A Day in the Life of Yield Design

We head to San Francisco for this month’s Designer Dailies to visit with Rachel Gant and Andrew Deming of Yield Design. The co-founders met at California College of the Arts, where Gant studied Industrial Design and Deming studied Design Strategy. Gant leads us through a day as they prepare for their first product launch—the Yield Picnic Bag, a nifty bag that unfolds into a picnic blanket.

Most mornings, I wake up to our cat Ralph’s silhouette in the window.

He’s been deemed “The Favorite Cat” after the official title of my beloved, thrifted illustration by Nathaniel Currier that hangs on our wall. I was always more of a dog person before meeting Andrew, but our cat Ralph became the real life “favorite cat.” I took it as a good sign.

This morning, as we probably do at least twice a week, we indulge in coffee and breakfast out at our favorite spot up the street, farm:table.  It’s especially welcoming in the Tenderloin neighborhood near downtown San Francisco to find a place that balances quality and an intimate neighborhood community feeling. We started the day with polenta topped with a poached egg, broccoli, and gruyere.

Andrew heads off to fuseproject for a meeting as I run to Berkeley to make the rounds of my favorite fabric stores. Berkeley has a lot of camping outlets and tent repair shops which I’ve found to be the best retail options for perusing high-grade nylon corduras and the most obscure zipper selections. It’s a great round to make before ordering samples from wholesalers. Today I focused on zippers, making final decisions on the weight and color choices so I can construct the latest prototypes for the manufacturer.

Back in our home studio, we study some of the existing Yield Picnic Bag prototypes, prototype new construction details, and define three color combinations for our launch. We are really refining and narrowing in on the specifics now that our conversation with manufacturers has begun. We enjoy hearing their feedback in regards to how to make the patterns logically fit within their regimens, and then finding a way to retain the design’s integrity while meeting their requests. It is critical in the process because we are adamant that all of Yield’s products be responsive to every phase of their life cycle. We’ve come to love some of the changes we’ve made even more than the originals. We welcome the mark that manufacturers bring to our process.

Today is especially exciting because I scheduled in a bit of outdoor work, one of the best aspects of developing a picnic themed product. I like to always be prepared not only for the planned shoots, but also spontaneous shots so that I have a variety of locations from which to choose. Today we took the ferry to Sausalito to include some video on the water (for our Kickstarter in the works!), as well as nice contextual park scenes to show how the bag unfolds from bag to blanket.

We managed to be there during the golden hour, so the light was great. During setup I experimented with the white balance and ISO settings to achieve some of the effects I’ll get with various films. When shooting digitally, I will occasionally throw in a few minutes where I trick the settings in order to more genuinely imitate a technique of film.

Now it’s time to head over to Zinc Detail for the “Look About Event.” A few days ago I’d dropped off some my work including the big tops, the dreamer tops, and a few of the Yield Picnic Bags for them to set up on display; I have no clue what to expect.  t’s a great surprise to find the big tops in the front window.

Photo by Henry Wu

They also had a nice idea to display the dreamer tops on glass, creating beautiful shadows that I’d never encountered in my own work with them. It’s great to see how our designs can be re-imagined in the hands of others.

The event kicks off! There is a great mix of visitors and local designers. Quite a few CCA alumni show up at the event as well. San Francisco always provides such a close-knit design community where we often run into familiar faces, catch up on everyone’s latest projects, and inspire each others’ progression. A couple hours in, things seem to wrap up, so Andrew and I head home for a bit. As we settle in for the night, I set up the stop motion to share the incredible dusk San Francisco always offers. This one accompanied by the famous fog that never disappoints.

Marni Elyse Katz is a Contributing Editor at Design Milk. She lives in Boston where she contributes regularly to local publications and writes her own interior design blog, StyleCarrot.