Company spotlight: Kicker Studio
This Q&A is especially for the interactive designers out there. Kicker Studio just celebrated its second birthday, and prides itself in “combining visual, industrial, and interaction design to make products that are holistic from the ground up.” Their studio is based in San Francisco, California, and their design portfolio consists of consumer electronics, appliances, touchscreens, kiosks, objects with screens, and robots. I love how they are expanding beyond the traditional computer screen to design for countless multimedia devices.
Q) Please briefly introduce yourself and your role at Kicker Studio.
A) I’m Dan Saffer, one of the founders and principals at Kicker Studio. I’m an interaction designer and author of the books Designing for Interaction and Designing Gestural Interfaces.
Q) What makes your company unique?
A) We do interaction-infused design, meaning that unlike many studios who start with visual or industrial design, we start with interaction design, with how users will interact with your product. Everything we do is in service to that interactivity; the interface and the industrial design grow out of that interactivity and an understanding of user behavior.
We also specialize in new technologies â€” touchscreens, gestural interfaces, sensor-based interfaces, embedded technology, robots â€” because how we design seems to work well with either making a product from new technology or integrating new technologies into existing products.
Q) How do your employees drive innovation and creativity?
A) We’re a boutique studio, so ideas flow freely between our employees and everyone is empowered to contribute. We’re very experimental in our methods, and ideas for how we should tackle projects or even individual design problems can come from anywhere in the company.
Q) What company portfolio piece are you most proud of?
A) We’re proud of all of our work, but recently we’ve been very proud of one of our first projects, a gestural home entertainment center, because we’re certain it was one of the pieces that helped the client, Canesta, attract the attention of Microsoft, who just acquired them.
Q) How do you see your company expanding in the next five years?
A) The type of work we do is a growing market. More different types of technology are being embedded into all different types of objects, from tea pots to automobiles. We imagine our team will grow from its current size of about 5 to about 20, should the economy improve.
Q) Why would your company be an ideal place to work?
A) It probably isn’t, for some people. We play music, there are dogs in the office, it’s a little chaotic, and we’re always stretching ourselves. Some people might not enjoy that. We play like kids, but work like adults. We don’t count sick days, for instance, and we have 5 weeks of vacation.
Q) Will you divulge any funny stories that can give us an insight into the day-to-day operations at your company?
A) Every day there is usually something funny or wacky that happens. We seem to have long discussions about bathroom etiquette. We once had so many dogs in the office that our next-door neighbor started calling us the design kennel. The other day, since we have a bar in our studio, I invented a new drink, the Thai Icedtini. We have arch-enemies. One of the principals (Jennifer) went as another principal (Jody) for Halloween. We bought whiteboard paint a year ago and are still debating where to paint. We all sit in one big room, so there’s usually a lot of group discussions on everything from Lady Gaga to politics.
Q) What recommendation do you have for people either entering the workplace or looking to transition to this type of work?
A) Read, write well (spell check!), be able to explain your work, why you made the choices you did.
Q) On that note, are you currently hiring?
A) We are currently looking for a business development manager, but right now, we’re unfortunately not hiring any more designers.
Q) How can we learn more about your company?
A) We have a blog at http://kickerstudio.com/blog and a Twitter account, both of which are pretty active. We host a yearly event called Device Design Day and you can see that at http://devicedesignday.com.
Want to recommend a multimedia company to be highlighted in this series? Please email us at email@example.com. A company will be featured every Friday, so look for the next company spotlight Friday, November 19th!
Tags: Dan Saffer, Designing for Interaction, Designing Gestural Interfaces, interaction-infused design, Jennifer Bove, Jody Medich, Kicker Studio, multimedia company, Q&A