Originality, Authenticity, and the Maker Community

Guest blog by Greg Benson, Founder, Loll Designs

As a Maker, I have always had a strong urge to be original. And I know I’m not alone.

It’s really fantastic to be part of the Makers Movement happening right now, and heading up a small design and manufacturing company in Minnesota has been very rewarding. I started making furniture in 2003 as a way to repurpose unused material from our TrueRide skate park ramps, featured in more than 450 municipal parks all over the country. I wasn’t really a skate park designer, but the drive to innovate helped me achieve that success, and gave me the confidence to figure out how to make outdoor furniture, too. My goal was to create a piece unique enough to become known as the “Duluth Chair.” Why do the Adirondack Mountains get to have all the geographical glory? It was, and is, a bold venture – and I meant it to be.

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#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

Why every designer needs to care about design integrity

Guest blog by Kenneth P. Baker IIDA, SBID, Assoc. AIA, Assoc. ASID, Assoc. RIBA – Gensler Co-Managing Principal, Southeast Region

The architecture and design industry is fueled by creative, imaginative and innovative people with a deep sense of passion for our work. We get emotionally attached to our projects, and take immense pride when that work is recognized by our clients and our peers in the industry. Gensler decided to become a board member of Be Original Americas because we believe that these elements of our industry’s culture need to be protected, and we need to ensure that every designer is practicing with the highest level of design integrity to ensure a prosperous future for everyone.

PNC Tower, Pittsburgh. Photo: Connie Zhou

Our firm has its own product design practice area, and since we’re putting the time, resources and energy into designing new and innovative products for our clients, we don’t want our products to be reproduced by other manufacturers looking to profit off our hard work. Because we are invested in protecting the power of our own brand, we only use products sourced from their original developer in our projects. We practice what we preach, and we’re trying to elevate the conversation in the industry so other firms can see the value in following suit.

We all love and are inspired by great design, and when we see a product that would be perfect for a client that simply won’t find the budget for it, the temptation to find a cheaper alternative can be overwhelming. The problem is, by failing to respect the work of our peers in the industry we are making it difficult for talented people to invest in the next round of design innovation. That’s not the kind of industry that we want to be, and it’s not the kind of professional that anyone ever aspires to be. So what’s the answer?

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The Originals: Harry Allen

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What does “original” mean to you?

As a designer I make “original” happen every day. It’s part of my DNA. I am always seeking out new design territory — all of my products must forge new ground aesthetically, conceptually, and/or functionally. Otherwise, why design? Only original design is design.

 

How can trusting the intelligence of your audience lead to innovation in design?

For me, it’s not about dumbing down a product to fit a current trend, or copying something that has been done. I see it as my duty to lead, not follow, and it’s the best premise for design.  A good design mind is trained to see beyond what is already out in the world. It’s the definition of creativity — to create something new, and that is ultimately what consumers want — to be challenged, to bring great new products into their lives, to have their lives bettered by design. That is where consumer intelligence comes in — they can recognize a winner. Sometimes it takes some time, but if you design a great new product it always gets recognition — because people are basically pretty smart.

 

How effective is the use of new materials in helping to deter copycats?

I love new materials for all they can bring to a design. Right now I am working on a project with Ecovative, a material company that grows a wood-like product out of mushrooms, Designtex, who have developed a compostable fabric, and E2E who make a soy-based glue. I brought them all together in a new acoustic tile called” Weave” that will be manufactured by Ecovative. It is beautiful, functional, and environmentally sound. In fact, they are completely compostable. So in this case, the design of the product is great, but it is the materials that make it amazing. And I am pretty sure no one will be copying them anytime soon.

 

 

Harry Allen is the founder and president of Harry Allen Design. He has designed furniture, lighting, products, and interiors for a wide variety of international clients. His long-standing interests in art, new materials, and systematic design approach have led to some of the most intelligent products and interiors in the world today. Allen’s work is in the permanent collection of Museum of Modern art (NYC), the Brooklyn Museum of art, the Denver Museum of Art, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. His awards include the Brooklyn Museum of Art’s Modernism/Young Designer Award and two Industrial Design Society of America IDEA Awards. harryallendesign.com 

Focus On: Craftsmanship

Craftsmanship is what makes innovative ideas for authentic designs a reality. The skill of an artisan or a meticulously refined mechanical process incorporate the attention to detail and standard of excellence necessary to create objects that become a part of our lives and deepen our relationship with our environments. Fraudulent products, with their shoddy make and low-grade materials, fail to capture our imaginations with their rough approximation of the aesthetics and functions that make authentic products a success. Craftsmanship is the difference between objects that inspire, and ones that just take up space.

