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.
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.
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.