I have always adored Blu Dot's mission: good design at good prices. Heck, I liked them so much I even worked for them. I caught up with Blu Dot's CEO & founder John Christakos and he answered some of my questions about Blu Dot's design process, their Real Good Chair movie, and exactly who is dressed up as a squirrel in those funny videos.
Blu Dot is 14 years old this year. What are some of the things you've learned from such a successful run?
As one of the few design firms that also manufactures and markets its own designs, I have learned that design is really the easy part. And the most fun part, although I suspected that from the beginning. Getting a design from sketchpad to marketplace is much harder than I originally thought. I have likened starting a studio like Blu Dot to renovating a house. Estimate how long you think it will take and how much it will cost - and then triple it. But I am not complaining - we are very lucky to get to come to work every day and do what we love to do - it doesn't suck.
Unlike many design houses, Blu Dot does not give name credit to specific designers of individual pieces. Why is that?
We are a design collective and have been from the very beginning. For the first several years, Charlie, Maurice, and I designed everything and we did that collaboratively. Some pieces may have started in my sketchbook or Charlie's or Maurice's but by the end they were truly a group effort. We are firm believers that the collective effort often yields results that can't be reached on a solo basis. We still work that way today but we have other designers working with us now - but the process is the same.
How does being based in the midwest affect your design process?
I am not sure. I think being in the midwest breeds a certain pragmatism that may be evident in our work - a straightforwardness, a sort of no bullshit approach. Being outside New York or other design-heavy locations is a good thing, I think, because we are free to do whatever we want without ever feeling the need to look over our shoulder at what the next dude is doing.
Once again, you're exhibiting at ICFF in a few weeks. What new products are you most excited about?
We are pretty excited about a new lounge chair called Toro. It is composed of a steam bent hardwood frame with an elegant silhouette and a saddle leather bucket seat. We made numerous seating buckets and experimented with dozens of patterns for the leather sling - and we are really happy with the comfort of the chair. The leather is super thick and a touch gluttonous for us. It has a beautiful hand and a gorgeous finish. We are also introducing a sweet little desk called Cant that riffs off of our Desk 51. This one is made of powder coated steel and solid walnut with a perforated metal shelf. I dig the geekiness of the perforated shelf - it reminds me of the minimal industrial aesthetic you might see in well designed stereo components from the mid-century.
Blu Dot opened its first showroom last year in Manhattan. Has that experience influenced product assortment?
Yes. We are now so much better connected with the people who buy and use our stuff and that has yielded some great feedback. The little desk I mentioned is a direct result of comments from customers in our Soho store.
You made an incredible movie about the Real Good Chair in the end of 2009 and have product videos on YouTube featuring a giant plushy Squirrel. What oddball marketing campaigns do you have up your sleeve this year?
I can't tell. Stay tuned.
At least tell me if that's you in the Squirrel costume? Come on, don't lie.
Nope. It's an intern.