What are you currently fascinated by and how is it feeding into your work? David Butler, Coca Cola's VP of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, recently visited Kids II and gave a brief lecture on being a design-driven company. He encouraged us to spend time on finding the problem, and then design around that. The most well-designed products are consumer-driven. He also refers to designers as "natural optimists," we see problems as opportunities to make something better. That really resonated with me.
Who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of thinking about design? Attending sales calls and learning the business side of things has changed the way I think about design. Now, if I have an idea that I want to pitch, I need to have my story complete: what price-point are we filling? Is this a white-space opportunity, or are we trying to replace a competitor's sku? How can we reduce the cost in manufacturing without jeopardizing the integrity of the product? What makes this product unique? Why would a shopper be compelled to purchase this product? If you can answer all of these questions, your product will be more likely to be picked up by retailers.
What project or design problem have you faced (in the past or recently) that seemed to be a “failure” but turned out to be an extremely valuable experience? There was a collection of products that hit the market and didn’t sell well. This “failure” was attributed to the colors and patterns not being popular (which is my team’s responsibility), and had to be replaced immediately. I learned a valuable lesson in not creating a unique design for the sake of being different from your competitors. I learned how to be more intentional in my designs, and use experience from past successes and failures to guide my decisions, as opposed to personal taste or opinion.
You work for Kids II in Atlanta as a Senior Designer in Trends and Surfaces. What is the most interesting or perhaps rewarding part of your daily design work? Are there any specific projects you are extremely proud of and would like to share? I have the pleasure of designing baby products, and it is most rewarding to me to see friends on Facebook sharing photos of their babies using products that I designed! One specific project that I am particularly proud of is the Ingenuity Brighton collection at Target. The collection consists of a bouncer, swing, and playard, and has been very successful. I shop at Target all of the time, so it was a surreal moment the first time I saw one of my own products on the shelf!
“I learned how to be more intentional in my designs, and use experience from past successes and failures to guide my decisions, as opposed to personal taste or opinion.”
It’s clear you are successfully working in the field of design. In your opinion is it more difficult for women to become “successful” in the design field? I do not think it is any more difficult for women to be successful in design as opposed to any other industry. As a woman, it is important to stand confident and strong, and don’t over apologize. I once walked into the Director of Marketing’s office and said, “I’m sorry to bother you, but would you have a minute to look over something for me?” She made me turn around and try that again. “Walk in here and do not apologize, you are not bothering me by asking me to do something that is part of my job,” she said. That really stuck with me.
Are there any rules or habits that help you do your design work more efficiently? I love making mood boards before starting a project. It helps me think outside the box, and it also aids in giving a backstory when presenting my concepts. My mood boards often include a target consumer, a color palette, a nursery photo (where will this product be used?), and a character for toy inspiration.
What advice would you give to student designers preparing to enter into the design field? It often takes a long time to find a good design job right out of school, as competition is fierce and companies are often looking for experience. Be patient, and make sure to keep your skills up while you are looking. Maybe go back and improve on sketches for projects in your portfolio. Another idea is maintaining a blog where you write about people, places, and things that inspire you on a weekly basis. These types of things show prospective employers that you truly have a passion for design.
While you were in school at Auburn, do you remember a specific design project that challenged you the most? The furniture project with Tin Man Lau was challenging for me. I am indecisive by nature, so designing a piece of furniture for myself as opposed to solving a consumer problem for a client was difficult. I did end up designing a beautiful bar that is still displayed in my house today.
Would you recommend some resources that young designers might find useful? I find Pinterest to be an excellent place to keep up on what's trending, from colors and patterns, to materials and finishes, etc.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were in school? Design should be fun and not stressful. You have plenty of time to stress about your design job in the “real world” some day—enjoy the school projects and push the boundaries while you can!
Designer responded to questions in 2016 via email.