#BEOAFellowship Weeks 1 & 2: From the factory to the floor

Follow along for a look inside the 2018 Be Original Americas Student Design Fellowship as Defne and Janell explore the world of design.

You visited two wallpaper companies, Sarkos and Flavor Paper. What differences did you notice between the two companies – in production, creative approach, products & target market?

Defne: Although they both have a similar handmade approach in creating wallpapers, Flavor Paper and Sarkos both have a very distinct style. Flavor Paper’s style was funky and vibrant whereas Sarkos’s was classic and chic. Flavor Paper and Sarkos were both equally unique with their use of different mediums and techniques. Flavor Paper produced wallpaper with scents and screen-printed some designs on mylar whereas Sarkos used gold leaf and various brushes and rollers to execute their style. Flavor Paper also works with independent designers and has multiple branches whereas Sarkos is a one-person company so their production timelines and number of collections were different. Their target market also differs depending on the personal preferences of the customer.

Creating through hand-painting, one of the unconventional techniques utilized by Sarkos.

Janell: While both companies share a design field, the opportunity to spend a day shadowing Flavor Paper and Sarkos highlighted the differences between the two. It is immediately apparent that they each have a distinct and contrasting style from the other, but their approach to design and production also differs. With its beginnings as an effort to save hand screening equipment, Flavor Paper’s technique was established by the tools given. But through experimenting with a variety of materials and even applying scratch and sniff ink, they have continuously found ways to be innovative despite using a more traditional technique. In comparison, Sarkos utilizes unconventional ways of hand painting to create a more minimal yet experiential wallpaper. Ranging from layering iridescent paint to gilding, the variation in techniques throughout the collections is Sarkos’ biggest strength.

After learning about marketing at Design Within Reach, what is your impression about the business side of the industry and how it fits in with manufacturing & designing?

Defne: There were so many steps to consider while marketing a product. From store layout to advertising to the right people at the right time, the marketing strategies had to be planned meticulously for the product launch to be successful. Finding the balance of interest between the client, the designer and the company was a main focus of Design Within Reach that made me appreciate the marketing side of design. It made me realize that designing a product is just the beginning of the whole design journey.

Design Within Reach CEO & Be Original Americas President John Edelman gives the fellows insight into the business side of design. 

Janell: With little to no marketing experience beforehand, I found it very insightful to see what comes after the design process. John Edelman mentioned to us that you can’t just design something, you have to sell it — and that really stuck with me. While I initially thought marketing was limited to analog and digital advertisements, Design Within Reach proves otherwise by going above and beyond for their clients. This was particularly evident through their studio or showroom, where the layout is thoroughly designed for ease of use and understanding. The staging definitely sets the tone for each product and allows the customer to live in the furniture, not just look at it.  

What did you learn about manufacturing an original design from your visit to Emeco?

Defne: The attention to detail was incredible. Not every component of Emeco chairs were made to be fully finished — they had some trademarked “teardrops” or joints that were intentionally left unsanded to draw attention to their authentic design whereas some parts were made to be flawless. The design intent of each component was calculated, considered and executed with the highest level of craftsmanship. It was inspiring to see the extent of care and attentiveness that Emeco displayed in the production of such high quality products.

A hands-on experience: creating strong and sturdy chairs at the Emeco factory. 

Janell: Visiting Emeco was a great way to see how design moves into production, as I rarely consider the logistics of manufacturing when designing. As they collaborate with out-of-house designers, Emeco typically works through the design with their production team at the beginning of the process. This ensures that manufacturing is both possible and reasonable. It was also reassuring to see that so much care is put into the craft of each product, with an emphasis on establishing durability — which has become a distinguishing feature that sets Emeco chairs apart from copies. Emeco is also focusing on consistently improving on their sustainable techniques during production, which is starting to become more of an industry standard rather than a selling feature.

Back in the city at 2×4, you spent time learning about graphic design. How do you see graphic design influencing your work & design thinking process?

Defne: Graphic design is almost like a translator between different professions; whether they are design related or not. It bridges the gap between the consumer and the supplier by creating a common language that is derived from colors, forms and typography. I definitely believe that no matter what design field you are in, to communicate with your clients, graphic design plays an essential role in brand identity and expression. My experience in 2×4 made me rethink about the way I present my own personal brand and how I can improve it to truly connect with my audience.

2×4 displays how graphic design shapes communication.

Janell: Although the company’s work is generalized as graphic design, the teams at 2×4 really work towards shaping the environment through branding and digital features. With an established team dedicated to strategy, 2×4 has a strong emphasis on understanding the client, their history, and their style. This is then translated into every detail of a design, even something as functional as wayfinding. Using graphic design as a wayfinding tool is a concept I’ve seen a few times but haven’t really explored. I think approaching graphic design as a more interior and environmental application will play a key role in designing more complex spaces.

You’ve experienced a variety of different companies that work on many different sides of the industry in just two weeks. What aspect of the industry has surprised or impacted you the most so far?

Defne: I never really considered the wallpaper industry as such a prominent industry and never really paid so much attention to it. The scratch and sniff wallpaper by Flavor Paper made me realize that this industry offers so much creativity and innovation. There still is so much to explore and so many unique ways to create environments that interact with the audience to define a whole new spatial experience. The wallpaper industry is definitely something that I will be paying more attention in the future.

 Creativity and innovation on display at Flavor Paper. 

Janell: Over the past two weeks, it has been inspiring to experience and understand a few companies that make up the design industry. While each has varied greatly, a consistent theme that has surprised me is the diversity and versatility found in each field. When I was introduced to the marketing company Design Within Reach, I didn’t expect this to include running events and staging showrooms. When I learned about the graphic design company 2×4, I was impressed that they had branched out to an architectural and environmental approach. My experience so far has emphasized the desire for innovation and exploration in design — a mindset that drives the design industry unlike many other fields.


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