Tekna’s Diverse, Welcoming Culture Leaves a Lasting Impression

Amy Liang - Diverse Culture

Tekna's Diverse, Welcoming Culture Leaves a Lasting Impression

By Amy Liang, Industrial Design Intern

I have never consumed so much coffee or as many donuts as I did during my seven-week tenure at Tekna. But besides acquiring a caffeine dependence, I’ve also amassed a broad set of design skills and developed a deep appreciation for Kalamazoo and the friendships I’ve formed here—all of which will stay with me as I leave Tekna to enter my senior year of college.

Amy Liang Design Intern - Industrial Designer - Graphic Design - Research

THE JOB

Even before coming to Tekna, I knew this place would be a perfect fit. Tekna had been looking for an industrial design intern who could also participate in graphic design and design research projects. In previous internship interviews, I had always voiced my interest in design research, as well as my graphic design experience. Yet other interviewers didn’t seem as convinced that these were important assets. (I got a lot of “yeah,” “sure,” and “okay” responses when I mentioned the value of understanding visual brand language and GUI from an industrial design perspective, or the benefits of talking one-on-one with users to understand why they like, or dislike, a product’s design). I had begun to wonder whether the other firms were only looking to hire a “sketch monkey.” ???? But at Tekna, I could explore all three disciplines—industrial design, graphic design, and design research—because each project I touched placed an almost equal emphasis on all three. In good design, the three fields are co-dependent. Without enough research, you can’t make forms that address the user’s needs; and without clear, visual communication design, a user won’t be able to understand how to use the product. (There’s also the engineering side, making the actual thing work…I’m just glad Tekna has a really talented engineering team). That being said, I got to use and develop a range of skills: from sketching, to Photoshop rendering, to making prototype and CAD models, to crafting color schemes, to creating illustrations and icons for packaging design and banners, to marketing and user research, to presenting concepts, to playing with blocks, and to almost riding a unicycle (seriously!) … I really feel like I got to do it all—all while working on numerous real-world projects encompassing medical, cooking, and children’s toys. Without a doubt, I received great exposure to the varied and colorful life of a Tekna team member.

THE CITY

Another perk of my internship was moving to Kalamazoo for the summer. As a Hoosier, I thought I knew Michigan pretty well; it’s that neighboring state with the dunes where you go on Sundays if you want to buy liquor. However, I was pleasantly surprised by Kalamazoo’s vibrant culture. I could go on and on about how much I fell in love with the city: its local art scene (I saw an exhibit by my one of my favorite artists, Hung Liu, at the Kalamazoo Institute of Art), the world-class food and beer, the yoga and meditation groups, the parks, the number of adorable second-hand shops and cafes. There was definitely no shortage of things to do on the weekends.

THE PEOPLE

But what really made the internship special was the genuine camaraderie I experienced here. During an interview with a different design firm, I had asked about work atmosphere and if employees felt encouraged to share personal projects and interests. The interviewer responded that the busy office environment was not conducive to this approach. While I can attest to the importance of diligence and a highly-focused work ethic, I also recognize the value of exploring and celebrating personal interests in the workplace. At Tekna, learning about my co-workers and their various extracurricular hobbies (e.g., rock climbing, native gardening, bike racing, knife making, fixing cars, yoga and photography) helped me see even more clearly how diverse outside interests both drive and bind successful creative teams. I would socialize often with my Tekna friends, grabbing a drink or catching a movie. And when a personal matter popped up into my life unexpectedly, members of my Tekna family reached out to share their support and encouragement. I’m truly grateful to have had the opportunity to intern at Tekna and will enter my last year of undergraduate studies confident that I have “eternal friends” out in the design community cheering me on.

Tekna Takes Part: Open Roads' Community Service Event is a Great Way to Give Back

The gears of a bicycle

Open Roads' Community Service Event is a Great Way to Give Back

By Don Herzog, Sr. UX Designer

Thanks to the avid cyclists at Tekna, I have recently rekindled my interest in bicycling after a long hiatus. When Tekna asked for volunteers for Open Roads’ “Fixapalooza,” a free drop-in bike repair clinic for youth 18 and under, I jumped at the chance to pitch in.

