Jason Miller is the founder of Brooklyn-based Roll & Hill, a lighting manufacturing company he launched in 2010. A designer himself, Miller works closely with lots of independent designers to create the brand’s extensive range of collections, some of which you can find here on Design Milk. Their Sunset Park headquarters is home to their on-demand production practices, where parts are assembled all by hand, one lamp at a time. For this month’s Where I Work, Miller takes us inside to see how and where it all happens for Roll & Hill.
What’s your studio/work environment like?
I run both Jason Miller Studio and Roll & Hill out of the same space in Industry City. We have about 70 employees all together, so it is a very active environment these days.
How is your space organized/arranged?
The space is separated into two distinct sections, the office and the studio. The office feels like a design firm, with a mixture of private offices, shared offices, and open desk space. The studio is where we manufacture our products, and the layout was carefully set up to maximize production workflow. We are committed to on-demand production: all of our work is assembled here by hand, one at a time.
How long have you been in this space? Where did you work before that?
We have been in this space for just over one year, but have been in this building in Industry City for seven years. We were in a different building in Greenpoint for our first six years in business.
If you could change something about your workspace, what would it be?
We used to have views over New York harbor before we moved to this new larger space and we had to give that up. In a perfect world, we’d have those views back.
Is there an office pet?
Do you require music in the background? If so, who are some favorites?
Music can be very controversial! When we were a smaller company we always had music on. Now with so many people it’s impossible to find something that is acceptable to everyone, so we keep it quiet.
How do you record ideas?
I have a sketch pad with me all the time, in case a new idea strikes. I also jot down notes on my phone.
Do you have an inspiration board? What’s on it right now?
I generally keep images that I find inspiring on my computer, rather than on a physical board. Usually the most active files are on my desktop, but I actually just organized my computer over the weekend so right now it is empty and ready to be filled again.
What is your typical work style?
My day-to-day routine is fairly regular. Our office hours are 10:00 to 6:00, five days a week. I have two young kids, so it can be challenging to find time to work outside of these hours. That being said, creativity comes at anytime. It doesn’t follow a schedule.
What is your creative process and/or creative workflow like? Does it change every project or do you keep it the same?
I don’t intentionally keep it the same, but the process tends to be similar most of the time. I generally start with a sketch of an idea, which I work on with one of my designers to develop. From there it is a back and forth between the two of us until we have something solid (usually in the form of a digital model). What happens after that depends on the specifics of that project.
What kind of art/design/objects might you have scattered about the space?
Samples, prototypes, books, and papers.
Are there tools and/or machinery in your space?
The studio has a small machine shop and wood shop, mostly though, they are using hand tools for assembly. Our design office is fully equipped for prototyping, including a fairly powerful 3D printer.
What tool(s) do you most enjoy using in the design process?
The most important tool in my design process is a pencil. Everything I make starts as a sketch. I find sketching the easiest and quickest way to communicate ideas.
Let’s talk about how you’re wired. Tell us about your tech arsenal/devices.
I keep it very simple: I have a phone and a computer, and I don’t go too far beyond that.
What design software do you use, if any, and for what?
Adobe Creative Suite and Solidworks are the big ones for us. Between these two software programs we are able to design and detail everything we need.
What’s on your desk right now?
On a good day my desk is pretty spare. On a bad day my desk is covered in paperwork I have not gotten to yet.
Is there a favorite project/piece you’ve worked on?
I think that’s an impossible question – almost like asking a parent which child is the favorite.
Tell us about a current project you’re working on. What was the inspiration behind it?
At Jason Miller Studio we are working on expanding our furniture collection for the Portuguese brand De La Espada, which gives me the opportunity to work creatively with wood, a material that I’ve always been drawn to. These pieces are inspired by the juxtaposition of old and new. We are also developing new lights for Roll & Hill.
At Roll & Hill, we have several new collections in the works and we are planning a 10th anniversary celebration for 2020.
Do you have anything in your home that you’ve designed/created?
Tons of things! I like living with some of the things I have made over the years, so there is a variety of things, from paintings I made in my 20s to furniture I designed two years ago.