The 2011 Northeast IDSA Conference is right around the corner! As a preview to this weekend's conference at RISD, we asked keynote speaker Scott Wilson of MINIMAL to share some thoughts on entrepreneurship and connecting the dots to innovative product design. Wilson gives us insight on being fearless in a world of non-believers, the importance of community and how designers' brains are the key to a better future.
Core77: The last time we spoke, you had already blown away all expectations for Kickstarter with the TikTok + LunaTik. Now that we see people on the subway proudly sporting their watch kits, what's next for this innovative product?
Scott Wilson: Well, we have hopes that Apple realizes they have a huge opportunity to own the wrist in the future by developing a more feature rich and open iOS on the Nano. If they do, then we will happily offer future versions of TikTok+LunaTik. In the meantime we will be releasing new colors and some pretty cool limited editions as well as working with some celebs and other brands on collaborations.
Most IDSA members are familiar with the challenges of creating a product from concept to prototype. As both an entrepreneur and designer, what are some of the biggest challenges of getting products to market?
It's the non-believers, period. This results in indecision and lack of confidence that plagues most companies. Whether it's internal team members, retail buyers, clients, supply chain, etc. it really comes down to not connecting the dots, lack of confidence and fear. They are their own biggest obstacle and its almost an epidemic. Companies that are able to empower the individuals in their organization with vision, those with proven track records of consistently delivering disruptive and sustainable design solutions that connect emotionally with users, those are the ones that have the advantage in today's market.Outside of that there are also unforeseen issues that arise with any product no matter how simple. You just have to be ready to adapt, find a solution and not lose faith. It definitely helps to have worn consulting, corporate and start-up hats across a diverse range of products and industries over the past 20 years but I still always try to learn from mistakes. You just can't let the fear of failure paralyze you or your company.
With Uncommon, you launched a product platform as a foundation for cultivating creative communities. Why was the integration of a community feature so important and how does it influence business decisions?
Well, I should start by saying that I resigned as Chief Creative Officer of Uncommon late last year and have no further role in the organization or creative direction, but I am very proud of the original platform that I co-founded and launched. My vision was to create a premium platform that was more personal expression and less brand. When everything is so similar and commonplace people are craving something uniquely theirs. It was all about empowering the user or creative to do whatever they wanted. When you involve users in creating the product, they are emotionally invested in your brand and they become the best sales force you have.
I chose the iPhone and other Apple products for obvious reasons as Uncommon and Apple shared the same creative consumer. Apple was the brand influencer we needed to establish and legitimize our brand. In addition to the 18 or so products that I personally designed and developed, we had an incredibly diverse launch community of artists that we curated with the help of Upper Playground and Juxtapoz. I just used my instincts on which ones to feature and they typically were spot on as far as what would sell. We had great success from designers like Dora Drimales, David Ellis and Phunk. From there, the community expanded and some of our best sellers were up-and-coming talent. In fact, based on the Uncommon website stats, Google Analytics says I am a best-selling commercial graphic designer, not a product designer. This also reinforces how powerfully transparent and accessible things are today with tools like Google Analytics.
As an entrepreneur, what advice would you have for student designers thinking about their future career paths in industrial design?
A career in design can be a lifelong journey of learning and challenging the norm. It's a great time to be in design, but it also comes with a lot of responsibility and hard work. It's much more than designing the appearance of an object. It's about designing the experience and connecting the dots to create a sustainable story and purpose. To do this you have to be passionate about constantly learning and exploring possibilities. The more tools and knowledge a designer has the better they can leverage their ideas and the more success they will have in delivering compelling experiences to market. Don't limit yourself and allow yourself to stagnate in one category of design too long. The world is lacking people that are truly big picture thinkers that can solve problems and visualize a better future. Designer's brains are uniquely wired to heavily influence the future.
What are five things you never leave home without and why?
To sustain myself I really don't require much. Just a few essentials:
1. iPhone 4 with Apple Headphones - It is indispensible for business on-the-go. It keeps me constantly up-to-date and allows me to communicate with my team, partners and clients across many different channels/apps. I'm on the phone a lot and I hate holding a phone to my head so I always have a pair Apple Headphones on me.
2. MacBook Pro 17" with Windows 7 - This is where I do the majority of my hardcore design refinement. It is an essential tool and the build quality and performance makes it a great mobile workstation.
3. Moleskine Notebook + Pilot Hi-Tec Pens - The analog part of my brain. And I love the inking quality of the Pilot pens (imported from Japan). It is still hard to replace paper, so I always have a Moleskine with me. I am starting to use the iPad more even for sketching.
4. iPad + Just Mobile iPad Stylus - Though there still aren't the killer apps that are perfect for me, I am starting to use the iPad more and more, especially on the road for sketching, capturing ideas, as well as Flipbooking—an app for inspiration and news.
5. Nike+ Free Running Shoes - I have to run regularly. It's where I sort my most pressing problems out and it gives me energy to keep pushing. The Nike Free shoes, my music and Nike+ app are my setup.