International Contemporary Furniture Fair – ICFF, New York

Booth Mock Up Render 1 Edited

I recently applied to show some of my furniture designs at the ICFF in New York from May 16th – 19th. The ICFF is North America’s premier showcase for contemporary design. Above is a mockup of what my 10′ x 5′ booth could look like. If selected to exhibit I plan to loop videos of the fabrication process of the Bow Spring Chairs and the gridshell light system that I am developing.

For the four-day duration of the Fair, 165,000 net square feet (15,300 net square meters) of the Javits Center will be abuzz with more than 32,000 interior designers, architects, retailers, representatives, distributors, facility managers, developers, manufacturers, store designers, and visual merchandisers. On Tuesday, May 19, the ICFF opens its doors to the general public, as well.

More than 700 exhibitors from all points of the globe will display contemporary furniture, seating, carpet and flooring, lighting, outdoor furniture, materials, wall coverings, accessories, textiles, and kitchen and bath for residential and commercial interiors. This remarkable throng of exhibitors creates an unparalleled opportunity to view a broad yet highly focused selection of the world’s finest, most innovative, and original avant-garde home and contract products side-by-side, under one roof.

Bow Spring Chair featured on ArchDaily

The Bow Spring Chair that I recently designed as part of a furniture workshop at MIT was recently featured on the Spanish-speaking section of ArchDaily. I have also recently opened a store on Etsy.com where you can buy the Bow Spring Chair directly. There will be new additions to the store in the coming weeks, so keep checking back.

Archdaily Bow Spring

 

The Art of Screwing Up: Why You Need to Make More Mistakes.

“If you don’t make mistakes you’re not working on hard enough problems. And that’s a big mistake.”  – Frank Wilczek, Theoretical Physicist and Nobel Laureate

I recently received an email to my inbox that made me do a complete double-take.

I was completely shocked.

The content of the email was not inherently shocking. To anyone else it would have been just another email, but to me it was like being punched in the stomach.

The email I received was from a design website that I had joined only a week before. I had received notifications from them everyday highlighting the newest products to be featured on their website, anything from clever posters to super high-tech gadgets.

I briefly scrolled down through the email glancing over the ten or twelve various products to see if anything sparked my interest. I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to see.

Sitting there, beautifully photographed, in the very last image, was a product that I had designed only a couple of weeks previously!

WTF!??

I quickly clicked the link and it sent me through to the product’s website. Nope, I wasn’t imagining things. There was my product being sold at $15 a pop.

“What the hell is going on?” I was thinking to myself. I never sent my designs to any manufacturing company. I hardly told anyone about this side project that I was working on.

Did they rob my idea? I had started up a website but had never actually published it so there was no way they could have seen my plans.

It was at that point when I realized that I’d been beaten to it.

My first reaction was; Shit!

But as I browsed around the website I began to feel a sort of vindication. Sure I’d been beaten to it. I’d left this design on the back burner because I’d felt it was slightly trivial. But these guys had the same idea, followed it through and were now making some serious cash.

Maybe I was on the right path after all.

I was now in the very rare position of being able to observe a product that “I” had designed and see how it was marketed, sold and preformed without a single ounce of risk.

Kinda cool!

Sure I’m not going to make any money from it but I’m not the one who got this thing to market, they did and that’s more than half the battle.

So you’re probably wondering what the hell is this product!?

Well it turned out pretty simple but it certainly didn’t start out that way.

I was playing my guitar one day and picked up my brother’s iPhone to tune it in. I started thinking; why has the design of the guitar remained the same for so long? Why aren’t companies like Fender and Gibson packing their guitars full of computing power?

I did some research and as it turned out Gibson have begun to dip their toes in the water of intelligent guitars, but man are they expensive!

Why not connect the iPhone to guitars? There are already tons of apps out there designed to be used with your guitar and they can produce some awesome effects. So why don’t we have docks in our guitars for our iPhones?

Yeah yeah the purists out there are probably shooting at the screen, “You can’t stick an iPhone in a guitar. That’s sacrilege!!”

I beg to differ.

And so I went to work on creating a guitar with an iPhone dock in it. However, it soon dawned on me that I had no experience in the crafting of guitars and that maybe this was an area I should be weary of getting involved in, despite the apparent niche in the market for such a product.

I decided instead to create a mount to allow the iPhone to become part of the guitar, allowing you to use the phone’s brilliant interface to add to the guitar’s playability.

I spent about two weeks weighing up the pros and cons of various different designs, from beautiful machined aluminum pieces, to much simpler and more temporary versions designed to affix themselves via suction cups.

This lead to a shift in my thinking. Sure I’d seen lots of iPhone holders with suction cups on them, like ones you might stick to the windscreen of your car, but none of them seemed to take in to account the fact that the iPhone itself was also made of glass!

Why hadn’t I seen a double sided suction cup designed to hold the iPhone?

Maybe because nobody had thought of if yet?