Open Roads

I had never heard of the non-profit Open Roads (a Kalamazoo organization teaching local youths bike maintenance and mechanical skills, as well as social skills, to better prepare them for the future) and had no idea what to expect when I arrived at the event. But I was quickly introduced to the Open Roads staff, coached on how to work with the kids, and then paired with a teen needing assistance. Having limited experience, I joined more seasoned coworkers, Joe Regimbald, Eric Heffernan, and Lars Chrisman, along with the kids, to learn a thing or two about bike repair and maintenance.

With a focus on safety, we spent quality time chatting with the kids, replacing tubes and tires, and repairing breaks. I appreciated Open Roads’ philosophy of using bike maintenance to demonstrate how the kids can take ownership of their actions and help themselves while respecting what others teach them. These values, paired with the mechanical coaching, are lessons they could carry with them throughout their lives. 

All in all, working side-by-side with my Tekna teammates to help others in the community was an extremely rewarding experience and a really fun way to spend a summer evening. Thank you, Open Roads, for organizing this unique event that reaches out into my community—I look forward to the next one!

“How Lucky I am to Have Something That Makes Saying Goodbye Hard” – Winnie the Pooh

Tekna Welcome Packet

"How Lucky I am to Have Something that Makes Saying Goodbye Hard" – Winnie the Pooh

By Sophie Fain, Winter Design Intern

When applying to be a winter design intern this past October, I came across a speech from the former Chief Marketing Officer of Frog Design, Tim Leberecht. He shared a story about two design companies undergoing a merger. In hope of rallying excitement and kicking off the merger on an upbeat note, the new company leadership planned to send every employee a token orange balloon representing the unified brand. But at the last minute, the idea was scrapped due to budget limitations. Sometime later the merger fell apart, with both companies experiencing significant financial losses.

Winter Design Intern - Sophie Fain - Industrial Designer

While the balloons were clearly not an essential component of the merger, Leberecht believed that it was a “cut the balloons” mentality that led to the merger’s demise. His point being that employee investment—no matter how small—is what sets a company apart. This takeaway really stuck with me through my internship at Tekna. I can attest to the importance of employee investment, how going the extra mile fosters talent, confidence, and loyalty. On my first day at Tekna’s Innovation Studio, I was greeted with a stack of personalized business cards and a welcome kit that set the tone for the next several months where I would call Tekna home.

Since January, I’ve been included in numerous projects across a diverse set industries, from medical to consumer. I’ve worked through iterative mock-ups, improved my CAD modeling skills, assisted with hands-on experiments/testing, and produced more sketches than I can count. I’ve taken part in competitive benchmarking and brainstorming sessions, synthesized research, and created cohesive client presentations. All along the way, I received insightful feedback and advice that challenged and inspired me. Each of these experiences has contributed to my newly holistic view of the design process, but it was the direction and mentoring that simply cannot compare to anything I’ve experienced in a university setting.

A testimony to Tekna’s generous investment in my education and experience, I’ve felt more like a teammate than a design intern since day one. From orchestrating manufacturing tours and chili cookoffs to challenging me to a hand of Dutch blitz—or group yoga—during lunch breaks, the people at Tekna have managed to create a culture that is equally fun and inclusive as it is hard working. It didn’t take long for me to recognize how lucky I’ve been to collaborate with such exceptionally creative and caring individuals. Whether it’s an orange balloon or a business card with an orange dot, thank you Tekna for investing in me beyond my expectations and for setting the bar so high!

Tekna Takes Center Stage in 269 Magazine's Design Issue

269 Magazine cover

Tekna Takes Center Stage in 269 Magazine's Design Issue

Don’t miss the recent 269 Magazine’s Design Issue interview with our very own Mike Rozewicz. You can read his perspective on the multifaceted world of product development, as he shares personal success stories and dishes out career advice. In the issue’s featured article, “Exploring the Evolution of the Creative Economy in Southwest Michigan,” both Mike and Emily Hoffmann talk about the area’s burgeoning creative community and how it’s attracting—and retaining—top-notch talent.

269 Magazine's Design Issue - Mike Rozewicz - Product Development

Reflecting on IDSA Central District Conference 2017

Reflecting on IDSA Central District Conference 2017

Reflecting on IDSA Central District Conference 2017

By Matt Czach, Senior Lead Industrial Designer

Bryce Porter and I recently attended IDSA’s Central District Design Conference, “Innovation Is a Team Sport,” hosted by University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (UC DAAP). The Over-the-Rhine setting was an ideal location to discuss innovation, Midwestern rejuvenation, and the link between community, creativity and economic growth. Traditionally a working-class neighborhood, Over-the-Rhine is one of the most intact urban historic districts in the U.S and is currently experiencing a cultural renaissance.

