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Friday, November 21st, 2014

Designer Interview and GIVEAWAY! Something’s Cookin’ in the Modern Play Kitchen

Becky

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I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Clark Davis, owner, designer and also self-proclaimed “minion” of Sprout. The company is rolling out fantastic new products with playful modern style, and this one arrived on our site just in time for the holidays. It’s the Sprout Modern Play Kitchen, and parents, we promise, it will not take you four frustrating hours to put together like the one my parents got me 30 years ago (Davis says it takes less than ten minutes to pop this baby together).

“We tried to fit a lot of function into a very simple product,” Davis says. While there are plenty of kitchen tasks for your budding chef to complete in here, they didn’t clunk it up with too many doo-dads and gizmos (i.e. the stuff that breaks). Instead, the kitchen has a stylish look that will fit right into your family room while entertaining your child for hours.

Whether mock toasting, roasting, boiling, cleaning dishes or making toast, there’s a spot for any mock molecular gastrology tasks.

Aspects of the design and manufacturing close to Davis’s heart included making this product in an eco-friendly way (that is flat-pack shipped) and making it right here in the U.S.A. “All of the pieces are interlocking and just require a little twisting,” he says. You know what that means? No screws or tools, like those horrible finger-killing tiny Allen wrenches, required! It’s a Christmas miracle.

Another aspect Davis kept in mind was storing the kitchen away with ease. If one kid has moved on to making real muffins while the other is still bottle-feeding, you can disassemble it and store it flat until the infant is ready to start galloping gourmet.

“Kids and adults both love this design,” Davis says. “It can slide right into any great room.”

In order to give the Modern Play Kitchen a big introduction, Davis is giving one away for free!

All you need to do is use the hashtag #designpublicgiveaway5 on Twitter or Instagram, or go to our Facebook page and share this post, or enter here:

Not into contest rigamarole? Order one up right now.

More contest details:

You can enter once per day per social media outlet. Each re-post counts as an entry into the random drawing for that product.

On Dec 15, 2014 we will announce the winner for each contest.

No purchase necessary.

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Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Designer Interview: Rich Williams of ModProducts

Becky

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Cat Owners: Got a case of the litter box blues? It’s time for a ModKat Litter Box, a modern litter box with “rooftop access,” which cuts down on the pesky litter spill and which looks much more attractive than any other box on the market.

Meet Brett Teper and Rich Williams, the creatives behind ModKat. Today we’re sitting down with Rich, and he’s answering a few questions how he got into the business of building a better litter box.

Hi Rich! Please tell us a bit about how your company came to be – your creative background and how you began to build your business.

Brett and I first met and collaborated in the design department of a large PR agency during the tech bubble. After the burst we individually freelanced, but we stayed in touch via IM complaining about clients, swapping music and occasionally working on projects together. Eventually, we both tired of working from our tiny apartments, craving human interaction and decided we should join forces and find an office space. Thus began Fulton Street Design, our graphic design agency. We worked with clients like Morgan Stanley, HBO, Van Kampen Investments, Bumble and bumble., Coach, Colin Cowie… The Colin Cowie project took us to China, the furthest we had ever traveled for a press check! Our translator, Jim, was a young, knowledgeable Taiwanese entrepreneur, who we quickly befriended.

We conceived of ModKat in 2007, at first as sort of a hobby, but as the design quickly took shape we realized we had something. We formed ModProducts and immediately called Jim, we were in Taiwan a few weeks later to discuss producing ModKat. We introduced ModKat at The International Contemporary Furniture Fair in 2009, where we received the Editor’s Choice Award for Best Accessory and then in 2010 picked up a prestigious Red Dot Award.

Brett has an industrial design degree from RIT, I have a visual communication degree from FIT.

As a cat owner myself, I can guess how the ModKat litter box came to be, but please tell us how  you got the idea for its design.
Ah yes, why design a litter box? Well, it all started when my wife and I decided to outfit our living room with some new furniture. Our small Brooklyn apartment suddenly looked great except for one thing… the ugly, cheap, beige litter box in the entry way. I researched the entire internet for a nice modern, cat litter box solution and came up empty. Obsessed and annoyed, I complaining about it every night. My wife had enough and said ”stop bitching about the cat litter box – you’re a designer… go redesign it!” A lightbulb went off in my head and I came in the next day and told Brett about the idea. He was on board right away and we both began sketching. At first we set out thinking that we just needed to make it beautiful, but after reading reviews about existing litter boxes we realized that we needed to explore its functionality as well.  We spent the next two years designing and producing The ModKat Litter Box.

Please take us on a bit of a virtual tour of your studio. What’s the neighborhood like? What were some of your priorities when finding a space where you need to be creative?

