Design Glut: It's Scrumdidilyumptious!

Currency Necklace
Liz Kinnmark (right) and Kegan Fisher (left), Co-founders of Design Glut, wearing respectively earrings and a necklace from their Currency Collection
The delectable creations by Design Glut have much in common with the scrumptious confections conjured by Willy Wonka.  One can almost imagine that the eggs cradled in Design Glut’s Egg Pants were laid by none other than Mr. Wonka’s golden geese.  Still, it is less the designs themselves that bring us straight to the fictive Chocolate Factory of Roald Dahl’s story, than the behavior of all those children (four bad eggs and one good one) inside the candy factory.  Design Glut begs the question, as an online personality quiz puts it, “Are you a Charlie, or a Veruca?  Which “Willy Wonka” kid are you?”  How we consume — sometimes more in tune with the melody of Veruca Salt (“I want the world. I want the whole world. I want to lock it all up in my pocket. It’s my bar of chocolate. Give it to me now.”) or the bottomless appetite of Augustus Gloop than the restraint of Charlie Bucket (“Only once a year, on his birthday, did Charlie Bucket ever get to taste a bit of chocolate.”) — is explored by Design Glut’s delightful morsels.
Eco-Chick.com: Your designs are extremely enticing.  The definition of the ‘glut‘ is not far off from the glutton.’  How does the pull of temptation (and the varied spectrum of desire) inform your design philosophy?  When does tempting become toxic?

Liz Kinnmark: As a company, it’s our job to entice you.  We need people to desire our products, in order to fulfill our desires, like paying rent!  That’s the way the system works.  So we, like every business, try to tempt you to consume our products.  But unlike every business, we also have a lot of blue-sky ideas about changing the world for the better.  I think tempting becomes toxic when businesses care only about selling and not about the long-term health of the system.  In the long-term, your business won’t survive if you don’t take care of the consumers you sell to and the environment we all live in.  I’m a big believer in socially-responsible capitalism                       

Black Crude Necklace
Black Crude Necklace

EC: It’s fascinating how consumption is expressed in your products.  You have highlighted several ways that we (over) consume materials — including our use of economic, dietary, and energy resources.  Can you please comment on how the role of the consumer provides a point of view for your designs?

LK: Design is about creating objects for other people, for consumers, for the market. That’s where I draw the line between design and art.  Art is about creating something because you want to create it, to express yourself.  So by that definition, the role of the consumer is essential to any design.  I think the design world often times tries to pretend that it’s not about commerce, that it’s about beauty and refined tastes and something much classier.  We make fun of that.  We embrace the fact that this is about consumerism.  If you’re buying something because it makes you feel good or cool or whatever, fine.  We all do it.  Just have the decency to admit it. And think about who or what you’re supporting when you spend those dollars.  You don’t need to give up consumerism, but you should consciously decide what to support.

Smoking Gun
Smoking Gun

EC: What are we craving through objects?  Do you see the possibility of our society restraining the consumer diet or being satiated by a more nourishing kind of product?

LK: Everyone craves something different.  I don’t see the appetite receding any time soon, but I do think people can be satiated by a more nourishing kind of product.  With our jewelry, for example, I see it as feeding people’s appetite for fashion and yet slipping in a vitamin.  You’ll look good wearing it, of course, but you just might start a conversation about important current events.

World Links Brooch
Kegan Fischer wearing World Links Brooch

EC: What is the educational mission behind the Design Glut webzine? What is the vision behind this design forum?

LK: Well, we stumbled right out of art school into trying to run a business.  And it immediately became clear that school hadn’t prepared us for the business world.  We ended up getting into all these crazy situations, like having pallets of merchandise delivered to our apartment, having to break them down on the street and then figure out where the hell we were going to store everything.  We started talking with other entrepreneurs, and we realized we weren’t the only ones who had no idea what we were doing in the beginning!  You learn by screwing up, and then getting up and dusting yourself off and trying again.  Every start-up has these great stories about the trials and tribulations they’ve gone through.  So we started collecting the stories and posting them to our website.  We hope that they will inspire others to follow their own dreams.  The central lesson, in my opinion, is that no one gets to the top because of their super-human abilities.  They get there by working hard, not giving up, and a healthy dose of luck and coincidences along the way.

Slow Food Tray
Slow Food Tray

EC: Tell me a little bit please about your creative collaboration. What brings the two of you (Liz and Kegan) together as designers?

LK: When we did our first show together, it was just because it logistically made sense.  Neither of us had very much money or very many products, so we shared a space.  And then halfway through the preparations, we looked at each other and were like, “Huh, I don’t usually like working with other people, but this is going really well!”  We both work really, really hard.  We both have a similar aesthetic.  If you look at our personal artwork, it’s almost eerily similar, except Kegan works on a massive scale and I work on a tiny scale.  But probably most importantly, we both have grandiose dreams.  We convince each other that we can pull things off that, to everyone else, seems crazy and impossible.  And then we do it.

gilded eggs in their Egg Pants beside Kegan Fisher
gilded eggs nestled in their Egg Pants beside Kegan Fisher

EC: What’s coming up for you in 2009?  Next steps?

LK: Well, we’ve always got grand plans and new products in the works.  We’re almost ready to launch one of them, so keep an eye out!  Our next show will be ICFF (May 16-19, ’09).  In the meantime, we’re really interested in continuing to grow the website.  Readership has increased a lot recently; it’s very exciting.  Right now we’re working on a redesign of the site.  The look and feel will stay pretty much the same, but we’re bringing in more creative entrepreneurs to blog about their experiences.  In celebration of the 1-year anniversary of our blog (July 2009) we’ll be holding a show with work from some of our favorite creatives that we’ve interviewed.  I’m getting really excited about the play that can happen back-and-forth between the digital world and the physical world.  For example, bringing a group of people, who share having their names listed on our website, together in a physical space.  We’re also thinking about releasing a printed magazine.  We’d like to approach designing a magazine from a product-design point of view; design it like an object which we want people to love and keep.  We’d pull articles from our website which all fit a certain theme, and tie them closer together, elaborating on what the central message/lesson is.  Eventually I’d love to make a book.