Designers of integrity know that their intended concepts for a new product or solution can only be articulated through the highest standards of materials and manufacture.  This month, we’re featuring some of our members who shared with us their stories of unique manufacturing techniques, material uses, and design practices that showcase the lasting value of authentic design.

 

Skram

SKRAM Collage

Skram Furniture Company emphasizes sustainable practices, authentic materials, and extraordinary workmanship. Their craftsmen utilize a mix of traditional techniques and cutting-edge fabrication processes to meet the highest standards of precision and durability.

 

Flavor Paper

FLAVOR PAPER Collage

Brooklyn-based wallpaper company Flavor Paper has mastered the art of large-format hand silk screening. Their diverse portfolio of expertly silk screened and digitally printed designs offer unparalleled customization and creativity to designers.

 

Cerno

CERNO collage

Vertically-integrated Cerno makes all of their lighting designs at their own facility in Southern California.Founders Nick Sheridan and Daniel Wacholder are involded in each step of production, which includes both handiwork and modern technology.

 

nanimarquina

NANI Colalge

nanimarquina brings manual production and contemporary design together by researching tools, looms, and craft heritage to achieve harmony between the design concept and finished product. In addition, nanimarquina produces their designs in developing countries to boost local economies and help build a brighter future for those involved in the rug-making process.

 

Emeco

EMECO Collage

 

The iconic Emeco Navy Chair is crafted through a detailed, 77-step process. Recently, the Be Original Americas Summer Fellows visited their facilities in Pennsylvania to get a hands-on look at the famous production – read more at Interior Design.

 

As our members show, when objects are created with the intention of improving the lives of the end user – and not just cashing in on stolen profit – the manufacturing process features a commitment to sustainable, responsible practices and a high standard for quality control and materials that create true value. Follow us @beoriginalusa for more stories of craftsmanship and inspiration.

The Originals: Nani Marquina

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What does “original” mean to you?

For me, original is something unique. It can be a piece, a product, or a work of art that offers an idea, a new concept that changes what we are accustomed to experiencing.

 

Has being an entrepreneur encouraged you to take risks in your designs?

In a way, I think that designers have an entrepreneurial essence, as their contributions are novel and contain large doses of imagination, vision and daring. These are just some of the necessary elements it takes to build a business. I was always clear that my goal was to surprise people with my products and to achieve this it has been necessary to take risks and break the mold.

 

How does authentic design support ethical business and social responsibility?

Design is unquestionably a factor in social transformation. One of the primary goals is to improve the lives of people; I believe that design is increasingly sensitized to ethical and social responsibility. In our case, our products are 100% emotional design that presents an additional intangible value. We are committed to surprising and captivating our clients, passionate about improving the living conditions of the workers involved in the manufacturing process of each rug, paying the utmost attention to the care and maintenance of the environment around us.

 

True to her design roots, Nani Marquina launched her namesake brand in 1987, a time in which contemporary rugs were non-existent in Spain. After studying industrial design at the Escuela Massana of Barcelona, Nani launched nanimarquina, a brand dedicated to the design, creation, and distribution of rugs and textile products for the home, based on values such as observation, innovation, and enthusiasm, with the goal to use traditional craftsmanship and techniques to create contemporary pieces. In 1993, Nani Marquina  moved manufacturing facilities to the north of India. to further incorporate o craftsmanship and tradition as a new design concept and consolidate the brand. Throughout the years, the brand has garnered numerous awards such as the National Design Award and the Premi Cambra a la Gestió Empresarial (Chamber Award for Design Management) in 2005, as well as several nominations for the Príncipe Felipe Award for Company Excellence. Nani Marquina has also recently received the International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge Award from the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, a personal achievement that led to the 2007 FIDEM Award for Entrepreneurial Woman of the Year. She has enjoyed tenure as the Chairwoman of ADP (Professional Design Association), and of Red (Reunión Empresas de Diseño). Starting in 2014, Nani Marquina is the President of the FAD, (Foment de les Arts i Disseny), in Barcelona. nanimarquina.com

5 Tips For Protecting Your Brand, from Niche Modern

Niche-Pendant-Light-Drawings-in-Hot-Shop

Be Original Americas member Niche Modern is a pro when it comes to defending their original designs from would-be copycats and knockoff retailers. In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, CEO Jeremy Pyles described how “merchants on AliExpress and other sites have used his copyrighted photographs to sell knockoffs of his lights” and “he now has an employee dedicated to filing complaints to such websites.”

