By Vicki Matranga, Design Programs + Services
Learn how to develop and launch the right products for the right customer—with the right methods!
The four days of the 2014 International Home + Housewares Show will be packed with events as well as educational sessions. In these final weeks before the Show, we preview presentations that will take place in the Innovation Theater in the Lakeside Center.
Today we are speaking with Jonathon Kemnitzer and Craigton Berman, two Midwest designers who manage innovation practices that blend varied design and artistic disciplines. Both have launched products with Kickstarter and will describe how today’s designers are using new platforms to fund, manufacture and market their products. Be sure to mark this program on your Show schedule.
Kickstart My Heart: A Motley Approach to Crowdfunding
Saturday, March 15, 11:30 am—12:30 pm
Innovation Theater, Lakeside Center, E350
Jonathon Kemnitzer, IDSA is a Principal of KEM STUDIO in Kansas City, Mo. He cites the work of Charles and Ray Eames and his father, Ron Kemnitzer, FIDSA, asprimary influences on his practice in which he aims to produce thoughtful, simple design. Jonathon’s close observation of everyday life and the way people interact with designed objects continually informs the trajectory of his work. His work has appeared in many publications and recognized in design competitions. In 2013 the Industrial Designers Society of America honored him as the Midwest District Distinguished Practitioner. Jonathon holds several patents and trademarks.
Craighton Berman is a Chicago-based designer, illustrator and creative director. Informed by his background in industrial design and innovation consulting, his current work focuses on visual thinking, object-making and storytelling—all linked by a basic desire to simply bring ideas to life. Craighton’s design work is held in the permanent collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has contributed illustrations to Dwell, Details and Wired magazine. He has taught a drawing workshop to Disney Imagineering and his YouTube video illustrating the song Tour the States has more than a million views. He was one of the first designers to use Kickstarter to launch a product. Craighton introduces Manual—a new housewares brand focused on creating designing products for “hands-on” food culture—at the Design Debut in the Show’s South Building.
Jonathon and Craighton, what inspires you in your work?
Jonathon: The most exciting part of my job is the fusion of architecture and industrial design that happens in our studio and the results that come out of that collaborative process. That interaction and coming up with something new is pretty fascinating. The end product is the greatest reward. I’ll never get tired of seeing people interact and enjoy the products, spaces and experiences we create.
My influences are pretty eclectic. I find influences from art, music, board sports (skateboarding, snowboarding and surfing) and the observation of everyday life. I love combining those influences into simple and timeless solutions.
Craighton: I’m most excited about the opportunities available to the independent designer today. I believe we’re in an exciting time for makers—the tools are now at our fingertips to connect to a global audience to launch projects that would have required a much larger company to pull off in the past. I also really love that I’m able to explore the entire range of my interests with my studio practice—from consulting to illustration to launching my own product line.
My work is inspired by everyday things like improvisation, absurdity, utility, irony, authenticity and understatement. This could be anywhere in the world—but it’s always best when I’m inspired by something that I didn’t see on a computer screen.
In the past few years, what has changed most in your business? How has your company met these challenges in the way you do your work?
Jonathon: We just celebrated our ninth anniversary. So we’ve transitioned from a start up to an established company in the industry. The journey has been fun and we’re proud that we were able to keep the vision and attitude we started with. We’re excited to continue collaborating with clients who thrive on thinking differently and pushing the boundaries.
Craighton: My studio went from an evening and weekend side project to my full-time endeavor a little under two years ago, so everything seems to be changing all the time for me. As I mentioned, I think it’s amazing that it’s possible to pursue so many different ideas at once based on the advancements in prototyping, small scale manufacturing, crowdfunding and social media. I’m excited to focus on a few areas and dive deeper this year.
Why did you choose to speak at the International Home + Housewares Show?
Jonathon: To be inspired and hopefully inspire. Also, I have always been impressed with Craighton Berman as a designer and he’s just a great guy. To do a joint presentation with him will be a blast.
Craighton: I met Jonathon years ago during a design conference, and thought he was doing really interesting work with his studio. (Plus he had a great office space) So I’m stoked that we have the opportunity to put our heads together and share our points of view on crowdfunding design.
Tell us what you will be speaking about and how and this topic is important for Show audiences.
Jonathon: Craighton and I are going to talk about crowdfunding through our experiences. (Click here, here and here to see their funded Kickstarter projects.) We’ll cover what to do, what not to do, what you can expect and the residual experiences that come out of it.
Craigton: I think crowdfunding is an important way for small companies and independent designers to gain exposure and launch ideas—instead of just talking about them. For bigger companies, I think it’s a great way to “intrapreneur” a new product that may be different than what the brand normally produces. It’s a radically more transparent way of launching things, but the grassroots support produces an authentic network of fans.
This is your first time presenting at our Theater. What are you looking forward to most from speaking at the Innovation Theater?
Jonathon: This is my first time presenting at the Innovation Theater. I’m really looking forward to having a conversation with the audience during and/or after the presentation.
Craighton: It’s my first time too, so I’m looking forward to sharing our experiences and persuading others.
What do you see as consumers’ biggest concerns regarding housewares products?
Jonathon: We see a lot of products that don’t fit within the context of the home. They are designed to differentiate themselves in the market but once they come home… well, the results can be less than desirable and then the company that made that product has a frustrated customer. We believe there is a huge opportunity for companies to approach products that are harmonious with the home and improve interaction between the task, user and context.
Craighton: I think there’s a rising tide of consumers who value craft over convenience, ritual over speed, and simplicity over novelty. People who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty in the kitchen. These consumers care a lot less for gratuitous tech and features and are looking for experiences that fall in line with the local and organic food they are preparing.
What are some of today’s trends or issues that new product development professionals and/or retailers face in the housewares market?
Jonathon: How to be and stay relevant. In the past, companies set long range goals. With connected consumers, those don’t work like they used to. Today, mini-goals with a long range vision replaced that mentality… some companies have done that better than others.
Thank you, Jon and Craighton. I’m sure your joint presentation will be entertaining and bring thought-provoking information to our audience eager to learn about the latest in design thinking. We look forward to seeing you on Saturday, March 15 at 11:30 am to kick off four days of exciting programs in the Innovation Theater, Lakeside Center E350. Learn more about the work of these path-breaking designers at
Jonathon Kemnitzer, IDSA
1505 Genessee ST, Suite 200
Kansas City, MO 64102
Craighton Berman, IDSA
Craighton Berman Studio/Manual
2557 W. North Ave
Chicago IL 60647
craightonberman.com / manual.is