Our studio is located in Manhattan’s Financial District in the Bennet building, the largest cast iron building in the world (built in 1869). We were allured to the space by the huge windows with views of City Hall to the north, World Trade Center site to the West and the tips of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges to the East. However, it wasn’t all perfect – drab gray carpeting covered the original pine floors, a drop ceiling with fluorescent tubes masked the top 1/3 of the windows and the vaulted subway station ceilings. We rolled up our sleeves and gutted the space bringing it back to it’s original glory, right down to the exposed steam and water tower pipes. Like our product we kept the space minimal, white and grey walls, simple furniture and a bunch of iMacs.
There’s also a spectacular rooftop to walk out on and take in the view, make phone calls, have coffee… it is really our extended office. The commute is a bonus as well. Brett has a 30 second walk to his apartment and I am in Brooklyn so downtown was perfect.
Where do you start when designing something new? A sketch? A dream? A brainstorming session between the two of you?
ModKat came from a real need, we feel these are how the best designs are created. We try to think of things that we want to use, things we like or need. The best ideas come from the casual conversations when we stop the every day work and start discussing a thought one of us had. This leads to a flurry of ideas if we get excited about the concept. After that, sketches and research then on to engineering. We refine and simplify the design along the way adding only the essential details. We really like seeing how far we can pair something back to reveal its essence.
Now that you’ve perfected the litter box, what other everyday objects do you have your eye on?
We are currently working on three new innovative pet products for early next year. Two more for cats and one for dogs. We are also experimenting with product ideas related to music, which is another area we are passionate about. We always strive to reinvent everyday objects, we want them to be the best they can be. Some say it is just a litter box, we say it is one of the items in your home that you live with and use every day, make it something you love!
How do you stay inspired? Any advice for those who are suffering from a creative block?
I find that so many things that I touch or see on a daily basis have been ignored. If you start to scrutinize everyday objects you will find that they can inspire you to take them further, to change how they are used and perceived for the better.
We also try and escape from the office on occasion to visit stores, restaurants or even just sitting in a bar can inspire unique ideas. We’re fortunate to have so many great resources within our reach.
Do you have any words of wisdom for creatives who are ready to make the leap into a quitting their day jobs and building a business?
After working for clients for years we would really say to any designer that they should do something completely from their own voice without compromise.  Something you are passionate about or know you want to do. It is really amazing what doors will open up and how much you can learn about yourself. When we were only doing client work we never won any awards, received any press or were ever asked to speak about design, after creating ModKat we have been lucky enough to do all of these things.
Thanks so much to Rich for chatting with us and giving us a peek into the ModKat studio!

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Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Designer Interviews: These Are Things

Becky

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Today we’re sitting down with Jen Adrion + Omar Noory of These Are Things to learn a bit more about what inspires their designs, what Columbus Ohio has to offer and how their fascination with maps began. Those of you who have been reading Hatch for awhile know about my obsession with maps, so this was a dreamy interview for me.

How did you two meet? When did you discover you two together would make a great partnership?

We met in art school where our first class together was an intro to typography class. We always had a great time together so we made to sure to schedule as many of the same classes together as we could. Many hours were spent sitting in the back of classrooms, sketching and laughing. We didn’t discover our “great partnership” until we were a couple of years out of college.

Modern World Map in Aqua

Your world map reminds me of my Cold War youth – was the RUSSIA area a nostalgic reference?

Our original world maps were heavily inspired by the mid-century modern art of the 50s during the start of the Cold War. We wanted to capture that look but also bring it into this century with some refreshes and more modern labeling (for example, choosing Russia instead of U.S.S.R.)

When did your interest in maps begin? Is there anywhere you’re dying to travel to that you stick a push pin in?

We both have a love for travel. Besides the business, it’s where most of the money we earn goes. We had traveled to a few places before we designed our first map and thought it would be great if we could have some sort of physical pin map to track our travels. We searched for months and couldn’t find anything that matched the specific look we wanted so we decided to create our own. We designed our original world map (the World Map / Aqua) and had it produced in our first run of 50 maps. Fortunately for us, lots of other people liked the look of it too. We ended up selling out of our first run almost instantly and the rest is history.

American Flags Map

How are you reinterpreting and putting your own stamp on them?

A lot of what we work with is a simplification of whatever we’re mapping. Kind of like getting the essence of that area. This means that sometimes areas get cut which has spurned a few armchair cartographers. At the end of the day, there are plenty of great sources for maps with every city, country, mountain range, river, and so on labeled; we’re just offering an alternative to that.

Map of Washington, D.C.