Experiencing similar problems? There’s good news: with dedicated efforts, Niche has had great success in removing their products from hundreds of fraudulent websites.  The luxury glass lighting company offered to do a guest blog for Be Original and share their 5 most important tips for protecting your authentic brand name and products from imitators, here’s what they had to say:

 1. Register Your Copyright

Copyright covers published and unpublished works in the U.S. as well as in other countries, and your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created. While registering your copyright is optional, it will only help if you have a lawsuit or need to fight infringements. It’s the first step in protecting your original work.

2. Set Up Google Alerts

The world wide web consists of at least 4.65 billion pages and is growing every day, so how is it possible to know when someone is using your brand name to sell their impostors? Google Alerts is an easy way to get email notifications when new results are found on web pages that match your search terms –  for instance, your brand or best-selling product name along with words like “replica” or “knockoff”. Setting up alerts is easy and will help you catch copycats at the earliest opportunity – get started here.

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Niche Modern CEO Jeremy Pyles sketches a pendant light.

 

3. Enforce the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (1998) allows owners of copyrighted materials residing on the internet to request that their material be removed from any infringing website. Notices that are created using DMCA guidelines are sent to the Internet Service Provider of the website at fault. After an ISP has received the notice, they must inform their client of the infringement and request its removal or remove it themselves. We recommend streamlining the process for sending take-downs by creating an editable sample notice, so it’s easy and time-efficient to take action. There are many sites that allow you to look up a domain name or IP address such as www.whoisnet.com. Try this sample DMCA takedown to get you started.

Bonus tip: You can also block IP addresses from computers that are located in China and Hong Kong from accessing your website. According to a report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, 70% of the world’s seized counterfeit goods come from China, so why not keep them from seeing your products to begin with?

 

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Every piece of Niche Modern glass is hand-blown in their upstate New York factory

4. Trademark Your Brand

A trademark is in essence a brand name used to distinguish the source of goods of one party from those of another. A Federal trademark, when registered, is governed by national laws. Whereas a copyright protect your products and ideas, a trademark protects your brand. Register trademarks not only in the US but in other countries as well, depending on where your products are being counterfeited. Putting the trademark sign or ® after your brand name, regardless of whether you officially file, will give you rights to your brand name if someone else tries to use it. US trademark rights are based on actual use, so use it and you’ll be protected.

 5. Educate your Clients

Niche Modern has received inquiries about our lights being sold online for drastically less than list price and many customers ask why. We explain that there are several counterfeit sites that sell cheap, inferior products from overseas, and that purchasing from us means they are supporting authentic, original design made in New York. Ninety-nine percent of the time, they understand the price tag and feel great about supporting our brand and purchase with us. We invite our customers behind-the-scenes with video features showing our process to learn about craftsmanship, and every order is sent with a Certificate of Authenticity, reassuring our client that they have an original piece, made with love.

Niche-Certificate-of-Authenticity

A certificate of authenticity validates every purchase of legitimate Niche Modern designs.

 

Learn more about Be Original Americas member Niche Modern by visiting their website. Got another tip to add?  Comment below or tweet at us @BeOriginalUSA.

Original Design: Where to Start?

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Recently Be Original Americas joined the IIDA New York Chapter to discuss the importance of protecting designers’ original work.

Hosted in the NYC Herman Miller showroom, the panel was moderated by John Czarnecki, Editor in Chief, Contract, and included Dror Benshetrit, Studio Dror, Sam Grawe, Global Brand Director, Herman Miller, and Rebecca Dorris Steiger, designer, Gensler.

Kicking off the conversation, Benshetrit defined what makes something a knockoff, an inspired piece, or a completely innovative design with his “scale of originality”:

“At the very bottom of the scale, there are the direct knockoffs.  I want to make this chair exactly like that and I’m just going to make it because I can make it for cheaper, or whatever motivations I have.

Then of course the next level:  I’m going to be inspired by this chair to make something similar to it, and it has the flavor of this chair.

Up to, at the very top, past the roof of originality.  Let’s call it innovative, avant garde, cutting edge, ahead of the curve.”

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Grawe took it one step further to explain the importance of design history:

“Nothing is completely original.  We are all influenced all of the time.  I think sometimes in design, designers want to create a picture, this divine inspiration.  Of course there are wonderfully innovative things that happen and designers have original designs and I think there’s companies that do things to foster producing those designs, but […] I also think that without Aalto you wouldn’t have Eames.”

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For more, read Office Insight’s recap of this event.

Interesting in learning more about how originality can impact everyone?  Join Be Original Americas and learn more.  Our next talk will be with retailers at Las Vegas Market – we hope to see you there.