Monday, March 1st, 2010

Inspiration Monday: Designer Q&A with Scot Herbst of Kaiku


Posted by Ali | View all posts by Ali
2 Comments » | Published in Designer Interviews, General  |  2 Comments

For some inspiration this Monday, I’m sharing a chat with Scot Herbst of Kaiku. How might you be inspired by Scot? Well, for one he’ll inspire you to forget the stroller and get back to the good old days of wagon pulling with his Kaiku Zen Wagon. Second, you’ll be inspired by the phrase “simplexity.” Finally, you’ll see what might cause someone to feel as though they were incarnated as a saltwater fish in the their past life. Enjoy the Q&A!

Hey Scot, I’d love to touch upon your background a bit. I see you’ve been on the design team for Specialized Bicycle and Nike and designed the HP Touchsmart. What was the turning point or catalyst to starting your own product line?

Yes, it’s true.  I do have a background in outdoor recreation.  Perhaps that’s why I love our wagons so much…when we had our little ones, I was always looking for excuses to get outdoors with them.  My wife loved cruising around in this beautiful BOB stroller, and I thought to myself, “Hey, I’m more of a wagon dad, but there’s no ‘beautiful’ solution for me!” So 2 yrs later, voila. And the Touchsmart, well, I’m embarrassed to say it—I’m a little bit of a geek as well.

So, Kaiku {ky-koo} is Japanese for “to grow.” How/why did you pick it as your brand name?

We don’t do plastic.  “Wood.  Steel.  Rubber.”  That’s our mantra.  It all grows…well, all right…but you see where I’m going with this.

How would you describe your design style/philosophy? How has it evolved over the years?

I worked with the famous Mexican designer Alberto Villarreal when he coined the phrase “Simplexity.”  I always loved that, blending simplicity and complexity.  That’s my entire approach to life.  The wagon, believe it or not, is an extremely complex assembly of parts and design criteria–but the user will never know this.  It’s just beautiful and easy, and I love that.

What do you use as inspiration for your designs?

Without question, my kids are my biggest inspiration. My daughter learned to walk last year with our Strollkart. The Zen Wagon was purpose built around them. My lovely and talented wife just finished designing a whole line of accessories including zipper pouches, seat cushions, seat belts for the Zen. Our kids are the best beta-testing team on the planet! I also come from a Scandinavian background, so I must have inherited the tasteful simplicity gene from back there.

I see that you have written a “Designer’s Field Guide to Sustainability”…a very valuable resource for those wanting to craft socially responsible products. Can you share some key take aways to what you’ve learned through your research?

Less is more.  Mies said it a long time ago, and I know it’s a cliche, but wow–it’s so true.  Just challenge yourself to create with less.  At the end of the day, a brand new hybrid isn’t as powerful a statement as your old bicycle.

What are your passions? Favorite hobbies? Greatest indulgences?

My wife, Amy, convinced me to get rid of my car, and we’re trying to make a go of it with bicycle transportation.  We just got a bucket bike for the kids ( so our stable of 2-wheelers (and 4-wheelers now that we have the Zen) just keeps growing…

If you could find your Pushpull, Strollkart or Zen Wagon in the home of any one person who would it be?

We already have.  I shipped the complete set to my father, Walter, last year. Now when his grand kids visit he can scoot them around.   He’s been my biggest supporter, and has done more to forge the modern product design landscape than anyone I know, started his design firm (the largest in Chicago) in 1963.  Gives a ton of his time to design education now.

A little bird told me that you believe in your incarnation as a saltwater fish in a past life. Elaborate!

Well, I come from a sailing background in the beautiful city of Chicago.  I literally grew up on a sailboat on the Great Lakes.  Living in California I sometimes find myself a little out of my element.  But that ocean, it’s always a skiphop away.  I’ll just grab a board and head to the coast, keeps me happy.

What advice would you give aspiring designers?

Get some rest.  I don’t know what it is about our profession, but nobody sleeps until they’re in their mid-30’s.  There’s some late-night = creativity theory.  Oh, and just inhale design from everywhere.  You’re brain is constantly archiving and categorizing elements of design.  Try to expose yourself to a broad spectrum.

What is next for Kaiku?

I’m off to Mexico in April to see my students.  KAIKU was invited by the design school Centro to host a class on furniture innovation.  And I just got back from Chicago where I’m doing a line of furniture for Crate and Barrel.  We’re working on a distributorship in Europe and Australia at the moment…can’t predict the future!

Thanks, Scot!

View all of the Kaiku pieces on Design Public

About Ali:
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.

About Ali

Ali has written 149 post in this blog.

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.



  1. Becky says:

    March 2nd, 2010 at 8:58 am (#)

    I love these! When we were kids, we would put a box on top of our Radio Flyers and pretend that we were the Ingalls family and that it was our conastoga wagon!

  2. Adeola says:

    March 3rd, 2010 at 2:38 am (#)

    l love wonderful designs. l want to be an interior decorator and designer but l studied accountanting and presently l am working as a business manager in a mortgage bank. Please how do l go about developing my skills.

Leave a Response