Interview with Jason Gregory, Founder of Design Studio Makr
About Jason Gregory
Jason Gregory is a designer and maker based out of Florida, an individual that’s always been inspired by the creative process. He has a passion for materials and craftsmanship, appreciating products that are created with thoughtfulness and care.
Interview date: 13th of June, 2011
1. Firstly, could you explain a little bit about yourself and how Makr came about?
I’ve always been a designer and a maker of things. I’ve also always been fascinated by materials and craftsmanship, but more than anything else, I appreciate products created with thoughtfulness and care. I began Makr as a side project while working in architectural branding but it quickly became my primary passion as well as my career.
2. What’s the ethos behind Makr?
Makr is all about the user. We think about how a product is used and whether such a product is even necessary before we begin designing it. We want our products to solve problems, but we also want them to be beautiful. We spend a tremendous amount of time selecting materials that will be as beautiful as they are functional. We don’t rush to be first to market with certain products – we’d rather take our time and develop the best product we possibly can.
3. It seems like it was originally a side project that you experimented with, do you now work on it full time? Also, can you remember what your first batch of products were like? Did it take a while to iron out all the creases and get a product that was retail worthy?
It’s fair to say that Makr demands far more of my time than “full time” implies. I remember the first products well. I was exploring completely new territory – using CAD to pattern and a laser etcher to actually cut the leather. Technology offers seemingly limitless possibilities for a designer so it did take a while for me to hone-in on exactly how to best leverage it. At the same time, it takes a while to make any good product retail-ready. I still spend months, and in some cases over a year, developing a new product.
“If you want to create a product that has value, there are no shortcuts.”
4. How do you go about sourcing the different elements and materials for each product?
Sourcing materials is one of the most challenging aspects of what I do. Whenever possible, we try to source locally though sometimes we need to reach outside of the US to find the perfect material or component so we do have two or three suppliers in Japan and Italy. It takes a shocking amount of effort to find vendors who care as much about their product as I care about Makr. However, when I do find such a vendor it can make all the difference. I’ve been very fortunate to work with a tremendously talented and passionate group of vendors, especially my friends at Horween.
5. How did you learn to sew and gain the basic skills to make bags and accessories?
I’m a designer first and foremost, though learning to sew was completely necessary so that I could more rapidly prototype. Going to the factory and sitting down with craftspeople, showing them how to put the object together from a pattern standpoint, I just picked up on the ways of sewing and fabricating. I learn from doing and seeing rather than books so it was just a matter of paying attention.
6. Who and what inspires you? Any particular designers or other brands that make products?
People that live their life in a beautiful and unique way. I try to make products that can live with strong personalities. I want the product to seem like it should just be there, something that’s not competing with the owner. There are certainly some products out there that get me excited though I try to find inspiration from people rather than products.
7. What would you say to other individuals who want to start making their own products? Any advice?
Just start making things! Practice for a really long time before you send things out into the world. As soon as it looks ready, remind yourself that it’s probably not. The world has enough poorly designed, poorly crafted, and unoriginal products already. If you want to create a product that has value, there are no shortcuts. So don’t rush it. Take your time to make something original and you will feel rewarded – even before your stuff starts selling.
8. I know from being a subscriber to your blog that you’re in the process of patterning some new pieces. Any new items that you’re really proud of?
There is a messenger that I was working on for quite a while that turned out well. There were quite a few new methods of construction that I wanted to include as well as some interesting contouring. The camera bag/satchel that was just released is another solid build. I must have drawn that thing 100 times, slight little changes to get it the correct proportions. It’s our most complicated build as far as putting the object together. Lots of “you have to do this before you do that” kind of stuff. I really like the end result – it’s really functional and proportionately sound. The Bottle Key is another great new product. I also really like the new colorway of the Skate Deck – you really have to see it in person.
9. Your whole website had a makeover a little while back and it’s been received really well, especially in the design community. Your eCommerce has all the bells and whistles. Do you think this has had an effect on your business model?
The new site better represents the products and the brand. It’s also really great for users. I will say this though: as soon as we launched it we started working on improvements. Branding is a project that’s never complete – like a carrot on a stick. We are continuously refining how we want Makr positioned online and Wilkie Birdsall (our agency) shares our philosophy of creating a ‘living’ brand. It hasn’t impacted our business model other than to confirm to me that we have a business model that meshes well with the way we want to interact with our customers. We did not expect such an overwhelming response from the design community, but we welcome it. We definitely gained quite a few designers as new customers and there’s nothing we like more than customers who understand and appreciate the thought we put into our products.
10. Whats an average day in the studio?
My time is mainly divided between designing in CAD, prototyping, and coordinating with vendors. When I get frustrated or feel spent, I still try and be productive by reading or photo-gazing online. Lunch is also important, no kidding. I am a big believer in good food so we try and make time for a decent meal every day.
11. Any last words?
I would like to point out that Makr would not be possible without the whole team. I’ve got staff that are as passionate about Makr as I am and I really couldn’t do it without them.