This month’s featured Guidecraft team member is Industrial Designer, Nicholas Kovacs, in our New York office. He has been a wonderful addition to our Guidecraft Design team and we’d love for you to get to know more about him!
GC: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
NK: I am originally from Missouri, but my family moved to South Dakota shortly after I was born and then moved again to Poughkeepsie where I lived all the way through high school. After high school, I attended Drexel University in Philadelphia. I was really into music in high school, which I still am, so I originally went to school for music, like music business. I transferred out of that program during my freshman year because I took design and art classes as electives and really liked it. One of my professors got me in touch with the director of product design at Drexel as I hadn’t known what industrial design was before that. Product design was a brand new major at Drexel at that time so I joined their first class and the rest is pretty much history. I was in the first graduating class at Drexel for Product Design. It had about 7 or 8 people, which was really small, but it was nice because it was intimate and I got really close with the faculty. It was this whole process that made me first realize that I wanted to be a professional designer.
GC: Was there anything or anyone in your young life that inspired you towards a creative career path?
NK: I was always creative as a kid. I liked to draw, write music and play music.
GC: What made you choose to work at Guidecraft?
NK: I really like how this company fosters creativity and doesn’t restrict you at all. Throughout the offices, the people and the ideas, it is very open which I like a lot.
GC: I heard that there was a memorable dog toy in your portfolio when you came for your interview…
NK: Yes, it was from a project I did during my sophomore year in college. From my research, we found that a lot of dog toys are dangerous and can dislocate dogs jaws so that started my ideas. I came up with sketches and an idea for an overmolded tennis ball. Basically when the dog is chewing on it it will hit a certain threshold where the ball would pop out and they can enjoy it. You can also throw it and when it hits the ground the ball pops out and goes flying and they can chase after it. It was a project that I really enjoyed and I thought it was a good idea to present it because it was something fun but not too serious. They seemed to love it and I was really happy they did since I had put a lot of work and effort into it!
GC: What is your position and what do you like about it?
NK: My position is Industrial Designer. I like that I get to design a lot of different things, furniture, toys, graphic design and I like the continuation that occurs for new products and new ideas. It’s never monotonous. There is always something new to do.
GC: Why did you pick children’s toys and/or furniture as your focus?
NK: Everyone in my immediate family is in the medical field, always helping people. My dad is a physician and my mom is a school nurse and they really enjoy the aspect of helping people I always wanted to design to improve people’s lives or help individuals with disabilities. That’s kind of why I enjoy early childhood education as my focus.
GC: Are there any particular rules you follow when designing toys? What about furniture?
NK: There are a lot of rules. For toys, it depends but the obvious things are small parts and the developmental age of the user. You don’t want to design something too sophisticated for a child to use and vice versa. For furniture, it depends on whether the piece is a consumer piece for Guidecraft or a piece for school supply. For school supply, it’s very stripped down and has to focus on durability, not so much on style. It has more of a utilitarian design. That’s the difference between say a Guidecraft dress-up center, which might have many design elements and a shelving unit for a preschool.
GC: What has been your proudest professional moment so far? Any specific toy or piece of furniture?
NK: I think it’s just seeing your overall designs being manufactured then taken to market. It’s really cool. Basically that you created something and brought something new into the world.
I was really impressed however, with how the development of a furniture line for one of our corporate partners. It was also a global project too. We found the maple in Canada and exported it to Vietnam and worked with them and then we brought it back to the United States to be assembled. The whole global aspect of it was really cool.
GC: Any favorite toy projects?
NK: I liked all of the IO Blocks projects. My favorite is probably the IO Blocks Vehicles because it was a really fun discovery process for us. We had the wheels and we started designing and printing 3D parts, playing with them and creating different vehicle possibilities. It was just a fun experience overall.
GC: What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of pursuing a career in design? Or someone who is currently in a college program related to design, like yours?
NK: First, I would suggest to really think about how something is going to be manufactured. If it’s for a plastic; ask if it can be molded correctly. It is important to think about the entire project agenda and if it makes sense to move forward. Is it going to be too expensive, complicated or involve too many materials? Learn about the entire lifecycle of a product and pay attention to the small details of how something is made. Also, design is very subjective and everyone will interpret your designs differently. In the end, the more you know about design, the more you realize how much more there is to learn. It’s a great and continual process which we explore every day at Guidecraft.