I bought the only suction cups that I could find (I had to tear them off a pack of roller blinds for car windows) and created a simple prototype by cutting the tops off them and gluing two together back-to-back.

It worked!

In fact it worked REALLY well. I was able to stick my phone to almost anything, and the best part was you couldn’t even see the mount. The phone looked like it was floating. I was on to something here. I started using it everywhere. In the car, on my guitar and around the house.

It was really handy!

I contacted manufacturing companies in China and they were able to make generic units for 50c a pop. This seemed like a good start. They could easily be sold for €5-€10 with some smart packaging and clever marketing.

Then came my big mistake; for whatever reason, be it lack of confidence or experience, I began doubting the idea. I questioned it’s validity and wondered whether it was worth continuing at all.

I put the idea on hiatus and it was not until last week when I had a conversation with a friend from college that I actually began thinking of pursuing it again.

Little did I know that an email I would receive just two days later would put an end to that!

So what can you learn from this epic saga?

Mistakes are not BAD. I can’t stress this enough. In fact they are ESSENTIAL to learning and creativity. We are taught from a very early age to try and avoid making mistakes at all costs. We are constantly made take tests and are penalised for making errors.

I once heard a very interesting question that really makes you think about the importance of making mistakes; “How long would you give your average baby to walk? 1 month? 2 months?” Most people respond by saying “WHAT!? You give them as long as they need!”

Aha!

Maybe that’s why almost everyone in the world can walk! (baring people with certain disabilities of course)

Making mistakes is human nature’s way of learning. Don’t avoid making mistakes. If anything become a child again and keep making mistakes until you reach the point at which you are able to walk! We did it intuitively as children, but somewhere along the way it was beaten out of us.

Whether it’s in business, design or even in your day to day life, don’t resign yourself to mediocrity. Cultivate the art of screwing up.

http://www.yofo.com/ = The guys who beat me to it! (By the way congrats to these guys, they’ve done a great job with the product and the website and I wish them every success.)

If you have any comments or thoughts please post them below.

The Education of Millionaires

“Formal education has become a way to be on autopilot, and not to think about what you want to do with your life.” - Peter Thiel (cofounder of Paypal and first outside investor in Facebook)

The above quote may sound counter intuitive but in my experience I find this to be absolutely true.

In our current system of education (I’ve had the privilege of experiencing it on both sides of the pond – America and Ireland) we go to school, to get into college, to get a degree, to get a job, without ever really stopping to think why we are doing all of this in the first place. It’s the status quo. It’s what we’re told to do. And we do it.

Sit Ubu. Sit. Good dog.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not having a go here because I just recently graduated from college myself. But it does seem a little odd that so few people are questioning the current paradigm and beginning to educate themselves, especially considering the rising cost of formal education and the wealth of information available to us via the internet.

‘The Education of Millionaires – It’s not what you think and it’s not too late’ by Michael Ellsberg, sets out to encourage us to break free from the the current belief that we must go to college and earn a degree in order to be successful, by interviewing many of the worlds most successful entrepreneurs who either dropped out of college or never went in the first place.

OK, so what are my key learnings from this book?

(For the purpose of this post we will define success as being affluent, making an positive impact on society and pursuing something that you are passionate about).

Success can be broken down into seven key skills:

  1. How to make your work meaningful and your meaning work.
  2. How to find great mentors and teachers, connect with powerful people, and build world class network.
  3. What every successful person needs to know about marketing, and how to teach yourself.
  4. What every successful person needs to know about sales, and how to teach yourself.
  5. How to invest for success.
  6. Build the brand of you.
  7. The entrepreneurial mind-set versus the employee mind-set.

1. How to make your work meaningful and your meaning work.

The first skill that I will focus on here is, as the subtitle to the first chapter suggests, ‘How to Make a Difference in the World Without Going Broke’. This is a major dilemma for many young people. Do I follow my passion and risk ending up being broke and unemployed, or do I take the “safe, predictable, boring path ….. ending full of regret …”.

The key lesson I took form this chapter is that it does not have to be all duck or no dinner. It is possible to resolve ‘the conflict of making an impact versus living a predictable life’. We can have the best of both worlds by combining “relative safety and security” with “passion, meaning, creativity …. and freedom that teenagers and twenty somethings dream about.”

How can we do that you ask?

Well here are four simple steps to get you started:

  1. Get on your feet financially. (Any part-time job)
  2. Create more room for experimentation. (Free up time in your day)
  3. Begin experimenting. (Self educate, try, fail, learn, try again)
  4. Strike out on your own. (Become a mini entrepreneur)

Try implementing these simple skills on a daily basis (as I will do) which will allow you to dip your toes in the world of entrepreneurialism without the fear of crashing and burning beyond repair.

2. How to find great mentors and teachers, connect with powerful people, and build world class network.

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn

If we are indeed an average of the people we spend the most time with, than it’s probably a good idea to hang around with some pretty awesome people (or just hang around with a bunch of retards, whatever). Increasingly in todays super-connected society it is becoming more and more important to have a great network of people with whom you connect with on a regular basis.

