Nothing can inspire the making of great piece of design as mother nature. This is the case of the Richard Clarkson studio, known for its amazing lamp, that can simulate a storm in your living room.
But the Studio is a very prolific source of incredible and very original ideas, as the lamp that simulate rain, an installation inspired to a galaxy and more… For this reason the Richard Clarkson studio has been featured among the best web magazines related to product design, and in this interview i’ve had the chance to better understand what’s behind this unique creative team.
Can you recall how you’ve started the studio?
It has been a very interesting journey from project to product, to brand, to business. The Cloud was very much the catalyst for the studio and was what enabled the studio to grow the way it has. I had a series of amazing opportunities to develop and evolve the Cloud and at each step grew with the cloud both as a designer and a studio. The time I spent studding at the School of Visual Arts – Products of Design program in New York was a significant part both in providing those opportunities and helping to give me the tools to meet those opportunities head on.
For me the studio really started as a necessity to keep up with demand for clouds. Early July the clouds got blogged on Colossal and went a bit crazy ending up on the likes of BuzzFeed an Boardpanda. The snowball effect generated interest and orders that far exceeded what I cope with on my own. From there it was a case of gathering a team, finding a space and setting it up. Fast-forward to today and we have a team of amazing people who feel like family and a workspace that feels like home.
The cloud is probably one of your most famous products, how do you come up with that idea? Can you tell us the main challenges in conceiving this kind of product?!
The idea for the cloud came about during hurricane Sandy in New York. I had just arrived in New York only a few months earlier to the Sandy hitting, and it was something as a New Zealander, I had never experienced anything like that before. I fully understand and respect the devastating damage that the storm caused by there was something so awe inspiring about such a powerful force. At the time we had been given a project brief to design a plush nightlight and a thundercloud just made sense. Form there it grew and grew as a side project, at each opportunity developing the Cloud to become either, bigger, better, louder, more commercially viable, smarter or faster to manufacture. The main challenges have been learning programing and coding for physical computing. The Cloud began on the Arduino platform an amazing coding platform with very low barriers for entry. But like learning any language it takes time and practice. I used the Cloud as an excuse to learn new sections of code trying to push the boundaries of my own ability. A second major challenge has been shipping, specifically international shipping. Learning the ins and outs of shipping logistics has been a huge learning experience, and sometimes a very expensive one. Having to learn about different countries and companies package size maximums and how to deal with customs from the other side of the world are things that are most simply learned through trail and (hopefully not to much…) error.
Are you working on something new?
We have a range of new products, and we are always working on new possibilities and ideas. For the moment we have a strong focus on globe related products. A lamp that rains real water inside a globe, a suspended terrarium fishbowl hybrid and a galaxy inspired interactive installation. My personal background in industrial design was very much focused on developing new products and ideas through ‘playing’ with new or unusual materials and technologies. With this process it is much less about starting with the goal of “design a chair or lamp” but rather starting with a particular novel experience or interaction letting it evolve into something.
What makes you different / unique from other design’s studios?
Part of the uniqueness of the studio comes as a legacy from my own design approach and part comes from its business model. While we do have clients and commission based projects the main focus is own the studios own in-house product lines. Each product is put out into world as a prototype through social media and design blogs and if it gets a lot of interest and /or orders it gets developed and properly commercialized and produced in-house. In this way the studio operates in a micro-kickstarter like funding platform. The benefit of this format is that the pressures normally associated with mass products, things like having expensive machinery and upfront expensive tooling are bypassed. We produce only what people really want and if a product doesn’t sell we simply move onto another product or idea. It’s a very stress free environment and I feel the products reflect that. Our motto as a studio is “Harmonious Contradictions and unapologetic curiosity”.
What do you think about the possibility to obtain pre-orders online and base the production on the orders’ base?
That’s exactly the process we currently employ, to the point where almost every product that is sold through the studio is either made to order or ‘just in time manufacturing.’ Every step of the process is done in-house from prototyping to packing and thus we are able to accommodate almost instantaneously to shifts in demand.
Which blogs and magazine do you consider useful for develop a taste in the design field?
I’ve always been a fan of core77, notcot, dezeen, designboom, yanko, mocoloco, and numerous others. In terms of design magazines, Fast Company, Urbis, thisispaper, I.D, intramuros, made, wallpaper, dwell are all great for inspiration and design culturing.
I want to thank The Richard Clarkson design studio for this interesting trip inside design.