recognized and awarded a medal from Queen Victoria. While in the fifth grade, young Robert visited the Dayton Art Institute in Dayton, Ohio, where his passion for the creative arts was ignited. He went on to earn a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Fine Arts from Athens, Ohio-based Ohio University, graduating cum laude in the study of sculpture and painting.
After graduating, the realization was clear: While art school had broadened his vision, it didn’t prepare him to make a living. And so, he needed a job. His career began as an assistant curator at the Columbus Museum of Art (Columbus, Ohio). His professional life and artistic focus then turned toward product design in the decorative products and surfaces industries. Having been exposed to advertising and graphic design in high school, Langstaff joined a firm specializing in automotive industrial products and appliances, designing wood-grain print abstracts. There he fell in love with the process of embossing. He learned his most important lesson from his mentor, who told him, “Learn to listen. Know what they are asking for.”
As his career progressed, the next logical stepwas joining Aspecta, a global contract brand that manufactures contemporary luxury vinyl flooring. At Aspecta, he was given a great deal of freedom and responsibility, working for a company that, in his own words, “understands the design process.”
“Flooring is the groundwork on which to build,” says Langstaff. “Accessories become flash. ‘Floor’ is like the ‘ground’ on which you build a painting. ‘Floor’ as the base can then have contrasting furniture color, fabric and window treatments.” Near and dear to Langstaff’s heart is the integration of biophilia, beauty and function into the flooring products he designs. “Biophilia is mankind’s innate connection to the natural world,” says Langstaff. “In healthcare, if a patient is exposed to window views with natural sunlight, there is less recovery time; it produces a healthier attitude. It’s how mankind evolves in a natural dwelling, incorporated into the built environment.”
Aspecta recently received the JUST label, created by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI, Seattle) as a vehicle for organizational transparency beyond operations and product ingredients. The company was recognized for providing healthy working conditions including comparative pay, daycare and support of local schools.
In addition to the creative freedom afforded him, Langstaff says he’s is proud to be associated with a company that values empathy and social justice.