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In Conversation with the Speakers of DesignTalk
On Tuesday, April 22nd, Percolate is hosting its first design event. DesignTalk Presents: Partners in Crime will feature leaders from around the New York design community sharing stories about the things, people, and teams that help them design products and services. Whether its sketchbook habits or productivity hacks, apps or cameras, chainsaws or teammates, we’re going to learn about their partners in crime.
The evening will feature six speakers:
— Shayna Kulik, the founder and editor of Pattern Pulp, a trend forecasting site that helps companies navigate digital and physical opportunities.
— David Lee, the chief creative officer of Squarespace, a website creation platform.
— Claire Mazur, the co-founder of Of a Kind, an editorial ecommerce platform which supports and promotes on-the-rise fashion designers.
— Sam Valenti, the founder of Ghostly International, an independent record label that fuses sound and design.
— Robert Lenne, who is head of design at Artsy, an art education and collection platform.
— Noah Brier, co-founder and product owner here at Percolate, where we’re building the leading content marketing platform.
The PechaKucha format we chose allows each speaker to show 20 slides, each for 20 seconds. This only gives each speaker a little less than 7 minutes to present, but we could listen to them talk about design all day. That’s why we sat down and spoke with them about how they first became interested in design to recent challenges they’ve overcome.
When did you first become interested in design?
Shayna Kulik: I think it officially began with my grandfather and the random sculptures we would build together. He was a retired retail display designer and would fill my weekends with easels, paints and found objects. We always had a blast.
Noah Brier: I got a job in an advertising agency as a copywriter. I was the sole writer on the creative team and was surrounded by designers. I was fascinated and inspired by their work and always really enjoyed working with designers.
Sam Valenti: The design of skateboarding culture in the 1980’s might have been my first entry point. Artists like VCJ for Powell Peralta created unique worlds for their teams and helped me understand brand in a very basic sense. That image could be more powerful than words.
Robert Lenne: My grandparents were teachers and happened to be a part of a drive that Apple did in the early nineties to get more computers into education. This meant that I had access to a black and white 9″ monitor and software like PageMaker and TypeStyler. I got fascinated by desktop publishing and printed my own black and white magazines that I distributed within my family. When the Internet came along and I discovered that I could publish my own website on Angelfire there was no turning back.
Tell us about a recent design challenge you overcame and how you did it.
David Lee: We recently had to renovate our apartment to welcome our newborn daughter into this world. Our existing kitchen was in the ideal location for a second bedroom. All we had to do was transition the kitchen into an open plan concept within our living room. What seemed like a rather simple design problem turned out to be one of the most challenging personal design projects I have ever participated in.
Compromise is probably the big takeaway here. In a juggling act between personal design taste, time, cost, contractors, materials and space constraints, it’s safe to say that whatever you envisioned, the final outcome will never turn out exactly as you had it planned.
Claire Mazur: We’re in the design phase of a big site redesign for Of a Kind right now. Every time we go through one of these I find it immensely challenging — like enduring the most intense and painful therapy session that you’re desperate to abort but know you need to finish because the results will be worth it. It always feels so emotional for everyone involved, which makes it difficult to come to a consensus when there are disagreements over how something should look. A sense of humor and a willingness to be wrong is key in getting through it.
Shayna Kulik: I’ve been building out a new brand on the side that I’m getting ready to launch soon. It’s been a work-in-progress over the past year, and about six months ago, while testing things out and getting customer feedback, it was suggested that I re-approach things from a different product perspective.
I ended up halting production, taking a step back, and bringing on a partner to help create a stronger leading product. As of a month ago, we finally have something we’re both proud of that’s more interesting and meaningful. For someone who likes to see immediate results and is used to the pace of digital design, it’s been a test of patience.
DesignTalk began as a weekly meeting in which our design team shared inspirational work from a variety of disciplines: Architecture, illustration, product design and so on. What’s a recent piece of work that you found inspirational or striking?
Claire Mazur: The instagram accounts of artists Mimi O Chun and Donald Robertson offer up some of the most delightful moments in my day when they post images featuring their own work. They are both extremely talented and funny.
Sam Valenti: I was struck by the art of Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin film poster which led me to a late discovery of Neil Kellerhouse, who has been making what I think are some of the most beautiful marriages of type and image I’ve seen in years.
Robert Lenne: I’m a fan of Donald Judd‘s work, Rachel Whiteread’s “negative spaces”, and Antony Gormley’s human figures. On the digital side I like Oyster a lot and experiments in publishing like Circa and NYT Now.
David Lee: I had seen his show in Tokyo many years ago, but to see the Ai Weiwei exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum again was a refreshing reset, in particular his irreverent work using Han Dynasty urns.
At Percolate, we’re pretty into coffee. What’s your favorite coffee shop in the city and why?
Shayna Kulik: I love Nourish Kitchen & Table in the West Village. They sell Counter Culture, which is one of my favorite coffee brands, along with the most delicious coconut macaroons. I’ve met a lot of interesting folks at the collaborative table in the back as well, which is always kind of cool and random.
Noah Brier: In the neighborhood I really like Everyman Espresso. It’s small and they take their coffee seriously. In Brooklyn I’m partial to Hungry Ghost because they have Stumptown cold brew on tap. Yum.
Claire Mazur: The iced New Orleans style coffee at Blue Bottle is one of my favorite treats. I don’t normally put sugar in my coffee, but this one is slightly sweetened and it’s really perfect.
Sam Valenti: Our offices are in Greenpoint, which is bustling with good new shops. The Ghostly and Drip teams check out Spina and Ovenly: one has lovely plants and the other has sea salt cookies. Pick your poison.
Robert Lenne: I actually enjoy coffee at home the best. Just a Moka Pot on the stove.
Thanks again to all of our speakers for presenting tomorrow evening and sharing their thoughts here today. If you haven’t signed up yet, register for tomorrow night’s event at the Bowery Electric. We’ll have a couple of beers and listen to these wonderful speakers tell stories about their partners in crime.