I grew up in Cincinnati and people I went to high school with flocked to Columbus. What do you love about it?  What’s the scene like for creative types?

Omar actually grew up around Cincinnati too. He moved for the same reason many other college-bound teenagers move, to get some distance from his parents :) Columbus is a great city for starting a business like ours. While it may not be as culturally relevant as a New York or a San Francisco, it also comes with a much, much lower cost of living which has given us the ability to invest most of money right back into the business. Columbus also has a growing creative culture, tons of great restaurants and lots of fledgling design groups along with some large established ones. Simply put, Columbus is a great balance of culture and affordability which makes it a great home base for a creative business like ours.

Please tell us about your neighborhood.

While we live in Columbus proper, we live on the edge of a neighborhood called Grandview Heights (we’re technically right across the street from it). It’s a nice quiet neighborhood with a lot of greenery and we’re only a couple of blocks away from Jeni’s, the best ice cream in Columbus.

Could you please tell us a bit about finding the perfect fonts to correspond with your maps and the places they cover?

Type choice has always been one of the most important steps in our design process. We’ve always been fans of classic fonts that have stood the test of time. We also take into account the time period those fonts came from when matching them with the look of our designs. More recently we’ve become interested in older, hand drawn typography as well.

What do you do when you have a creative block to shake it loose?

The best part of working for yourself is that if there’s a creative block, we’re not forced to stew in front of our computers. On those kinds of days we shake the block loose by getting away for a bit. We bike or walk if the weather is nice, other times we try to see if there’s a cool event going on, and sometimes we just decide to take a nap on the couch with the cats. Going back to the screen with a clear mind almost always does the trick!

World Map in Black

What’s your studio like? Any advice for keeping a good space where one’s creative juices can flow?

We live in a fairly small one bedroom apartment which also doubles as our studio. Things used to be much tougher when we also stored all our inventory and packing supplies but earlier this year we hired a fulfillment company to store and ship our prints which literally gave us back half of our apartment.

We look at our space the same way we look at our designs. Over the past couple of years, we’ve pared down all the non-essential items in our apartment. It’s much less effort keeping a clean and clutter-free area when you only have a few dozen things in your house. Without all the extraneous junk, it’s easier to focus our work and also easier to relax when work is done.

Thanks so much to Jen and Omar for taking the time to chat with us today. I’m going to have to get to Columbus and see if Jeni’s can hold a candle to Graeter’s Ice Cream.

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Monday, July 18th, 2011

Designer Interview: John Eric Byers of Jeb Jones

Becky

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Today we’re sitting down with John Eric Byers, the furniture designer behind Jeb Jones. Jeb Jones is an environmentally conscious company that creates furniture distinguished by simple geometric forms, traditional construction methods, hand-tooled surfaces and hand finishing. Based in upstate New York, the designs are influenced by the four seasons and the surrounding countryside. Without further ado, meet John!
Jeb Jones Spools (Short)

What was the first piece of furniture you ever made?

I made a ladder back chair in high school shop. Gave it to my Mom of course.

What has your career path been; what led you into designing furniture?

I always had a desire to work with my hands and with wood. When I discovered the furniture of Wendell Castle I was hooked. I was very fortunate that he had a small school of which I attended for 2 years and then went out on my own.

Jeb Jones Stacking Drawers Dresser

What is your philosophy when approaching the design of a new piece?

Excitement and anxiousness.. I get this kind of  buzz.

What inspires you? What do you do to overcome a creative block?

Honestly, I have never had a creative block. But the best cure to indecision is to stay disciplined and make a decision and hope for the best.

Jeb Jones Wood Ball

Please tell us a bit about the sustainable aspects of your practice and products.

At the onset  I wanted JEB JONES to represent sustainability and enduring quality. We use only FSC select hardwoods and VOC-free environmentally safe opaque and clear coat finishes. Our costs are higher but I refuse to cheap out on the environment . When you purchase one of our pieces, you can feel proud that you are doing right by your planet. And you can feel that way for a lifetime because our pieces will last a lifetime and our warranty supports that.

Can you tell us a quick story about three of your designs and how they came to be?

Most of my designs start as quick thumbnail doodles, I never do working drawings. I often have a few designs being made at the same time and then I begin to see variations on the pieces as they come to life.

Jeb Jones Open Form Bench/Table

The idea of emphasizing the interior space of the Open Form Tables led me to to extend that interior consideration and attention to detail to all the open pieces in the collection.

What’s your workspace like? How do your surroundings in upstate New York influence you work?

My private studio is short 30 foot  commute from my 1860s farm house which makes it easy to go to the studio every day.  I think the simplicity of my lifestyle in the country has contributed to the simplicity of my design forms . The four seasons certainly has influenced my color palette.

