Current projects: We have a ton of things going on right now. The biggest thing that I'm working on is the expansion of some key categories outside of device-driven products and accessories—everything from camera bags to luggage and other packs designed around the users that we serve. But I'm also involved in the brand and creative side of the company, and I'm spearheading some launch projects and a special collaboration project coming up in August for one of our brand ambassadors, Kelly Slater. That will be a new brand environment popping up in Los Angeles, and our first fully-dedicated brand space in the U.S.
Mission: Well, my mission is to be happy. The Incase brand mission is to design solutions centered on protection and mobility to meet the demands of today's creatives.
We also have our brand mantra, which is "A better experience through good design." That applies to everything we touch. We eliminate the superfluous, we edit down to what's necessary, and we aim to achieve a universal design language that transcends both age and demographics. Through that, we're able to create solutions that allow users to have a better experience pursuing their passions.
When did you decide that you wanted to be a designer? I was born and raised in Hawaii, and I was exposed to surfing at an early age. My uncle was a surfboard shaper; through that, I was exposed to how you would design an object to serve a function. I was super intrigued by all the little nuances and subtleties that go into making a surfboard, and how those affect the rider in the end. So that was the start of thinking about design.
Education: I attended a joint degree program of the California College of the Arts and the University of San Francisco, with a major in graphic design.
First design job: My first job was actually at Incase. I started working here during my senior year in college. They brought me on as a freelancer to design a brochure, and I guess the rest is history. I signed on full-time the second I graduated.
Who is your design hero? It's really hard to pinpoint one. But here at Incase we often refer to Dieter Rams's ten principles for good design. We even developed our own list of eight brand-design principles, based on his ten principles.
From a graphic-design standpoint, I'd choose Otl Aicher. He worked with Dieter Rams at Braun; they had a really tight collaboration. I'm a graphic designer by trade, but I've evolved at Incase to the point where I have my hands in essentially everything. So I really like that idea of bridging the gap between product and graphics.
Inside Incase's headquarters in Chino Hills, California
Aipa in his office
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Describe your workspace: It's really collaborative. We have a fairly small team here— about 18 people total on the creative side— but everyone plays a super-critical role, and collaboration is key. There are not many walls, and a lot of them are shared. There are a lot of communal tables and open workspaces, and a lot of open discussions result from that. It's critical for us to have everyone on the same page and for everyone to understand the brand they're working for.
Other than the computer, what is your most important tool? The whiteboard. Going back to that idea of collaboration, I think that's when I'm most productive with everyone here, when we're all hanging out in front of the big whiteboard talking about the next big project.
What is the best part of your job? The people. I work with a great team, and the company also has a group of influencers and ambassadors we call the SYNDCT, including Kelly Slater and Ken Block and a slew of other guys. Working closely with them and picking their brains about how they actually use our products has a major influence on what we do here.
What is the worst part of your job? Time—just not having enough time to do everything I want to do. I was just experiencing this last night; I was pulling together some stuff and I was on a roll and I was like, "Oh my god, it's 3:00 a.m. now?"
What time do you get up and go to bed? I get up at a pretty consistent time, at 6:00 or 6:30 every morning. As for going to bed, it's really all over the place. I'm usually a later-night person. Sleep isn't much of a priority.
How do you procrastinate? I love eating. My girlfriend just happens to be a food blogger, so I'm her test subject and biggest fan. When I'm not working on work, I'm helping her out in the kitchen or helping her take photos of her food. That's my downtime.
What is your favorite productivity tip or trick? I really don't think too much about my productivity; I just try to address things the minute I need to address them. The trick of being able to prioritize your day at the beginning of each day—or your week at the beginning of each week, or your year at the beginning of each year—is the biggest thing that helps me be as productive as possible. If you're able to identify the big things that need to happen and really focus on getting them done well, all the small things will fall into place.
What is the most important quality in a designer? Passion. Passion for achieving your goals, and for paying attention to the small details that no one else would really get or pay attention to. The fact that you're putting something out there that you feel is perfect, or as close to it as possible, keeps you moving forward.
What is the most widespread misunderstanding about design or designers? I really don't think too much about misunderstandings. But the stereotypical portrayal of what a designer looks like or who a designer is—you know, you picture someone wearing all black with a pair of glasses. I guess that's my biggest thing. You can be an amazing designer in a T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops.
What is your most prized design possession? My first surfboard. I helped my uncle design and shape it, and I've kept it ever since. It's totally torn to shreds but it's so special for me.
What is exciting you in design right now? The people. Consumers today are becoming so much more educated about what good design is. And I think that's pushing designers to make better designs.
If you could redesign anything, what would you choose? Packaging—just packaging in general. There's so much waste. There's got to be some overarching, macro mission for the world to create better ways to deliver things to people.
Mason Currey is a former Core77 editor and the author of Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. Previously, he was the executive editor of Print and the managing editor of Metropolis. His freelance writing has appeared in the New York Times and Slate, among other publications. He lives in Los Angeles.