#BEOAFellowship Week 8: From Design Students to Designers

In brief, tell us your main takeaways from this summer. What stayed with you? What will you take into your last year of school, and into your future as a designer?

Defne: After visiting so many companies, I was surprised to see how expansive the design industry is. There are companies that specialize in a design field, there are companies that specialize in a design element, there are companies that sell design, promote design, manufacture design or even assemble design! I found it incredible to see how everyone worked with each other and how most products on the market are a collective effort of many different companies and industries. That realization inspired me to combine different industries together in my studies as well. During my last year in college, I would like to specialize in lighting fixtures with a focus on flexible materials. However, I don’t want to just produce a series of products; I would like to consider my project on a holistic level from its manufacturing to its marketing and brand identity. I believe that’s the step I need to take to in order to switch from a design student into a designer.

Janell: Through this fellowship, we got the opportunity to see firsthand the ins and outs of running a business in the design industry. As the fellowship spans over a dozen companies, ranging from a small to large scale and from graphic design to architecture, it was very insightful to compare the challenges between them. One of the biggest takeaways for me was the prevalence of sustainability becoming an industry standard. A common theme throughout the companies was an effort to reduce waste through a made-to-order business model and to ensure durability to eliminate the constant need to replace products. However, Emeco took it a step further by using largely recycled materials — something I hope to explore during my last year of school. Using Emeco’s 80% recycled aluminum and products made of industrial waste as precedents, I will spend my thesis researching accessible ways to turn disposable plastic into a building material.

Congratulations to our fellows on a productive, educational, and inspiring summer with our members! Keep up with Defne and Janell‘s design paths on Instagram and take a closer look at their experiences this summer on our blog

#BEOAFellowship Weeks 6 & 7: Exploring Lights, Textiles & Digital Media

As the 2018 Be Original Americas Student Design Fellowship continues, Defne and Janell explore woodworking, textiles lighting and digital media. 

You spent a week in North Carolina at Bernhardt Design and Skram Furniture company. What differences did you see between the design industry in North Carolina versus in New York, Michigan, or California?

Defne: They have different values and priorities. In San Francisco, due to the vast amount of tech companies in the area, designers look for ways to combine emerging technologies with their products such as remote lighting solutions, wireless technologies etc. In New York, due to limited space available, most designers find it easier to have their creative studios or showrooms in the city while outsourcing design parts to outside manufacturing plants. In North Carolina, however, the relationship between craftsmen and the designer seems to be more personal because the space availability allows companies to have in-house manufacturing facilities, workshops, and equipment where designers can actively participate in the manufacturing process. The designs and crafting techniques are also more traditional compared to tech focused designs.

Bernhardt Design capitalizes on their abundance of space, opting to utilize in-house manufacturing.

Janell: While it was expected that the physical footprint of each company would vary greatly based on location, I was surprised by how this affected different aspects of the business. Those in more rural neighborhoods had opportunities to expand and, especially in the case of Bernhardt Design, opt to do most of the manufacturing. By having some services in-house, these businesses are able to offer easy customization and alterations. In contrast, companies located in more dense areas like New York and San Francisco appeared to be more specialized. In addition to the influence of the industries in their surrounding communities, the freedom to explore different manufacturers resulted in more adventurous designs.

Bernhardt Design and Skram Furniture Company both work extensively with wood. What did you learn about working with and manufacturing an original design with this raw material?

Defne: I have always found wood to be a fascinating material to work with because it has so much personality to it that it can be unpredictable. I have seen that both in Bernhardt Design and Skram, those disadvantages were used as unique design elements that further enhanced the authenticity of their products. The veneering process was also something that I have never seen before and seeing two different techniques of veneering wood was definitely a remarkable experience for me.

Working with wood, the fellows explore the many ways the material can be used in design at Skram Furniture. 