IDSA Central District Conference - Cincinnati’s College of Design

The conference started at 1 p.m. on Friday and wrapped with beers at Rhinegeist Brewery on Saturday evening.  Throughout the event, I noticed a common entrepreneurial thread in many of the speakers’ stories. For example, there was a memorable account of a successful start-up that went against the grain to invest in the Appalachian region of Ohio, creating valuable jobs in an area painfully devoid of employment opportunities.

The majority of conference speakers had an Ohio connection, and it was exciting to represent Tekna and our Michigan contribution to the Central District. The event provided many resources and takeaways, including coverage of M West Challenge, an organization working with west Michigan schools, businesses, and local investors to host business plan “pitch weekend” competitions.

When we headed back home on Sunday afternoon, we felt fully inspired and ready to seek out new challenges in our own Central District backyard. Thank you IDSA and UC DAAP for hosting this engaging event—we look forward to the next conference!

Bark Bath: Taking the RUFF Out of Bathing Your Dog

Barkbath Portale Dog Bath

Bissell Bark Bath: Taking the RUFF out of Bathing Your Dog

By Joe Marietta, Sr. Lead Engineer

Bissell came to us with a concept for a pet bathing attachment that would soon become the Bissell Bark Bath. Ideally, they wanted an attractive solution that worked with existing portable deep cleaners and fit within the current visual brand language.

Bissell Bark Bath - Taking the RUFF out of Bathing Your Dog

To deliver a prototype quickly, we used as many current parts as possible, opting to pair an available venturi (which can mix water and shampoo from a reservoir) with the existing trigger shut-off valve. These parts were never intended to function together, so packaging them to work in the smallest space possible was challenging. We started with a rough mock-up to engineer the hydraulic circuit. After the circuit was proven successful, we began the iterative process of developing an attractive housing for everything.

One of the most memorable aspects of the project was demoing prototypes at Bissell’s Pet Spot (a four-stall kennel inside the corporate building allowing staff to bring their pets to work). Not only did the experience underscore the company’s commitment to employees and their Pet Foundation, it also encouraged owners to try new pet products. Staff members would eagerly volunteer their dogs for trials with prototypes, which meant we got to meet a lot of great dogs and owners. Some of the dogs are already the stuff of legend, namely the chief chemist’s 180-lb Alaskan Malamute, Chief.

What makes us most proud is how we advanced the concept past the initial expectation, delivering a solution that satisfied their specifications in an integrated, elegant format that was not originally considered. Ultimately, this collaborative design and engineering approach is precisely what we excel at — creating solutions that are desirable, usable, and repeatable.

Here are some glimpses into our development process…as well as some satisfied users:

Bissell Bark Bath - Taking the RUFF out of Bathing Your Dog

Tekna Ingenuity on Full Display at CES Show

Consumer Electronic Show Panorama of Galaxy

Tekna Ingenuity on Full Display at Consumer Electronic Show

By Eric Heffernan, Senior Industrial Designer.

Tight deadlines and expanding project scopes are par for the course at Tekna’s bustling Innovation studio. Our journey to January’s Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas was no exception. Initially contracted by CVR Global to design a cart to house their medical device that assesses carotid artery health, we eventually tackled the sensor array and the charging dock, readying the device for public display at Consumer Electronic Show (CES).

Through the process, we found a particularly resourceful way to control the display’s lighting/charging elements—turning a former 3D printer into a CNC router so we could develop custom circuit boards in-house, saving us substantial time. Check out the method described above, below:

Consumer Electronic Show - Tekna Ingenuity - Innovation Studio

With the lighting squared away, we finished prototype development, built a custom shipping crate, handled  delivery logistics, and then traveled to the show to orchestrate set-up in Energous’ private suite (Energous supplies  RF charging technology). In the mix of products displayed, our large prototype—finished to a production-aesthetic with functional lighting—really stood out. See for yourself:

Consumer Electronic Show - Tekna Ingenuity - Innovation Studio

This year’s show had about 4,000 exhibitors, spread across 2.5 million sq. ft., visited by 180,000 people. One of the most memorable exhibits was Furrion Robotics’ “Prosthesis.” Intended for a piloted/non-autonomous robot racing league, the 14-ft. tall, 7,000-lb. robot works by amplifying the pilot’s motions and can run up to speeds of 21mph. Take a look below:

Consumer Electronic Show - Tekna Ingenuity - Innovation Studio

The overall experience of displaying our prototype at consumer electronic show has been inspiring and educational—and it’s just the first phase of the CVR project. Congrats to the team (Wade Rutkoskie, Justin Benacquisto, Adam Dudycha, Eric Heffernan, and Sarah Hollingsworth) on a job well done! Be sure to follow our blog for future developments in our innovation department.

Cultivating Talent: Tekna Takes Part in University of Cincinnati’s E2C

Consumer Electronics Show

Cultivating Talent: University of Cincinnati's Engaging Emerging Creatives

By Matt Czach, Senior Lead Industrial Designer

For the last three years, Tekna has participated in University of Cincinnati’s Co-Op program, hiring ID interns to work with us for a semester. This year, the U of C DAAP School explored a new networking format, Engaging Emerging Creatives, where Ben Purrenhage and I talked with students, giving them a feel for who we are and the work we do.

Engaging Emerging Creatives - Cultivating Talent - University of Cincinnati

The first day was a quick presentation followed by Design Blitz, a four-hour activity where 300+ students and 100+ professionals co-developed solutions for Cincinnati non-profit organizations.  Our team helped design holiday thank you cards for St. Vincent DePaul, as well as a collaborative workspace for United Way. By the end of the blitz, the local non-profit community was gifted 1,000 hours of creative time.

The second day was filled with professional round table discussions on topics such as entrepreneurship and innovation, along with 30-minute interviews of second- and fourth-year students looking for Co-Ops.  I sat on the Entrepreneurial Spirit panel discussion with Casey Dougherty from Generac and Valerie Green from Tier 1 Performance Solutions.

Throughout the day, Ben and I interviewed seven students and hired a second-year student as our spring intern. It’s inspiring to attract great, young talent and show them what it’s like to work at Tekna!

If you’d like to see our current openings go to https://www.teknateam.com/team/

If you’re curious about the DAAP School at University of Cincinnati go to http://daap.uc.edu/

From Designing Menus to Designing Product Experiences

Bryce Porter Reviewing Design Concepts

From Designing Menus to Designing Product Experiences

By Bryce Porter, Lead Industrial Designer

Back in January 2008, I was fortunate enough to contribute to the original HopCat opening in Grand Rapids, working alongside founder Mark Sellers, Garry Boyd, Chris Freeman, and others to flip the location at 25 Ionia in an aggressive 60 days. We completely gutted the facility, hired and trained staff, ordered equipment, and wrote menus—even installing a massive Chicago-built custom bar by hand.

HopCat Chef - Bryce Porter - Designing Menus to Product Experiences

At the Kalamazoo opening last week, I had a great time reconnecting with the original crew while sampling a few new offerings and some old favorites. As their founding chef, I helped develop recipes for many of the staple items that live on today. I still love visiting HopCat’s eclectic, welcoming space and feel it’s a fantastic fit for Kalamazoo’s vibrant craft beer and restaurant scene.

When HopCat opened in Grand Rapids eight years ago, I had been in the food industry for 13 years and was already in the process of transitioning my career to industrial design. I see many similarities in creating meaningful experiences around consumer products and menus—and with HopCat’s newest location right here in Kalamazoo, you can expect some exciting Tekna/HopCat collaborations in the near future!

Elasso: Rolling Out a Breakthrough Brand

Elasso

Elasso: Rolling Out a Breakthrough Brand

We’re excited for our client’s official product launch – Elasso, the only ENT electrosurgical instrument that cuts, cauterizes, and collects in one time-saving step. The Elasso tool, born in Michigan, was on full display at the AAO-HNSF Annual Meeting & OTO EXPO in San Diego earlier this month. In a short six-week span prior to the event, we worked closely with Elasso’s leadership team to develop the right brand identity for a device poised to take the ENT marketplace by storm. Head over to our portfolio for all of the details.

Elasso Brand Identity product launch - Take the ENT marketplace by storm.