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Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Designer Interview: Rich Williams of ModProducts

Becky

Posted by Becky | View all posts by 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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Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Designer Interviews: See Scout Sleep Dog Beds & The Best Models Ever

Becky

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Today we’re sitting down with Katie Logan, one half of the creative juices behind See Scout Sleep and chatting about dawgs, the Gulf Coast, handmade goods, eco-friendliness, dawgs, dawhtahs, Bahbara, and dawgs. Oh wait, I just channeled Linda Richmond for a second there. Anyway, the first couple of things I mentioned. Onto the locally crafted, eco-friendly and super duper comfy and stylin’ dog beds of See Scout Sleep!

Please tell us about Scout! And Ruby, and Bayla. Are they your dog bed models?

Bayla, unfortunately, is too large for any of our beds at the moment. Scout and Ruby are my go-to models. Easy access, you know? And it is a little strange how much they both love being in front of the camera. Scout actually understands the command “model.” She looks at the camera when I say it. Mila, a blue heeler, modeled the medium size beds for us. She took a break from her busy schedule of herding cows, dogs, and people. She is also an avid frisbee catcher.

Scout is a rather special lady. My boyfriend and I took her in from the streets about a year and half ago and she has brought nothing but joy. She is a pit-bull lab mix I think, with a heart of gold and quite the sense of humor. Scout is pretty much perfect. She likes to swim, cuddle, play with children, save the world, and sniff peoples’ butts when they are least expecting it.

Ruby, on the other hand, might be the devil incarnate. I almost ran over her a few streets from my house. I took her in temporarily, thinking I would find her owner or a good home, but what can I say… she has really won us over with her ability to put her and our lives at risk at any given moment and her oh so soothing and loving biting habits. Really though, she is hands down the funniest dog I have ever met. Not having ever been a “little dog person”, maybe all Chihuahuas are like this, but man Ruby is weird and wonderful. She hates bicycles, humans, dogs, the wind, and too many options, but she really loves us and her tail. I guess she is staying.

And then there is Sherman, the 25 lb cat I just had to have at PetSmart. He really rounds out the crew with his amazing food consumption abilities and constant meowing tactics.

Bayla is a great dane mix that owns Sarah Killen, my partner in crime. She is a majestic and wonderful animal that has been with us through all of our endeavors together and has been an amazing friend to Sarah. She REALLY loves squeaky toys and somehow gives the impression that a six year old human girl, maybe even a princess, is trapped inside of her. She also pushes me all the time and is getting very annoyed that the XL beds are not ready.

How did your company get its start? What led you here?

Sarah and I met through a mutual friend in 2005. We became friends and started crafting together. She was playing around with making dog beds because of the lack of attractive options on the market, especially in great dane size. We made a few beds from vintage textiles and they were a hit with our friends. Other activities took over for a while, but the seed had been planted for See Scout Sleep.

By the Shore Medium Bed

How does Louisiana influence your design sense?
I don’t even know where to start. I feel that the entire aesthetic of the company reminds me of Louisiana, a little rough but still comfortable and elegant. The illustrations from our first collection are obviously straight from the source, our local seafood. A horsetail plant growing a block over from my house inspired the pattern on the back of the beds.

back of a bed!

Did you see a hole in the pet bed market? If so, how are you filling it?
Sarah and I are both textile lovers and collectors and are very passionate about interiors. There are many lovely options on the market, but none that really fit our style. We kept our first collection neutral enough for any space, but hopefully funky and striking enough to add to the design scheme of an interior. We are also going to keep all of our beds the same shapes, so as new patterns and collections come out, you can purchase just the cover and change things up if you wish.
We also noticed that even with the eco friendly options, most dog beds are filled with polyester. It is usually recycled polyester, but we wanted a natural material. We also wanted a bed that wouldn’t flatten out so much that you could feel the floor through it in a couple of months. What to fill our beds with became an obsession. We finally decided on two inner beds. One filled with Kapok and the other with buckwheat. They really are more like a mattress than a traditional dog bed.

