Working under the creative direction of Jonathan Adler, I designed tableware, lighting, decorative accessories, textiles, patterns and packaging.
In this fast-paced environment I managed all aspects of the design process from brainstorming ideas, sketching, designing object forms, developing patterns, selecting colors, creating spec sheets, designing packaging and communicating with vendors. After prototypes were received I would test the products, check for corrections and provide revisions for production. Here is a small selection of my design work and an expanded look into my role.
Each product required a certain amount of design research including: material research, ergonomics, manufacturing methods, historical and pattern references, color limitations, safety requirements and testing and market research.
In my final year at Jonathan Adler I designed and managed the production of 220 SKUs. That number only includes the products that went to market. About 40% of our designs would not make it past design or prototyping. Designing was the fun part of the job. Keeping up with all my products at different stages, with different vendors in different categories was the challenge. To manage the products, issues, approvals and timelines our design team constantly updated spreadsheets and reviewed the production status to make sure all our projects moved forward on time and budget.
Our products were presented and sold at trade shows and adhered to seasonal schedules. When I started I was designing Christmas packaging in July for items that would be on the shelf in November. Factor in prototyping time overseas, revisions, approvals and freight shipping time and it was difficult to feel confident that products would be delivered on schedule. Since I was the liaison between our pottery studio and the factory I kept pushing these products forward to give me more time to design graphics and packaging in advance. By the time I left Jonathan Adler we had Christmas ornaments and packaging being conceptualized and started 14 months in advance giving the design, purchasing and sales teams more flexibility and opportunity for success.
Part of my role was to hire and manage interns for the design team. Together with the textile designer I would interview and hire interns. We would train them on our process and have them participate in researching and designing parts of projects. While having interns was often helpful it also demanded a lot of attention, creative direction, mentoring and revision. Ultimately the outcome of the product was my responsibility so managing the process and allowing for some creative input was a fine balance. I also met some amazing designers along the way.
Jonathan Adler is not lacking in vision and often he could dream it but we couldn’t find the right factory or artisan to make it. The design team was always looking for manufacturers, products or processes that we could use or appropriate. Sometimes this could happen right away but often there was much back and forth between our team and the vendors to get the sourcing and production right. For the lucite Bel-Air vases shown above it took 3 vendors and many prototypes to get the right quality and finish that was beautiful and waterproof. The forms needed a slight revision in order for the polishing tools to be effectively used. For each project the fine details needed to be considered and addressed.
When sending designs to prototype they were thought through as much as possible. When we received a prototype it had to be reviewed thoroughly from it’s construction, quality, durability, ease of use, packaging, ease of shipping and cost. A teapot might need to have it’s spout lowered to pour more effectively. A lamp might need it’s shade shortened to reach the switch more comfortably, a hook on an ornament would need to be moved to balance the weight. Dishes would be run through the dishwasher to test the durability of the artwork. Colors needed to be matched to pantones. The weight of stand on a sculpture might need to be decreased to reduce cost. The small details made a huge difference in the usefulness and viability of each product and whether we could bring it to market.