Katie Lim is Director of Industrial Design at BARK, the world’s most dog-obsessed company best known for BarkBox. There she helps push innovation, aesthetic, and play by leading the design team for Super Chewer, a line of toys for dogs who love to play rough and need a challenge. As part of BARK’s in-house design team, Katie also oversees product branding, product development, and prototyping of the design process for over 430 new and original toys each year. She thrives when seeking out new opportunities and strategies, coming up with never before seen products, and innovative uses for new materials. Katie also manages the @Bark_Creative Instagram account where she gives followers an inside look at the brand’s behind the scenes design process. Katie earned her degree in Industrial Design from Savannah College of Art and Design, and began her career in toy design working on brands such as Bright Starts, Oball, and Taggies. Just prior to joining BARK in 2017, she was lead designer for Baby Einstein’s infant toy products and oversaw all of their play gym innovation and development. Today Katie is joining us for Friday Five and sharing five things important in her life.
1. Young Spirits
Doesn’t matter what age (or species!), I love anyone/anything with refreshing perspectives and extreme curiosities. There’s a certain energy and genuine emotion in those young at heart that I find very inspiring. As far as literal young spirits, I love seeing kids use their imagination in play or even when just trying to make sense of the world around them. Children think and express feelings without boundaries, and they carry a joy that’s hard to bottle, but it’s an important lens for me as a designer to continually look through. They remind us to be expressive, be weird, be curious, and keep learning. I try to bring that feeling into every product I design.
2. Dieter Rams’ 10 Principles for Good Design
“Good design is innovative, makes a product useful, aesthetic, makes a product understandable, unobtrusive, honest, long lasting, thorough down to the last detail, environmentally friendly. Good design is as little design as possible.” The Vitsoe print extolling these principles shown above hangs to the left of my studio desk. When I start to get lost or indecisive with my work, these help guide me forward. I try to stay grounded in these throughout my entire process for design, and check off as many as possible before any item is produced. It’s easy to cram so much into every aspect of a design, but you need to let it breathe and contain only what is necessary for both aesthetic and material use. There’s a bigger conversation around each of these, but we can leave it at this for now.
3. The Commute
My daily commute from Brooklyn to Manhattan averages around 40 minutes, involving a bus transfer to a train that crosses over the Manhattan Bridge. The gentle rocking motion of the train juxtaposed by the frenzy of transferring from the bus to the labyrinthine subway below somehow makes it easy for me to get lost in a thought or follow an idea. It’s also a time when I feel most connected to the city and the people in it. You catch small details in human behavior that gives insights for designing solutions for as many different users as possible. It also gets me out of the bubble of my own life and perspective. I’ll catch someone using an object in a way I’d never think to do, or see a need that I never encountered myself. I love that New York is always moving and taking risks. Being in that energy motivates me to do the same in my own work and gives me confidence to share my own voice.
4. Community and Mentorship
Social media, podcasts, and the blogosphere have been instrumental in the growing sense of community in the design field, especially at an international level. @weeklydesignchallenge, @renderweekly, @minordetailspod, and @adv_des are just a few accounts created by passionate professors and designers that help foster this through Instagram, and who I turn to regularly to learn about new approaches and programs. This has become a great platform for designers at all levels to show work and be connected, and I love how open everyone is with sharing their process and techniques in a field that’s so competitive. The photo above was taken during my first time leading a sketch workshop that was organized by a nonprofit organization, Advanced Design (@adv_des). Not only was this an opportunity for others to learn from my experiences, but I also learned so much seeing how they applied their skills to what I taught. I also appreciate James Connors and Nick Baker opening up conversations in their podcast, Minor Details (@minordetailspod), around struggles we go through but don’t usually talk about. They bring on a wide range of guests and set a tone for open and honest discussions in the industry.
5. Sculpture and Interiors
Before I knew about Industrial Design, I grew up torn between wanting to be an Interior Designer or a Sculptor. Lucky for me, Industrial Design combines both of these passions. Even luckier, I can still be inspired by incredible forms and thoughtful spaces for the work I do now. There’s a fun exercise I like to do – I check out blogs like Dezeen or Architectural Digest, find a space that stands out to me, and then design objects that could fit in that same space. It can be anything! Furniture, appliances, toys, accessories… it helps challenge the personal aesthetic I gravitate towards automatically and expands my visual library. This is something I especially love bringing to the pet industry, dog toys don’t have to be objects that you want to kick under the couch as soon as company arrives. You can take advantage of form, color, and texture to create something that is very functional for play, but also beautiful.