Janell: Even though I have worked with wood before, there were a handful of applications and techniques I was introduced to during this fellowship. From making veneer to learning new kinds of joinery, seeing a common material throughout a range of companies shows its versatility and reliability. In addition, our visit to Skram Furniture Company emphasized the intimate nature of it. Not only is every piece of wood unique, but the material requires a personal touch throughout the whole process due to its variability. Although this hinders uniformity, the mindset of embracing imperfection ensures that each product is thoughtfully made.

Continue reading “#BEOAFellowship Weeks 6 & 7: Exploring Lights, Textiles & Digital Media” »

#BEOAFellowship Weeks 4 & 5: Learning from the Masters

Keep following along with the 2018 Be Original Americas Student Design Fellowship as Defne and Janell explore the world of design.

You visited Michael Graves Architecture & Design and experienced a full design team brainstorm. How did you find the process?

Defne: The experience we had in Michael Graves Architecture & Design was similar to the design process we follow at school which was reassuring to see. The brainstorming process was rapid with an all-welcoming approach towards all ideas. It really was fun working with professionals on a project and see how our college education helps us find a common ground and language in the real world.

Janell: Using a hypothetical project to help us understand the process of design. We started the day with a team brainstorm for a new housekeeping cart. Everyone was given a pen and a pad of sticky notes to write down anything and everything that came to mind, no matter how ridiculous. I was pretty unfamiliar with the process, but it started to feel like making spaghetti models in school — spaghetti is extremely affordable and easy to break and assemble with little to no tools. This approach of rapidly producing was initially overwhelming, but proved to be an efficient way to collect ideas.

Original kitchen designs by Michael Graves on display. 

You spent a couple of days touring various showrooms in New York: Artemide, Gandia Blasco, Tom Dixon, Moooi, Carl Hansen & Son, Marset, Alessi, and more. What did you learn about the importance of retail in the design industry?

Defne: Every company has a different style when it comes to design and the showrooms played an important role in reflecting their design principles in a very elaborate way. For instance, Moooi had a more playful and vibrant showroom with different wallpapers matching their rugs and furniture, whereas Carl Hansen & Son had different rooms to promote the “hygge” of Danish lifestyle which focused on coziness. Herman Miller used their space both as a place to cherish their history and a platform to connect with their customers through storytelling and user experience. These details showed us how furniture is a part of a bigger story and how the experience matters as much as the product itself.

Janell: After spending the first few weeks focusing on the design process, it was very insightful to switch gears and look at the retail aspect. Something that stood out to me was the thorough thought process behind Herman Miller’s showrooms. In their New York showroom, a hypothetical family of two parents and a little girl lives there, surrounded by trinkets from their travels and studies. The family and their story change every six months, with the goal of helping visitors understand the range of ways the pieces could furnish a home. While many of the pieces are beautiful in their own right, retail plays a large role in making design approachable and shows that the products are meant to be lived in.

Innovative lighting design at Tom Dixon

An exploration of showroom design at Blu Dot

From glassblowing to quality control, marketing and sales — what was the most surprising thing you learned at Niche Modern?

Defne: The creative director of Niche Modern, Jeremy Pyles, actually talked to us about the different departments of Niche Modern and how they operate and he also shared with us what he considers strengths and weaknesses of each department. Listening to him talk about his own company with a critical eye and seeing him striving for improvement in every aspect really made an impact on me. I was inspired to consider new ways to improve my own branding strategies as well as my marketing, photography and product development skills.

Janell: As a company that does everything in-house, I was surprised to learn that the team is so small. It seemed as though everyone did multiple jobs in order to accomplish what they do — sales also acted as customer service, public relations also acted as a digital team, and the CEO also acted as product development. Jeremy Pyles, the founder and CEO, even mentioned that, in a sense, you have to “fake it till you make it.” I’m incredibly impressed by how Niche Modern puts in the extra effort to operate as a larger, more developed company.

