In case you forget your USB key, make sure you always have a few backup gigs in your wallet! This is what led Kurt Rampton to design a tablet as big as a credit card, comprised of detachable mini USB keys.
The designer graduated from the Industrial Design Program at Georgia Tech and then spent five years working for Propane Creature Design and Product Development in Atlanta. After freelancing for a while, Rampton ended up working full time at Bolt Group, Charlotte. Baron spoke to Kurt about his Gigs-2-go project.
Baron: How did you get the Gigs-2-Go idea?
Kurt Rampton: The concept came up as I frequently ran into problems while sharing presentations and CAD files with my clients. Because they often have firewalls or might not be tech savvy, cloud sharing isn’t always the best option. Burning CDs is slow and impractical. And no one wants to leave his trusty (and pricey) 64GB thumb drive behind. I saw a need for a smaller format of drives that could be shared and even left behind with the client.
We have been using molded paper pulp for packaging projects for a while and I was impressed with its low-cost and design flexibility. I also liked its renewable and biodegradable properties, as a material that could be made entirely from post-consumer recycled paper. This seemed like a great opportunity to up-cycle the material into a tech product enclosure. The ability to perforate and tear the material lends itself to the tear-off-tab concept. And it is easy to disassemble the product at the end of its useful life, separating the organic from the technical parts.
B.: How did you handle your creative process?
K. R.: For this project the creative process was incredibly brief. It’s such a simple idea that it was almost completely formed as I imagined it. I drew a sketch, shared it with my colleagues and a day later I had a CAD model and cranked out a few renderings. The real work came later when we had to manage the development with a manufacturer.
B.: What were the obstacles to this project and how did you overcome them?
K. R.: The biggest challenge is maintaining the vision that gives the product its purpose and appeal to begin with. A lot of pressures come from every side to change things, to make compromises to your vision. We wanted a sustainable paper based product. There is such a strong preference in the manufacturing community to work with what they know – plastics. Even if they claim to share your vision, they will often choose the most expedient path. You have to be diligent and keep the long-term view intact.
B.: The project is not yet in production. What did it lack?
K. R.: We’ve begun production as we speak and we are launching a Kickstarter soon to raise money for tooling and completing the first order of the product. This project is unlike any other that I have worked on because the people requested it. There was no client, no manufacturer, and no marketing team. We put some renderings out there and we were blown away by the response. The manufacturer that we have partnered with discovered our project organically and got in touch with us. We have been going back and forth with prototypes for two months now. The product is almost ready and it is pretty much identical to its original vision. It works and looks great and it’s still made of 100% post consumer paper, which was really important to me.
B.: As a product designer, what is the best advice someone has given you?
K. R.: When I got out of school, I wanted to head straight into “sustainable design”, I wanted to save the world from wasteful, landfill junk. I had a job interview and the design director at this firm gave me some great advice. He told me : “Get a job. Learn the industry. Learn about manufacturing, about materials and about the marketplace. Then, when you have experience and wisdom and a portfolio, you can start thinking about saving the world.” He was right. I didn’t know anything then and I still have a lot to learn. The old adage about following your dreams is true but the path is very long and winding.
B.: What is the best advice you would give to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
K. R.: Follow your dreams but be realistic. Nothing is given or handed out. You have to earn it and work your way up from the bottom.