By the Shore Small Pet Bed

How do you keep your beds green and healthy?
When designing a product from the ground up, the options are limitless. We make choices about what material to use and how to have our beds made based on what is important to us. We care about our earth and about our community. They are our favorite things! So we try to make the best decisions we can. We have noticed this usually means spending more money :)

Who makes your products?
I was determined to find a way to have See Scout Sleep beds produced in Louisiana, as close to New Orleans as possible. I draw and design all of the patterns and illustrations. Then the fabric is cut and screen printed in Covington, about one hour from New Orleans. I then deliver the pieces to a very amazing woman in Franklinton, LA to be sewn. She sometimes employs her family members to help. After they are constructed, I pick them up and bring them back to New Orleans. Either I, or my broke and jobless musician friends, stuff the inner beds, and prepare them for shipping.

By the Shore Large Pet Bed

What is your workspace like? Any advice for our readers about how to set up their creative spaces?
See Scout Sleep is run from my home. Dog bed land is a little tricky because I must have 3 separate spaces: one for my office and design area, one for assembling and shipping, and one for stuffing. And these puppies are huge! My house is pretty much taken over by dog beds and boxes. But I love it!

I have always worried about creating the perfect office/ design studio, but I realized recently that I actually think moving my work space around allows me to be more creative. I move my desk almost every two months. Sometimes I am in the living room, sometimes in the bedroom, etc. Although, I think I would save a great amount of time if I would just go ahead and set up shop in my kitchen. I find staring into the refrigerator 10x a day to be very helpful.

You give 10% of your funds to The Gulf Coast Fund. Please tell us a little more about the charity and how we can help.
Trying to choose a charity to support is a difficult decision. There are so many. We chose The Gulf Coast fund because of its “umbrella” like structure. They are a grant making institution that supports local people and groups that are trying to help the Gulf Coast community, including Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas.  It was formed in reaction to a series of hurricanes that devastated the region, but was an integral part of the awareness and aid during the BP oil spill in 2010.
You can donate directly on their website, or participate in any of the many groups they support, or just become aware of the serious issues this region is facing. However, I think the best option is to just come visit us and enjoy all the wonders of Louisiana!

Katie prepping for a glamorous canine photo shoot

I know I was very entertained and charmed by Katie’s answers and her attitude; not to mention loving how clever and stylish the products, product shots, and sketches are.  It gave my morning a lift! Thank you so much Katie! We cannot wait to see what else you and Sarah come up with.

Shop See Scout Sleep

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Friday, September 24th, 2010

DP in the News: Holden Designs Pet Feeder on Gear Culture

Nicole

Posted by Nicole | View all posts by Nicole
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Gear Culture showed some love today for Holden Designs’ Pet Feeder.

Pets are people too! {If you’re a pet owner, you understand} Just because they can’t eat at the table doesn’t mean they have to eat off of the floor.

Thanks Gear Culture!

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Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

Jed Crystal of Hepper Helps with Pet Tidiness

Ali

Posted by Ali | View all posts by Ali
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Jed Crystal of Hepper Pet ProductsJed is the Creative Director at Hepper, a Modern Pet Furnishings company in Burlington, Vermont. He gets to design the products he wants for his pets, and has a house full of cats to test all the new concepts.

As much as we love the critters in our house, they do bring a lot of challenges with their companionship. The fur-everywhere, midnight-puking, couch-scratching, litter-spreading lifestyle that our cats have is well worth the friendship, fun, and joy they bring to our lives, but there are some things that you can do to reduce the bad and increase the good.

Our 3 cats go through a lot of food and they are not the cleanest eaters. There’s always a halo of food crumbs and water dribbles in their food area. Chances of teaching them to clean up after themselves is slim, but I have found a simple food area organization solution that works well. Super simple really, not a product, but Read the rest of this entry »

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