We must develop “connection capital”, something that can “… help you expand your network of connections, and is not significantly used up in expanding this network.” There are two main ways we can do this. By utilising our:

  • already existing connections
  • ability to give good advice

You can increase the size of your network by utilising your existing connections but also by offering advice or help to people whom you would like to be in your network. There is no better way to get to know people than to help them. “If you’re genuine, and you want to help people – give, give, give – it comes back around!” – Elliott Bisnow (Developer of the Summit Series)

3. What every successful person needs to know about marketing, and how to teach yourself.

“The breakthrough realization for you is that you are in the marketing business. You are not in the dry cleaning, or restaurant business … You are in the business of marketing dry cleaning services or restaurants …  When you embrace this, it makes perfect sense to set your sights on marketing mastery.” – Dan Kennedy

We must realise that no matter what field we are in, we have to sell goods or services in some form or another in order to be successful. To do that we must market these goods or services in the best possible manner. It’s no good having the best restaurant in the country if nobody knows about it! Marketing is the ability to get people who don’t know about you to know about you. It’s that simple.

This is a massive field of study and I can hardly scratch the surface in just one short post, so here are some resources which will allow you to educate yourself on he subject of marketing:

4. What every successful person needs to know about sales, and how to teach yourself.

If marketing is the ability to get people who don’t know about you to know about you, then sales is the ability to take someone who knows about you and turn them in to someone who knows about you but is also giving you money.

Regardless of whatever field you are involved in, if you want to grow and succeed in business put your learning on hold for the time being and educate yourself on the subjects of marketing and sales. For marketing this can be done by reading some of the books and blogs mentioned above. For sales however, one book is recommended time and time again above all others, ‘Spin Selling’ by Neil Rackham. (I am currently studying this book myself and will detail my key learnings in an upcoming post).

In the words of Robert Kiyosaki, author of the international best seller ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’ “It says ‘best-selling author’ not ‘best-writing author’ …. ”

5. How to invest for success. (The art of Bootstrapping)

If like myself you have somewhat limited funds with which you can invest towards your development, than you must be smart in how you spend. Learning the art of “bootstrapping” is all about making incremental decisions within your means. By building up your business and/or your education step by step, and constantly testing to see what’s working and what’s not you will allow yourself the necessary leeway for the inevitable failures that may occur along the way.

As the old adage goes: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. Experiment and test your ideas. Find out what works and what doesn’t, and then test again. As we have all seen in the ‘The Social Network’ even Facebook grew incrementally, expanding from college to college as Zuckerberg and Moskovitz began to realise that they had something “cool” on their hands.

6. Build the brand of you.

“Your brand is what people think about when they hear your name.” – Michael Ellsberg

Part of the reason I have started this blog is to build my own brand so to speak. In order to succeed in todays society it is vital that you develop a strong impression in people’s minds when they hear your name. What do you want people to think when they see your name online or hear it in conversation? That is your brand.

“Create stuff. Sell stuff. Market stuff. Lead stuff. Make sure it’s good stuff, then make sure there’s a good google trail about it, so when potential employers or clients google you, the brand impression they come away with is, “This person gets shit done.” Or simply “Wow.”

Also, be sure to build the brand around your name not some shitty made-up company name to make you sound more important than you actually are. Names like “Tronflex Inc,” or “Prestige Worldwide” as ‘Step Brothers’ so brilliantly put it, don’t actually make you sound more professional. They make you sound ….. retarded. Many of the worlds most famous luxury brands bear the original founders’ name:

  • Prada
  • Bentley
  • Armani
  • Mercedes-Benz
  • Rolls-Royce
  • l’Oreal
  • Kohler
  • Bang & Olufsen
  • Dom Perignon
  • Versace

and so on ….

7. The entrepreneurial mind-set versus the employee mind-set.

The main difference between the super-successful people featured in this book and the many other people who are looking to bring more happiness and success into their lives is not that they are any smarter or came from better backgrounds. It’s that they chose “to do whatever it takes to create the lives that they want, including exercising the effort and initiative to figure out what “whatever it takes” is. These people exhibit an entrepreneurial mind-set in their daily life, although this does not necessarily mean that they are all entrepreneurs.

There are six key distinctions between the Employee mind-set versus the Entrepreneurial mind-set:

Employee Mind-set:

  1. Focus on entitlement
  2. Focus on output
  3. Sort for what’s requested
  4. Work to protect your job
  5. Turn away from even the small decisions you have the authority to make
  6. See your circumstances as fixed and permanent

Entrepreneurial Mind-set:

  1. Focus on contribution
  2. Focus on outcome
  3. Sort for what’s needed
  4. Work yourself out of a job
  5. Go towards big decisions, even without authority
  6. See your circumstances as illusory and temporary

In whatever you pursue in life, look at the outcome that you want to produce and relentlessly focus on how to achieve that.