Finding inspiration in the glassblowing studio at Niche Modern

Continue reading “#BEOAFellowship Weeks 4 & 5: Learning from the Masters” »

#BEOAFellowship Week 3: Diving into design in San Francisco

Keep following along with the 2018 Be Original Americas Student Design Fellowship as Defne and Janell explore the world of design.

After visiting Laura Guido-Clark Design and learning about their approach to color, how has your view of color changed?

Defne: The visit to LGC made me realize that colors can be used in various ways to connect people together and create a sense of community, as well as convey a certain design language. Also there is so much to color than what meets the eye. Unlike what is usually being taught, red does not necessarily have to be a color that is passionate and aggressive. With different hues red can be warm, red can be inviting or friendly. Talking to Laura Guido-Clark made me realize that we have a rather narrow-minded way of looking at color and as designers, we should explore it more.

 Laura Guido-Clark Design teaches the fellows a bright & fresh outlook on color.

Janell: Visiting Laura Guido Clark was very inspiring because her outlook on color was extremely emotional. She emphasized that you don’t have to see color, you feel color — and through research, she actually found that humans were given the ability to see color in order to recognize human emotions. It really stuck with me when she phrased it as “color reminds us that we’re human.” Learning this made me understand why she is so passionate about empowering other communities through color. By transforming educational spaces, her nonprofit Project Color Corps has given students a sense of pride and ownership in their school, making them eager to learn and engage.

Designing a product is only part of the process, what have you learned this week about getting your product out there?

Defne: I learned that how you brand yourself, reach out to clients and sell your products has just as much importance as the design itself. There are so many products out there that you really have to stand out with your design outlook to show why you are different and why your design matters. Product packaging, logo and brand identity have to be compatible with the vision you have as a company but also answer to the client’s expectations. For example, if your designs are minimalist and modern, you really have to find that middle ground between keeping your packaging and branding simple while providing enough information to the customer. Easier said than done!

Hands-on with the designers at AJK Design actively pitching their products.  

Janell: From our company visits this week, I was definitely surprised by how the process differs based on company size. With a one and two-person team respectively, AJK Design and Council are very active in getting their products out there. We actually got to tag along to AJK Design’s pitch to an architecture firm during our time with her. Not only did this show the difficulty in playing all of the roles in a company, but also the possibility of gaining exposure despite all of her hard work. Derek Chan from Council mentioned that they usually hire representatives to get the products out there. In comparison, Fuseproject has a studio of 100 people and mainly focuses on the designs themselves, with the idea that the design will market itself.

Continue reading “#BEOAFellowship Week 3: Diving into design in San Francisco” »

#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.  

Continue reading “#BEOAFellowship Weeks 1 & 2: From the factory to the floor” »

Introducing the 2018 Summer Design Fellows

The Be Original Americas Student Design Fellowship begins on June 11th, and two students have been selected from an outstanding pool of over 75 qualified applicants. The 7-week immersive program provides hands-on experience in making, distributing, and selling authentic design. Here’s what the 2018 fellows Defne Kansu of Virginia Tech and Janell Leung of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo are most excited about, what brought them to the fellowship, and what they are doing outside of design.

The Fellows:

Defne Kansu & Janell Leung

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Defne Kansu: I am Defne Kansu. Originally, I am from Turkey and have wanted to study Industrial Design in the U.S. since I was in middle school. I received a bilingual IB education in high school with a second language education in German. I have always been an artistic person, but I found design to be more suitable for my interests as I enjoy being well-rounded and find Industrial Design to be a field for jack-of-all-trades designers. I love how my degree allows me to have the flexibility to jump into other fields to explore myself as a designer.

Janell Leung: My name is Janell Leung and I was born and raised in the Bay Area. I am currently in my fourth year studying Architecture at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a minor in Sustainable Environments. Although I’m receiving a degree in architecture, my passion lies in smaller scale design and the potential for environmental applications. Over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to experiment with this through my study abroad program in Copenhagen, as well as through my travels around Europe in between learning.

