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Interview with Brook Kennedy

Home > Designer Interviews > Brook Kennedy

Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer Brook Kennedy (BK) for A’ Design Award and Competition. You can access the full profile of Brook Kennedy by clicking here.

Interview with Brook Kennedy at Sunday 23rd of April 2017

FS: Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
BK: I have always been interested in design since I was a child but especially as it relates with other disciplines. Before I studied design at a graduate level I was educated biology, social sciences and then in the Fine Arts. I became a designer because I was interested in how design could take knowledge and create value it could create something exciting from nothing.

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
BK: My design studio is mostly engaged with projects that have a broader purpose- whether sustainability, improving health or some other kind of humanitarian value. When I worked for Smart Design in New York, many of my colleagues were interested in the same. I was less interested in form and aesthetics alone and more excited by human insight that would give rise to a new meaningful product idea. Many of the products I worked on received patents of some kind.

FS: What is "design" for you?
BK: Design is many things- it is about solving problems that matter and meeting unspoken needs...but it is also about something much less tangible. In some sense I think design is magic, or the closest thing we have to it today. Good design always stops you in your tracks. It is arresting. For one reason or another it just simply makes you say "wow!"

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
BK: There are no specifc kinds of works I like to design most overall, but I do like a good chair

FS: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
BK: It is hard to pick just one but if I have to, I have always admired the original Vespa scooter and have always wanted one. It was an iconic, elegant design on so many levels and never topped, but widely copied. If anything, subsequent versions were not as successful despite improvements in performance. Not only did it look great but they are great fun to drive. in my mind the best designs are this way: the "experience" using them is great and they look amazing too. The Vespa was also an immensely empowering symbol of Italian innovation after the War.

FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
BK: A set of Fireplace tools for Target in the USA with Michael Graves. They did not sell very well but it was a great learning experience. Later, I worked on some products for Alessi that might still be in production.

FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
BK: Wood, stainless steel and felt.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
BK: After walking the streets of a vibrant, creative city.

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
BK: Getting the concept direction right. If the product is irrelevant nothing can save it.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
BK: Excitement and optimism.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
BK: Pride mixed with a bit of anxiety. Did I forget something? Is there something I missed?

FS: What makes a design successful?
BK: Successful designs last. Even when they are damaged, they are refurbished, rebuilt and renewed. Good design lasts.

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
BK: Is it superficial? Is novelty concealing that it is no better, or perhaps worse than what it replaced.

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
BK: Designers have more power and responsibility all of the time, and as never before. They have reached "C" level status next to CEOs. Now that they they have arrived, it is their charge to address or take responsibility for what is produced. Designers should also consider the unintended consequences of design innovation. While technology offers new solutions delivered through design, designers should consider their impact- smartphones are a perfect example. They provide numerous communication conveniences but are ruining our attention, posture and manners.

FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
BK: Designers will continue to cross pollinate with other fields: recently this has happened with Interaction Deisgn and Computer Science in the growing field of connected devices. Tomorrow, designers will overlap with Biologists to initiate the creation of new renewable materials that can replace the abundance of plastic products that are wasted and end up in landfill and our oceans.

FS: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
BK: My last exhibition was a collection of Photographs created by Macronaut. In my next exhibition I'd like to expand this topic or exhiibt some future bicycling accessories and furniture I am currently working on.

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
BK: My inspiration come mostly from live experience, not the internet. Walking for hours in a city like New York, where I am from, I always feel a surge of ideas from things I see, what people wear, all born out of the vast variety you encounter there. One weekend in New York can recharge my creative impetus for months.

FS: How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
BK: My design style is understated and warm, but not "modern, or contemporary" per se. I love products that can draw a subtle reference without being obvious. Juniper Design's M Lamp is a perfect example of this. Clean, useful and suggestive of a miner's lamp.

FS: Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
BK: I live in a small college town in the US state of Virginia. It is mountainous and remote, but it provides a level of focus and clarity. Balanced with a periodic trip to New York City works very well for my work process. The USA provides a lot of opportunity in many areas including Design, but after living overseas I realize it is also a bubble. I am often so inspired going to places like Europe which has such an amazing collection design heritages. It is not just high design but day to day quotidian things. Last time I went to Germany, I was amazed by all of the considered details in the airport restrooms from sink faucets to hand dryers.

FS: How do you work with companies?
BK: I work mainly as a consultant to companies, both large established ones and startups.

FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
BK: It is important to have a good cultural fit- to have a shared understanding about the value of design.

FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
BK: My design process can be chaotic, but I do follow steps to anchor myself if I get lost. I incorporate insights from potential users as a compass. I don't let users dictate my design decisions, but I do draw inspiration from them throughout the process. In terms of mechanics- I like to build models in 3d. I can't rely on sketching alone.

FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
BK: My Vespa, Frank + Oak rucksack, my grandfather's pocket knife, electric fan and Omega Seamaster watch from the 1940s.

FS: Can you describe a day in your life?
BK: I always walk to work, down a quiet path and walk home. This frames my day with a moment of reflection and closure and helps me wind down.

FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
BK: I think it is important to figure out what matters to you- to define your values and not take on someone else's. You also have to really love it.

FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
BK: Creating something from nothing has no better satisfaction. No money or other reward can replace it, but it can be hard. It is competitive and hard. Design does not yet receive the respect it deserves, so you have to love it. Everybody expects good design but not everyone is always willing to pay what it costs.

FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
BK: Flexibility, optimism, determination and sensitivity without taking things personally. Every designer has always been wrong.

FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
BK: Sketching, Modeling, 3d printing, Rhino, Solidworks, Keyshot, Photshop, Illustrator.

FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
BK: Setting expectations. The older I get it is often instinct about when you have done enough.

FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
BK: This is hard to answer, it really depends.

FS: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
BK: You must be a good sketcher! Sketching isn't everything. Being able to communicate ideas is.

FS: What was your most important job experience?
BK: Being the lead designer for the OXO High Chair. This took over a year and I have the original sketch. It won many awards has several patents. I remember the day I saw it first in the store and at the MOMA store in New York.

FS: Who are some of your clients?
BK: OXO, Target, Nokero and others I cannot name.

FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
BK: I like to work on new products, brands and initiatives, especially with startups. I like the clean slate where you can create an entirely fresh experience that meets the user on all levels.

FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
BK: I am alsways looking for a new opportunity to design, serve as a design director both for startups and in house. I am currently working on several products that I am very excited about.

FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
BK: I do both but I really like working with others, especially those with complimentary skills. So many more complex products need a strong, dynamic team.

FS: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
BK: I am working on a solar light that I am extremely passionate about.

FS: How can people contact you?
BK: Through my email brook_kennedy@yahoo.com or brook@stanfordalumni.org and website http://www.brookkennedy.com

FS: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
BK: Not at all. These were all great questions! Thank you very much.


FS: Thank you for providing us with this opportunity to interview you.

A’ Design Award and Competitions grants rights to press members and bloggers to use parts of this interview. This interview is provided as it is; DesignPRWire and A' Design Award and Competitions cannot be held responsible for the answers given by participating designers.


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