“It’s really not that far” assured Spencer Travis, a member of Kikkerland’s in-house design team, while explaining his commute. The young product designer rides his electric scooter from deep Brooklyn to Kikkerland’s NoHo office every day. During these rides he has time to think, space to encounter inspiration. But don’t worry, he still keeps his eyes on the road.
Not surprisingly, creative and unique products come from creative, unique minds. Spencer Travis certainly has one of those minds. For his first-ever interview, he shares how his ideas are transformed into quirky Kikkerland products through teamwork, collaboration, and creativity.
Q: Hi Spencer! Can you tell us a little about your history with Kikkerland, and what you do here at Kikkerland as an in-house designer?
A: Yeah! I’ve been a part of Kikkerland for 2 years now. I’m on the product design team, so I’m involved at the heart of our creation – and that goes from the research and the initial sketching, when we make a prototype and it goes to mass production, and I even am testing the final product for quality control.
Q: Are there any special ways that you seek creative inspiration while designing Kikkerland Products?
A: So, living here in New York City, I get inspired by going to museums and design stores, and there are a million different products in history that artists and makers have already sold, that they’ve marketed and sometimes failed. And so I get excited finding something new, and turning the ordinary into an extraordinary gift.
Spencer sketching out product ideas.
Q: Of the many elements that go into the product design process, which part is your favorite, and why?
A: My favorite part is the period between making the original prototype in our workshop and then when we open the first samples from the factories. And when you get to hold the real item, it’s the only way to learn, test it, and get the product working at its best.
Q: What is the most challenging aspect of the design process for you?
A: I’d say the hardest part is planning ahead at the time for manufacturing and shipping our products. You have to look outside your own sphere and anticipate not what’s popular now, but what the customer is going to want or need in the future.
Q: How do you collaborate with other members of the Kikkerland product design team?
A: I work closely with our design director, Jay Lee. Every idea at Kikkerland goes through a group discussion to assess if a product is going to be feasible and if we can market it. From the projects that do get developed, I help to evaluate and refine the designs to see where they can be improved, and we discuss directly with our graphics team to make sure that all the product information gets communicated on the packaging.
Q: As you’ve become more experienced in product-design, are there any interesting techniques you have learned that have helped you refine your design process?
A: I’m always experimenting with new technologies! One of those is we operate a 3D scanner, which builds a digital model from an existing physical sculpture we have, and this saves time recreating the crafted original exactly and allows Kikkerland to modify the geometry to make it ready for mass machining.
Q: Tell me about a fun project you've worked on recently!
A: When developing our golf flask, we started by researching what every golfer needs on the course– which is a couple of tees and then a divot tool to fix any holes from swinging the clubs. One of the challenging parts of this project was getting the custom graphic to print cleanly, all the way to the welded edges, and then also making sure that the strap had a high quality stitching. We’re very proud of the final product, which is a pretty classy gift for the gentleman golfer!