I am pleased to introduce the newest baby and kid furniture line to be added to our site: Spot on Square. Co-founders, Bob and Nicole Springer bring a clean and calm collection to the scene, keeping unnecessary noise away from your child’s treasured space.
The Hiya series, a nickname given to Bob and Nicole’s son by his twin sister, conveys a childlike sense of purity, simplicity and sustainability. Enjoy!
Where did the name Spot on Square come from?
Our son was drawing on the driveway with chalk. He had drawn a square with a circle in it. When I asked him about it he referred to as the spot in the square. Nicole and I thought this was great graphically and began to think about how we could use it. After a bit of thought we came up with Spot On Square. We felt that this was a good fit being a bit of a play on words yet it was quite playful at the same time.
Bob, you appear to have quite an extensive industrial design background. Tell us about your experiences and how has it evolved into to starting Spot on Square? How about being a father, how has this played a role?
I had the opportunity as an undergrad student to be an understudy to an eccentric Finnish designer named Stefan Lindfors. During this time I worked on a number of furniture projects and gained a love for furniture design. My time since has been primarily in a corporate environment. I started my career at IBM working under the direction of industrial designer Richard Sapper. The time I spent at IBM was very formative and really helped define my approach to design. In 2003/2004 I spent some time in grad school at Art Center in Pasadena. This was a great experience for me and a chance to step out of the restrictions that are placed on designers in a corporate setting. Nicole and I have talked for a long time about starting a company and for the past year have been planning for the launch of Spot On Square. For me, having kids sort of put some perspective on my goals. With Spot On Square I can focus my efforts on something that will allow me to spend time with my family and learn from my kids to better our products. It’s a great feeling to design and manufacture products that I can be proud of from a sustainability standpoint. It’s all pretty cool.
Nicole, I am sure your background in education, let alone being a mother, has taught you a thing or two about what appeals to kids and parents alike. How has surrounding yourself with little ones influenced Spot on Square? Do you look to other parents for inspiration or advice?
My time as an elementary teacher, and now as a mom, has contributed quite a bit to the mission and sensibility of Spot On Square products. To observe and be involved in the development of how kids work, think, create, play, and wind down has been a great asset in creating modern, functional pieces that keep both child and adult in mind. I’ve learned that keeping things simple and straight forward is what both children and parents seek…to sort of take away the noise and provide an environment that fosters the parent/child connection to each other and their surroundings. For example, it was important for us to create a toddler bed that keeps little ones nestled in safely without fear of tumbling out, while at the same time allowing space for mom or dad to sit and read the bedtime story and give cuddles before lights out. I’m always thinking of the duality of the product…how can this work best for the child and the adults who love them. I’m also keenly aware that children grow up! So, providing versatility in the function of the piece as the family evolves is of great importance to me. Children have always played a key role in my life and ensuring that our products are manufactured responsibly, adhere to the highest safety standards and use non-toxic, eco-conscious materials is of highest priority. We have a responsibility to our children to keep them safe, to encourage them to dream big and to leave them with a world they can thrive in.
I absolutely look to other parents for inspiration. There’s not a play date that I’m not standing in someone’s nursery asking, “So, how’s this working for you? What do you like/not like about it? What do you want from this piece that you’re not presently getting?…” My friends with children and the play groups I attend make for great focus groups!
I admire that you two work as a husband/wife team. What roles do each of you play within the business? For others who are considering going into business with their spouse what advice can you lend them?
Bob is the designer and has the corporate background and experience with manufacturing as well. Nicole handles more of the operations side of things. We are lucky that our strengths are in different areas so we can balance each other out. We’re both planners and multi-taskers (what parent isn’t) which is a huge asset. We’ve been together for a long time so we can read each other pretty well.
As for advice on going into business with your spouse, the most important thing for us has been that we are equally passionate, committed and excited about the venture 100%. You have to both believe in what you are doing to get through the ups and downs of starting a business.
How difficult has it been to produce a line that is both kid friendly yet modern and attractive to parents?
We went through a few iterations before getting to the right one. The tough part for us was developing a line that was going to hit a reasonable price point. We wanted to do a lot of things that don’t necessarily complement a less than premium price point like manufacturing in the US and using sustainable materials. The idea of kid friendly and modern fit together quite nicely. There is so much visual noise in a kids life between the TV and the plethora of products being targeted toward them at all times. To us it’s nice to tone that down in a more visually calming way.
I approach a design in a pretty simplistic manner by first defining and understanding the essentials and then looking for areas that can add visual interest without destroying the integrity of the overall form.
On the Hiya Series this is done through the juxtaposition of the very linear structure on top of whimsically rounded feet that make the product a bit more animated. Almost like its walking on its tip toes.
I appreciate that you offer a bamboo option for your pieces. How did you decide on bamboo and how has it influenced your designs?
When we were looking into sustainable materials we got bamboo samples from a supplier. It was so nice. The way the layers create a pattern on the cross cut is just beautiful. It has influenced our design in some ways as we wanted to ensure that these pieces had exposed sides so you can see it. It also influenced the cut of the handle on the drawers. Here again, we wanted to create an exposed area that allows you to see the end grain even when the drawer is in a closed position.
I love the personal touch in using your son’s nickname, Hiya, in naming your series. If my parents were to name a furniture series after my childhood nickname, the collection would be called Assi (a very long story, don’t ask!). Hiya is mutch catchier. How much have your kids influenced your designs and/or been a part of the product building process?
The world just looks and works differently once you become a parent…having kids changes your perspective and can’t help but influence aspects in your life. They’ve definitely influenced and inspired our designs. They can draw something (that I would frame in a heartbeat) then erase it off the chalkboard 2 seconds later. They don’t look at it as art it’s just something they created. For them it comes easy without the burden of thought. This to me is inspiring. We are also fortunate enough to witness the use of our product firsthand with our kids using them on a daily basis.
What is next for Spot on Square?
We have a busy year planned much of which will be focused on brand building but for sure we’ll introduce some new products in that time.
I enjoy wood paneled station wagons, German food and senior citizens (I am 80 years old at heart). Nearly every weekend I am taking photos at other people's weddings and I have a blog of my own (but I don't update it often enough). I love to paint, sew and knit. Check out my DP Staff profile on Hatch.