Monday, May 25, 2009

Welcome to The Whimsical Workshop Studio

I thought it would be fun to start a blog about our design studio, The Whimsical Workshop. Lets start at the beginning of the story that brought me to this point of my career. I have to say I have had quite an adventure getting to this point of my life and I am a perfect example that you cannot always plan your life. This may take several posts as there are many adventures, each one guiding me to Arizona and starting The Whimsical Workshop.

I grew up in Rochester, NY and I went to college at Rochester Institute of Technology to become an industrial designer. I imagined I would design toys or something fun, unlike my classmates that were hoping to design the next great sports car or home appliance. 

After graduation I spent months looking for a job. It was 1995 and companies were cutting back in their design departments. I ended up taking a job at a company designing craft kits that were sold to schools, camps, hospitals and other institutions. I thought this was a step backwards until I met my new boss and future mentor, Mary Kortemeyer. This woman was larger than life in every sense of the word ( I will share some stories about her later, she was and is a great inspiration throughout my career). She taught me that I was a creative soul that would be happy as long as I could design and play with new ideas. It did not matter what I worked on as long as I was proud of the end result. I have to say even after fourteen years of designing products for others, it is still a huge thrill to see an idea become a reality with a life of its own. 

I only worked with Mary for two years, but in that time I designed and wrote instructions for over two hundred craft kits, many of which are still available today through S&S Worldwide. I learned how to design products on a budget, how to create product for photo shoots, how to design and layout a catalog, how to design for maufacturing and most of all how to work with really really tight deadlines. Mary also helped me understand how important it was to work professionally and with other departments such as sales, marketing and manufacturing. Little did I know that everything I learned would become the base for starting my own company.

Looking back on my time at S&S I realize that Mary saw my potential and constantly encouraged and taught me skills she must have known I would need someday whether I wanted to know them or not. Because at the end of the day she was my boss and I had to do the jobs she insisted I do. I did not like to draw, mostly because I did not think I was very good at it. Mary always made sure I had to do my share of illustration projects even though we had a wonderful illustrator on staff. Now a large part of my design success is due to my drawings. 

I never was a big fan of writing instructions, again because I was not sure if I could clearly explain how to do something in writing so others could understand. I had technical writing classes in college but as with anything in life, school is different from reality. Mary made sure that everyone in the studio not only wrote the instructions for the products we designed, she had us write instructions for other designer's products to teach us the basic steps to good instructions. She would review our instructions and taught us the difference between good instructions and great instructions by explaining what the end user needed to have explained. She would say the no matter how great an idea was for a craft project the true test of success was how clear the instructions were for the customer. If the customer could not repeat what we designed easily, following our instructions the kit was a failure. 
I have now written well over a thousand sets of instructions that range from simple craft projects to extremely complex quilting patterns. Writing and editing instructions is the other large part of my studio. Several of our clients only use this service from us. 

After reading this post, you can see how important this first design job was in teaching me the skills I would later use to start my own successful design studio. From my own experience, I would say learn everything you can no matter what it is you are doing for a job or a hobby. You never know when it will come in handy later in life. Also never stop learning new skills and trying new things, this is how I have discovered the many passions in my life.  Until next time.

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