What are you excited to learn from this experience?

DK: I am excited about the opportunity of the hands-on, in-the-field work that this fellowship will provide. I am a tactile learner and this fellowship offers something much more unique than what a classroom can offer. I also love the idea of being exposed to so many amazing companies and learning insights on how a company operates, what the real industry looks like, and what clients expect due to my entrepreneurial mindset.

JL: I am excited to understand the process and thinking behind successful designs. This fellowship will introduce components and factors often overlooked in an educational setting — it’ll be realistic. In particular, I have never had any experience with marketing and am eager to learn about the business side of design.

Continue reading “Introducing the 2018 Summer Design Fellows” »

Original Design from a Student Perspective: A Day at RISD

“Our school does a great job at teaching us how to design a product, but…” is a common statement we hear from our fellows each year during the Be Original Americas Student Design Fellowship. So when the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) invited us to participate in their Internship Connect fair, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to speak one-on-one with students looking to further their education in the world of design.

Table covering: Pixel by Designtex

Up-and-coming designers from all disciplines are looking to gain knowledge they can’t learn in school. The fellowship gives hands-on experiences that go beyond the curriculum and prepare them for the next steps in their careers. Professors do an impeccable job at teaching their students how to design, but budgeting, marketing, mass manufacturing, distribution, and promotion are often topics that can only be taught in “real-life” settings — it is this setting that students crave, and which Be Original Americas creates.

Continue reading “Original Design from a Student Perspective: A Day at RISD” »

That’s a Wrap: The 2017 Student Design Fellowship

That’s a wrap! The second annual Be Original Americas Student Design Fellowship has officially ended.

Check out the final presentation Tom and Irene gave to board members to recap their experience:

Did you have a chance to follow along with this year’s fellows, Tom and Irene? Get a behind the scenes look at what the Fellows experienced week by week here.


Week 7: NYC Studio Visits and RBW

The second annual Be Original Americas Student Design Fellowship is winding down. Have you been following along on their adventures? Get a behind the scenes look at what Tom and Irene been learning via our weekly recaps here.

In their final week, the Fellows visited local NYC showrooms, including Suzanne Tick, Studio Dror, Fritz Hansen and Luceplan. Then, Tom and Irene spent the day with Rich Brilliant Willing to tour both their showroom and studio.

How was visiting showrooms in week 7 different than in week 1?

Irene: Walking into the showroom during week 7, I definitely felt more comfortable and open to ask questions. Before the fellowship, I would visit showrooms but rarely sit in the chairs or look under them for a glance at their constructions. The many showroom visits in New York gave me the opportunity to interact with Marketing Directors, PR & Communications Coordinators, and Managing Directors and learn about their roles within the company. In addition, every visit included both sitting in the chairs, examining fixtures, and exploring collections to learn about each company’s story.

Tom: It was really good to get back to New York and get to visit some more showrooms. Since the beginning of the experience, I feel I have gained a lot of confidence and have been able to deal with an “imposter syndrome” which I definitely felt I had before my experience with Be Original Americas. I have come to realize that people who work in design, even those in showrooms, love design and that given the chance they’ll chew your ear off about their favorite pieces. This confidence has extended to many other areas including talking about the industry as a whole, and it was great to get the chance to speak to some designers (like Suzanne Tick and Dror Benshetrit) in the final week and hear about their professional experiences and their personal development through their careers.

What did you take away about the creative process from the tour of RBW’s studio?

Irene: There were small scale foam models, 1:1 cardboard models, and 3D printed models lined up along the bench and hanging from the ceiling in RBW’s studio. There were also sketches pinned up to the walls to pair with the models. Everything seemed very hands-on and seeing the prototypes develop into the final product was amazing. Theo’s narratives on the reasons for adjustments in designs, methods in making fasteners invisible to the eye, and preferences in certain materialities were insightful and exciting to hear about. My impression of the studio very much reminded me of my own studio space in school and definitely gave me a push of desire to go back to school and start creating.