Thanks so much to John for sitting down with us today! Here are more of his designs.

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Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Designer Interview and Studio Tour: Kim Sly of Albie Designs

Becky

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Tired of the corporate rat race, Kim Sly decided to take her passion for illustration and transform it into a career. Her products now include graphic tops for children, illustration prints for all ages, and a custom line of paper goods. We recently sat down (well, virutally) with Kim to learn more about her inspirations, her studio, and how we can be like her and quit working for the man!

When I look at all of your prints on our Albie Design retail page, the fact that each city has its own very specific color palette jumps out at me. Can you please give us an example of a city or two and what inspired the color choices you made?

I don’t normally start out with a color palette in mind, but typically it evolves as I build each city in a sketch.  In the case of  NY– I knew I wanted a yellow cab driving up to the city, and I love the image of NY in the Fall, so I decided to use yellow & brown as my two main colors..  Also, as I strive to stay true to my mission to make “fun & personal” art I want to keep the colors bright and vibrant to reflect each city. For example to me San Francisco is one of the most colorful/happy cities in so many ways, and nothing says “happy” more than red & yellow together! My hope is people don’t take my art too seriously.  I’ve had people say to me “oh the mountain in the back of your Portland print really shouldn’t be so big”….typically my response is I am not trying to create a map here ….:-)That being said, I do try to make each city recognizable at a glance, therefore they usually end up mostly true in building/landmark placement.

Similarly, you feature a few iconic buildings/landforms/landmarks that really just nail the character and personality of each city. Do you start with a bunch and narrow it down? What is your process for showcasing each city?

Great question, it takes me several months to complete each city for that very reason. I typically start with many hours/weeks of research which includes, combing the web for images & maps to reference and find inspiration. Also, if I am not really familiar with a city, I reach out to people who have requested that city in the past and ask them for help. After the research, I play around with perspective. For example with Chicago I went back and forth on the perspective because there are so many amazing landmarks/buildings in that city, and there is no way to capture them all in one perspective without it becoming more of a map print. I landed on the river perspective, as I just LOVE how the river winds through so much brilliant architecture and I knew I wanted to include a few of my favorite Chicago buildings (Wrigley & Corn Cob). I truly do strive for a unique & fresh perspective -I think it’s pretty easy for people to find good silhouette cityscape art, but I wanted to create something with a bit more of each city’s unique personality.

What is your studio like?

My workspace is far from ideal. It currently is a guest room/play room/laundry room/office/studio. The only benefit is that allows me to do my work while still making sure that my kids aren’t coloring all over my couch!


How do you break out of a creative block?

I spend a lot of time on various design blogs, and I am constantly amazed and inspired by how many talented artists and designers there are out there.  We are lucky to live in a day and age where there are so many resources and avenues in which to share our work & learn about other artists on a global level. Just 20 years ago we were somewhat restricted to libraries and local artists , but now we can learn & be inspired by “real time” artists that are changing the face of design/art today.  At times it’s overwhelming, but I think this emerging design online community has really helped many artists find their platform in which to thrive (including myself).

What things can you NOT live without in a workspace ?


For me, I can’t live without an inspiration board. I have a large cork board that is covered with images that inspire me.

Please tell us about your latest series of prints!

Inspired by my own love for all things food & drink, I wanted to make some fun and modern prints for the kitchen or casual dining area.  Committed to staying true to my mission I am hoping to create art that is fun & personal for every age, simply put I hope it makes you smile.

Here’s a peek at the beautiful dining space that helped inspire the new prints:

Do you have any advice for those who want to take the plunge into starting their own design business?
In the words of my former employer Nike, “JUST DO IT”!  I can’t tell you how many people close to me said, just wait to do this until you kids get older and are in school, it will be so much easier than juggling being a mom to a baby and a toddler and starting your own design business. There is not doubt in my mind that it would be easier if my kids were in school and I could do this more as a full-time job. In fact, after the birth of my second son I almost went returned to my “real job” as a corporate recruiter where I would have had full-time daycare, and put this on hold for a few more years. However, because of a series of major events  that happened in my life I decided  life is too short to not just go for it!  I know that sounds nice and fluffy, and in actuality there is a lot of planning and logistics that need to happen before anyone “quits” their day job, but for us we saw an opportunity for me to pursue my passion, and stay home with our children while they are young. In short, it was a calculated life decision based off of one of my favorite poster saying’s “LIVE WHAT YOU LOVE”!!

Thanks so much to Kim for sharing her work, her workspace, and her advice with us! Click here to shop Albie Design.

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