Tom: Charles, Alex and Theo were able to impart so much information in such a short time, it was amazing, there were definitely a few key takeaways for me. Always be making: being noticed or getting a chance to “make it” can be based totally on luck, but if it happens you had better have something to show. Get real: if you want to make something, make it practical—design it beautiful but make sure you design it for manufacturing, assembly, installation and use also. Follow your passions, but not blindly: rationalize what you want to do and whether you can afford to do it, if a market is too competitive and not where your strengths are, pivot and adjust.

That’s a wrap for the 2017 Be Original Americas Student Design Fellows! Check out their week by week recaps here on the blog and on our social channels: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Week 6: Bernhardt Design and BDE

The second annual Be Original Americas Student Design Fellowship is winding down. Have you been following along on their adventures? Get a behind the scenes look at what Tom and Irene been learning via our weekly recaps here.

Week 6 took the Fellows to North Carolina where they visited Bernhardt Design to learn about the brand and the manufacturing process, on site at their factory. Then, the Fellows traveled back to their home base in New York City to spend a day with bde to learn about public relations, social media, events and promotion overall.

Getting an intro the brand with Bernhardt Design

What was your biggest takeaway about design and manufacturing at Bernhardt Design?

Irene: At Bernhardt Design, we were able to get a very thorough look at the manufacturing facilities for wooden furniture, upholstery, and case goods. Within the construction and assembly processes, quality control is highly emphasized. There are checkpoints throughout the process to inspect seams, finishes, and materials for inconsistencies or defects. For example, skews of modular systems are staged to make sure the seams align when placed side by side. Outsourced material, such as glass and Corian, are 100% inspected to ensure pure surfaces. The craftspeople also have critical roles in maintaining the credibility Bernhardt has, especially with upholstery, in the industry. Those who make patterns and sew are experts in examining the stretch and rebound of fabrics. This is especially important for projects that involve the customer’s own material, when properties of the fabric need to be realized for proper cuts. The visits to the plants were opportunities where I was able to see Bernhardt’s dedication in pushing for the highest quality. Quality control is an art form that requires so much passion and experience and plays a huge role in the production of Bernhardt’s beautiful pieces.

Tom: It’s a small thing, but I was interested to learn that even a large company like Bernhardt can be surprised by the success of some of its own products. The design and development of a product is a long and iterative process, and manufacturing methods are strongly determined by expectations of the market, so if a product is surprisingly successful it might not end up being produced in the most efficient manner. It seems that the cost of manufacturing in some instances is a gamble, and even if the product is successful, it remains a gamble as the cost of tooling is only effective if the product continues to be in vogue and sell.

You’ve been learning a lot about how to market design along the way. What surprised you about your meeting with bde?

Irene: A common theme throughout our dialogue at bde was PR’s evolving nature due to developments in online platforms as well as the changes in how people now consume and interact. There are so many facets to PR, built up by paid, owned, and earned media, that I was not aware of. From social media to events to press releases, there is so much to be organized for successful outcomes, both in qualitative and quantitative measures. bde definitely has a method to the madness with its strategic pitches, editorial calendars, established A&D networks, and more to ultimately heighten brand awareness and the bottom line for each of its clients. It was my first time learning about PR, but the meeting was so much more valuable because I got to learn about PR in the context of design.

The 2017 Fellows at bde’s offices

Tom: It was great to spend some time at bde and get an insight into a world I know little about, but which is very important. This experience gave me a great opportunity to learn best practices in communication and have some time to speak with people who work with large brands. I hope to use some of the insights gained in this experience when trying to promote an entrepreneurial project in my final year of education. I was most struck by the discussion of the present use of social media and the potential use of VR/AR in the future to interact with consumers.

Stay tuned for more from Tom and Irene, the 2017 Be Original Americas Student Design Fellows, as they recap their experiences each week here on the blog and on our social channels: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram